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Three Godfathers and The Searchers are films directed by John Ford that stand in a sharp contrast to each other even though they both present the same problem. John Ford describes in the two films a journey into the wilderness with an aim to rescue a child. However, Three Godfathers takes a more comic view of on the subject. The film was directed by John Ford in 1948 and was based on a novel by Peter P. Kyne (Darby 216). The film narrates the story of three knowledgeable and full of wisdom that is set in the American context. On the contrary, The Searchers, which was produced in 1956, takes a more dramatic view on the issue of otherness (Darby 216). The film is based on Alan LeMayss novel that was written in 1954 during the Indian-Texas wars. In this film, Wayne is the most compelling character that was ever created by Ford. Both movies were based on exploring the theme of violence and hostility, yet Three Godfathers is less hostile and more focused on the humor than the other film. This paper will focus on the summary of two contrasting films by John Ford, the methodology in construction of these movies, detailed comparison of primary and secondary characters, cinematography, use of costumes and music as well as several themes such as vengeance, racism and violence.
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John Ford is considered as one of the most successful directors of the West. All the films that Ford produced are a depiction of the West as evil and crude civilization. Ford pictured the West as a place where blood, realism, racism, and discrimination overruled heroes of the land and marked the dawn of civilization. The film titled The Searchers is one of the best movies that express John Fords feelings and views on the West. It is also associated with one of the best performances of John Wayne. The film was labeled as the most influential film in the history of America by The New York Magazine. Wayne is depicted as a racist character that has nothing to apologize for and is less outspoken than the other white actors starring the film.
The film revolves around an obsessive quest for Ethan Edwards (starring John Wayne) niece Debbie, who was kidnapped. The kidnappers murder her family and burn the ranch house. The character spends more than five years in search of the tribe which kidnapped the girl and killed her family members (The Searcher). Despite the fact that Ford describes Edwards as a racist who hates Indians, the story takes a twist as he becomes a hero due to the search and pursuit of the child. Despite contempt for Indians, Edwards grows a liking for Martin Pauley; however, he does not allow him to assist in his search for Debbie even after a series of conversations between them. Wayne argues that Martin is yet to grow up (Samardzija). Martin, however, wonders why Ethan (John Wayne) does not treat him as he deserves and does not tell him any personal thing.
The characters are described in the film as not in any way related to each other. Thus, John Ford portrays Ethan Edwards as a stark and lonely man driven by obsession. On the other hand, he depicts Martins life as full of hope and desire to live another day with his bride. A discussion emerges when Ethan breaks the news to Martin that his pursuit of Debbie will kill her and not rescue her. Ethan in rage exclaims and defends Debbie claiming that if she is alive, she will remain alive if Ethan finds her. Ethan Edwards, a defeated soldier through oblivious racism, ends up disappointed with what that is happening and feels that his heroism is tainted (Nollen). Ethans redemption takes place when Martin reunites with Debbie, and despite Ethans expectations, he does not kill Debbie but embraces her, lifts her up to the sky and exclaims Lets go home.
In the film The Searchers, Ford depicts Indians as less human, and this is evidenced from the way the main character, Ethan, treats Martin. Ethan considers the Indian as inferior, and driven by his vengeance, anger and hatred, he is ready to shed blood. Ethan perception of the Indians, however, changes through the film. Thus, Martin assists in the process of changing and turning his perspectives on Indian and the feeling of vengeance that he bears in him (Eyman). Ethans hatred of the Indian slowly subsides, and this is seen from the time when she embraces Debbie even after his long term plan of killing her immediately after reunion.
John Ford presents a strong aspect of racism and hatred between the Americans and the Indians. Ethan Edwards, who has come from the civil war, despises Indians and treats them as less human. Although Ford exposes the viewers the hatred that Ethan has for Indians, he does not explain when the feeling begins. Thus, he could have hated them even before the attack on his niece, and the attack has only reinforced the feeling. The theme of hatred is depicted from the beginning of the play to the end.
Three Godfathers is contrasting film to John Fords The Searchers. The plot in the film revolves around three robbers who rob a bank and flee to the desert of Arizona. During the journey, they come across a dying woman who needs assistance in delivering a baby. The story correlates with the birth of Christ, but is set in a different context of the Western sentiments based on the tradition of Shane. John Ford uses literary skills in his film, such as how the sandstorms torment the three thieves (Darby). He depicts the sandstorms as a punishment for their criminal activities, and although hidden, it is the message that Ford tries to deliver. Ford also uses mountain cruelty of the West as ironical occurrences throughout his film.
In Three Godfathers, Bob Hightower (John Wayne) is depicted by Ford as a hero, just as in The Searchers. He is the leading villain in the movie. On the other hand Pedro, who is a Mexican counterpart of Waynes, is used to add tenderness in the film. Harry Carey Junior is from Texas, and he does not understand how he gets into the company of Bob and Pedro in the path to banditry. The film begins with the three bandits robbing Luthams bank, and as the Sheriff Mr. Buck realizes the crime, he punishes them. Knowing that they are wanted, the bandits head to the Arizona desert have hope that they will find their way out of the desert (Nollen). To their surprise, they discover that during the journey, their water bag was shot and they have not much water left to sustain them all during their journey.
The bandits head to Mojave, which is the nearest water tank in the Arizona desert. Buck knows that this would be the most desperate move that the bandits could make. The bandits, however, realize that the water tank would be a trap by Bucks soldiers and decide to change course and cross the Mexican border into Mexico. A sandstorm, however, does not allow the men to go further and after a short distance, the sandstorm drives the bandits horses away leaving them in a more desperate state than which they were in.
With no water and no horses, the bandits discover a woman in pain. By coincidence, the woman happens to be the daughter of Buck, the man who is pursuing them. However, the men decide to change their course and assist the woman for the sake of the childs life. The mother dies and leaves the child with the bandits, labeling them as the godfathers of the child. Later, Harry dies from thirst in the dessert, while Pedro kills himself due to a painfully strained leg that he cannot go on with (Darby). Robert, who plays the role of John Wayne, is the only hope for the childs survival; therefore, he has to ensure that the child does not die. After surrendering to Buck, Robert is found guilty, but he sentenced to a light punishment due to his act of heroism of saving the childs life.
John Ford in both aspects portrays Waynes character as a hero who goes through many hardships to save victims that he presented films. Although the films protagonist was driven by vengeance, The Searchers depicts compassion and love. The act of saving Bucks granddaughter is heroic. Thus, the three bandits had a choice of abandoning both Bucks daughter and her child to die in the desert (Nollen). However, putting aside hatred and the contempt from Sheriff, the three bandits decided to save the life of Bucks child even from the event of having nothing to gain.
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Music and costumes in films serve various purposes, such as arousing emotions or enhancing the storytelling process. Therefore, the director had to ensure that the film music is essentially incorporated in the film shootings. The use of music and costumes in Three Godfathers and The Searchers attract viewers attention as well as communicates the culture of the West, depicting how people act or behave in everyday life. Music puts a judgment on some scenes of the film. In ancient times, when producing the named films, music and costumes were simply used to comment images used in a movie. Moreover, there was an element of illustrating movement by the use of music, which helped creating a relationship with the plot of a movie. Costumes and cinematography as well as music employed in Three Godfathers and The Searchers help to create two contradicting movies.
In conclusion, Ford uses the aspect of comparison when he presents the films The Searchers and Three Godfathers. In both films, Ford depicts the West as being filled with violence, vengeance, and war. The director expressed his perception of the West through the character played by John Wayne. The actor successfully depicted his character in both westerners. John Fords films grew understanding of the role of the West in the present day racism and violence towards different tribes and cultures.