Fast on the heels of watching the Shootist, I think this performance may be John Wayne's best.
Rather than review the film, I'm going to merely quote Wikipedia (twice).
Roger Ebert says in a somber analysis of this movie: "In The Searchers I think Ford was trying, imperfectly, even nervously, to depict racism that justified genocide."Complex. Riveting (for most of it). And uniquely filmed for it's time.
It is instructive to note that Ford made an attempt in this movie to deal with subjects and themes which were quite controversial for that time in America. His own words express what he was attempting to do. In a 1964 interview with Cosmopolitan magazine he said:
“There’s some merit to the charge that the Indian hasn’t been portrayed accurately or fairly in the Western, but again, this charge has been a broad generalization and often unfair. The Indian didn’t welcome the white man... and he wasn’t diplomatic... If he has been treated unfairly by whites in films, that, unfortunately, was often the case in real life. There was much racial prejudice in the West."
I think this movie has earned a right to be in the top 100 of all time.
My major complaints are the poorly places jokes, the slap-sticky sidekicks, and the horrible, horrible music.
BONUS: Natalie Wood is hot.