Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1956: Ward Bond in The Searchers

Ward Bond did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Reverend Captain Samuel Johnson Clayton in The Searchers.

Well let's go from the chief character actor for losers Elisha Cook Jr. to chief character actor for buddies of the main character Ward Bond, hey and they were both in The Maltese Falcon playing the roles they apparently fit best. Bond seemed to specialize playing supportive characters in the films either directed by John Ford, or starring John Wayne. Bond often would just be the guy there to offer a few kind words, but he sometimes would get more substantial roles. One of those examples is in The Searchers, I mean right for starters he plays both a Reverend and a Captain in the Texas rangers. Bond also this time is not really there to be particularly kind to John Wayne's Ethan Edwards. In fact, although Bond greets the Edwards family in his usually warm fashion, Bond brings a incisive coldness in the Reverend Captain's attitude towards Ethan. Bond suggests a history between the men, and it is obviously not been a good one. There is no kind greeting towards Ethan, or much of any pleasantness in fact Bond expresses a distaste in Clayton as he informs Ethan that he fits some criminal descriptions.

Their differences though are put to the side as Ethan offers a valuable gun when it becomes obvious that the Comanche tribe is making a move. Before they leave though Bond does have a great moment where he drinks coffee while watching the interactions between Ethan and Ethan's sister in-law. Bond is also terrific in creating the affair of the past simply through the knowing reactions he brings to Clayton's face as he watches the two's rather unique chemistry with one another. After that point the Search basically begins which is lead at first by Clayton. Bond is really the only actor who is on Wayne's level in these scenes, as he to manages to convey the gravity and danger of the Comanche through his reactions to them. Bond's performance though wisely departs from Wayne's portrayal of the hate filled Ethan. When Ethan shoots them there's a certain pleasure in it, Bond though kinda let's the Reverend shone through as Bond portrays a determination in the fight, but also a certain disgust in the act of killing. He acts well as a moral foil for Ethan, and one of my favorite scenes is when Ethan shoots out the eyes of the dead Comanche as a representation of his revenge that goes even beyond their current world. Bond stands toe to toe with Wayne's intensity in portraying Clayton's revulsion of Ethan's behavior with his blunt delivery of "What good did that do ya?".

Bond disappears for a long period of time as the film focuses instead on Ethan and his adopted nephew Marty (Jeffrey Hunter)'s search for Ethan's niece that was kidnapped by the Comanche. This is unfortunate as Hunter is not on the same level as Wayne, unlike Bond, and if the Reverend Captain had a larger role, with more interactions with Ethan in particular, the film would probably have only benefited. Bond eventually returns mostly for some hijinks involving the fighting caused by the wedding involving a love triangle, and later a young cavalry officer who is a little who uses his sword in a little too excited of a fashion. Much of the attempts at comedy don't work all that well except for what Bond does in these scenes. In the fight around the wedding Bond is actually rather entertaining in his sardonic reactions to the whole affair particularly his dead pan delivery about celebrating a successful wedding since no one got married. He even attempts to make the most out of the Reverend's constant berating of the overly enthusiastic naive officer shtick, and does succeed in making the whole bit fairly entertaining, which is important since it keeps going even while the film is suppose to be building towards the final dramatic showdown with Comanche. Bond is given a few minor moments against Wayne though. Again Bond does well to brings the need intensity to stand against Wayne, as Clayton is basically the only person who truly questions Ethan's morality. These moments are only brief and the film never gives the two a final face off exactly, just like how the film cheats a final face off between Scar and Ethan. Instead Bond gets to end just on a gag involving an embarrassing wound suffered by Clayton during the final raid. Bond gives a good performance though I would say underused considering he's the only major supporting player who manages to make the film's attempts at comedy work at all, as well as is basically the only performer who is able to be a match for John Wayne's searing work.


luke higham said...

Louis: Can you name me any horror films that you've yet to see, that your looking forward to seeing in future, such as The Wicker Man (1973), Don't Look Now, The Omen, Let The Right One In, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Romero's Living Dead Films, Village Of The Damned, Evil Dead I & II and Suspiria.

Deiner said...

He was good indeed.

Anonymous said...

Louis , what are your thoughts on the cast in My Girl 1991? I just watched it and thought it had good acting.

luke higham said...

Louis: You need to check the Crowe/Gladiator Review, since the rating is also posted above the subheading.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke: I'd add the Others to that list at least.


Haven't seen it.