Narrative and Narration in John Ford’s ‘The Searchers’

David Kelly


An icon among Hollywood directors, John Ford is particularly known for his iconographic screen imagery – a painterly style he employed to elevate the western as a screen genre and to communicate the mythic force of its fundamental narratives. In the later stages of his career, however, he came to question the stories of the west, their cinematic form, and the cultural role that they played. This paper argues that one of the ways Ford chose to do this was through an increasingly sophisticated approach to narrative and narration, problematising the fundamental figurative elements of the genre while still employing them within the management of the narrative. In effect, Ford developed a free indirect cinematic discursive style, the subtlety and complexity of which has often been overlooked amid a general celebration of his extraordinary achievements as (in his own words) ‘a director of westerns’.

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