Page 24 THE VILLADOM TIMES I • April 22, 2009 John Wayne is seen as an all-American hero, but in this, arguably his greatest role, he impersonates a vicious psychotic with schizoid tendencies. He was magnificent. He was also acting. Wayne didn’t really hate Indians. During the movie, Duke had a sick Navajo child flown to the hospital in his private airplane, which saved her life. The Navajos adopted him in gratitude and respect. What are we to make of the other hero-villain of “The Searchers,” Henry Brandon, who plays Scar, the Comanche chief? Brandon, a German born as Heinrich Kleinbach who came to America as a child, was an expert character actor who almost always played villains. When Scar shows up acting stoic and scary – the closeup shows he has blue eyes! Brandon knew all about makeup and he knew about dark contact lenses. When he played the villainous Doctor Fu Manchu in a Hollywood serial during World War II, he or the suspected commies in the makeup department made up the evil Chinese doctor he played to look like Chiang Kai-shek, head of Nationalist China and a fierce anti-communist. The serial got pulled in 1944 because the unmistakable resemblance was embarrassing to the U.S. State Department. The blue-eyed Indian was no accident or oversight. John Ford was trying to tell us something. Later on, Scar and Ethan have a verbal showdown: Ethan: “You speak pretty good English for a Comanch’. Somebody teach you?” Scar: “You speak pretty good Comanch’. Somebody teach you?” I missed this when I was a kid. Early in the film, Ethan laughs uproariously while his acolyte Marty roughs up a plump, doting Comanche girl (Beulah Archuletta) who thinks she is married to him. Ford is saying that abuse of helpless or luckless women took place on both sides – a metaphor not only for the West, but for the history of Ireland and the Eurasian continent after World War II. Perhaps ironically, the frontier hero who inspired the character of Edwards searching for his captured womenfolk was Britt Johnson, a black man and a nominal slave during the days of the Confederacy. Even John Ford may not have been ready for that, though he constantly twitted Wayne about the fact that Woody Strode, half African-American and half Blackfoot Indian, was everything Wayne aspired to pass for: Strode was a star football player and may have been a ringer in the 1936 Olympics. Wayne worked on the UCLA school paper and was pre-law, but a mediocre athlete. Strode was also a combat veteran of World War II. Wayne claimed every deferment he could, and fought the war from Hollywood. Ford, in fact, had experienced some racism firsthand. His given name was Sean or John Feeney (not, as he later told people, Seumas O’Fierna), but he changed it to John Ford because his older brother, Wallace Ford, told him that in Hollywood in the 1920s guys with Irish names could not get cast in anything but slapstick comedies. He was a sort of anti-racist. His World War I films, made in the 1920s, tended to humanize the much-maligned Germans, and his last big Western film, “Cheyenne Autumn,” showed a Nazi-like genocide imposed on the Cheyenne by elements of the U.S. Army until the German-American politician Carl Schurz (Edward G. Robinson) steps in to save the survivors. In “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,” a sort of pacifist Western starring Wayne, the Germans take some kidding. The post blacksmith’s name is Wagner and themes from the operas of Richard Wagner are played in the background whenever he works as his forge. The Irish are gruff heroes with slightly comic overtones. The Anglo-Saxon officers don’t know how to spell. The Indians are aggrieved and “Pony That Walks” – played by John Big Tree -- bonds with the John Wayne figure and tells him that war is no good and they are both too old for it. The real villain of the piece is Isaac Rynders, the Indian agent, who sells the Indians rifles for stolen money. Isaac Rynders was a real person. Half German and half Irish, he was New York City’s top gangster in the era just before the Civil War, and once sent some of his thugs to beat up Frederick Douglass, the black abolitionist, for ostensibly messing with an Irish girl. Indian Agent Rynders tells his half-breed interpreter to tell the Cheyenne dissidents he knows they stole the murdered paymaster’s money and wants $75 for each repeating rifle. “Sica! Sica! Lelah Sica! Wasteh! Wasteh! Lelah Wasteh!” says the interpreter. That’s Lakota, not Cheyenne, and translates to “Bad! Bad! Very bad! Good! Good! Very good!” Of course they kill him. Ford’s legacy to popular culture was “That’ll be the day!” Wayne uses that phase four times in “The Searchers.” Buddy Holly, a Texan, used it in his popular song in the 1950s, just before he was killed in a plane crash, and Don McLean used it in his own big hit of the 1970s, “American Pie.” The economy may be lagging right now, but we have to keep searching. Give up on America? “That’ll be the day.”
