Westerns have always been put out to pasture by the Academy, so the fate of The Searchers is no real surprise. When asked what kind of movies he made, director John Ford once said, “I make westerns.” Not according to the Academy, he didn’t.
Of Ford’s four Best Director wins, none were for westerns. So, the man who helped create the genre–one of the country’s few original art forms–and who refined the very language of film, saw the Academy treat The Searchers like a broken wagon wheel.
The film featured one of John Wayne’s best performances, sterling gunplay, exciting chase scenes in an amazing story about a man’s dark obsession with tracking down the Indians who kidnapped his niece. Ford makes Wayne into the most imposing part of a landscape that includes sweeping vistas of Monument Valley.
Nominees: Friendly Persuasion, Giant, The King and I, The Ten Commandments
Winner: Around the World in 80 Days