There are so many wonderful old movies to watch on TV or on DVD while we all hope for better times. You’ve seen them all? Look again. There may be something you missed. PBS has a special movie night. I love most of these films almost as much as I love the shows about vintage popular music. Most of the films have a sort of urban quality, but once in awhile they take us out West, and to good effect. You catch things you missed when the original films were chopped up for commercials or otherwise edited. The first time I bought a VCR 20-some years ago, I asked several times if you could actually record movies with this contraption. The salesman assured me I could. What a concept! The first time we tried it, my wife wanted a copy of “Giant,” which starred James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, and Rock Hudson. The fascinating thing about this ego trip of the stars is that the uncut version actually makes a very serious statement about the racist mistreatment of Mexicans, a theme also explored to some degree in another PBS full-length film, “Duel in the Sun” with Gregory Peck and Burl Ives. When these movies were first shown on TV in the 1950s and the 1960s, the socially conscious stuff was cut. Greatest of all pro-Texas films, “The Searchers” was also featured on PBS movie night. I saw this when it was in the theaters and wrote it off as a pretty good cowboys-andIndians movie rather than one of the greatest Westerns of all time and one of Hollywood’s most effective studies of the sexual overtones of racism. John Ford is like Richard Wagner, in that you can approach his work at several different levels. The first time I saw the movie, I didn’t know that the opening tune, “Lorena,” was a Civil War elegy about lovers who will be united only after death. If you don’t know that, you miss the point. I asked my father what the tune was and he gave some bogus know-it-all answer. I didn’t realize that the decoration John Wayne gave the his niece, played by Natalie Wood’s kid sister Lana, was a French medaille militaire, which meant he had been soldiering with Maximilian and Imperial France in Mexico against Juarez and democracy. Above all, I missed the point about the John Wayne character, Ethan Edwards, being in love with his brother’s wife, which is why he first stayed away for years after the Confederacy lost the Civil War. Even the character’s name, Ethan Edwards, is doctored from the original name, Amos Edwards. Gary Wills, among others, has suggested that Ethan Edwards is compounded from Ethan Allen, a Revolutionary War Deist and anti-Christian and a thug who hated Indians, and Jonathan Edwards, a Christian clergyman who labored to help the Indians he understood and loved. Edwards’ co-searcher, Martin Pawley, named after Martin Luther and, possibly, Paul of Tarsus, is played by Jeffrey Hunter as “eighth Cherokee.” Ethan also hates and likes Marty.
If you blinked, you may have missed it
Letters to the Editor
Dear Editor: On March 30, the Wyckoff Board of Education voted to privatize the custodial staff. Although I am not happy about the decision, I do believe people’s anger is directed towards the wrong group of people. The board of education is not at fault here. Our current financial situation is not only the fault of anyone who voted no for the school budget in the past, but also of the people who chose not to vote at all. Last year, only 29 percent of the registered voters in Wyckoff showed up at the polls. Whenever a school budget is defeated, the budget then goes to the local governing body, which makes recommendations as to where cuts could be made. This leaves the schools with less money than they need to operate that year. The problem is then perpetuated by the state. The current state funding formula has a CAP of 4% on the tax levy. This equates to about a 1.26% allowed
Urges support for schools
increase in the school budget. If the board is working off a defeated budget, they cannot increase to meet the schools financial needs for the next year. This is why jobs and programs have to be cut. A defeated budget two years ago resulted in the loss of 21 part time jobs. This included physical education teachers. Students once attended physical education twice a week. That is now reduced to once week, with kindergarten receiving no physical education at all. This also brought about the invention of “Mid Day Fitness.” This was instituted to meet the states mandatory 150 minutes of physical education/health per week. People were very unhappy. Petitions were signed by many and many voiced their disapproval. People need to act now, so they are not complaining later. Give the board of education the funds they need to properly run our schools. Vote yes on April 21. Megan Aylward Wyckoff
Town budget up 1.01%
(continued from page 5) pump station and connect to the Village of Ridgewood by gravity feed. It also intends to continue and grow the use of shared services via municipal inter-local agreements and those with the Midland Park School system. Current shared services include: a. The use of the pistol range with Waldwick b. The use of the gas pumps in Ridgewood, service provided by Ridgewood for public assistance c. Shared use of Uniform Construction Code Official, Zoning Officer, and Electrical Inspector with Allendale d. Emergency dispatch by Wyckoff e. 9-1-1 service with Paramus f. Board of Health services by Northwest Regional Health Commission g. Purchasing through the Northwest Bergen Cooperative Purchasing Alliance. “We have to hunker down, spend it wisely and maintain stability year after year,” concluded Mayor Joseph Monahan. Lamenting the $1/2 million decrease in ratables, he said he would be reaching out to the business community to see what the governing body could do to help local businesses succeed. “We don’t want any vacancies,” he said.