Not everything is about Buddy Holly

When I was in high school, my grandparents took my cousin and I to Phoenix for 10 days. J. is a c0uple years older than me and was only able to stay for a few days (she was writing university exams) but I spent the full 10 days with my grandparents; we were not only in Phoenix but the surrounding area as well, including walking into Mexico for a day.

One of the places we went was Tombstone, Ariz., which is the site of the famous OK Corral gunfight. Boot Hill Graveyard is also close by, and we walked through there — when I was younger, I was really intrigued by cemeteries and the people buried there; I guess I still kind of am, I love walking through the older part of the St. Albert cemetery on Vital Avenue.

I don’t remember what the gift shop in Tombstone was attached to, but we stopped at a gift shop, and I found an 11×17 print of a movie poster for The Searchers, with John Wayne. However, I am a horrible impulse buyer and didn’t buy the print. Subsequent trips by my aunt and uncle, as well as most recently my parents, have proved unsuccessful at finding the poster again.

At that point, I hadn’t seen the movie. I’d never seen anything with John Wayne in it, honestly. But that was the movie that inspired Buddy Holly to write That’ll Be the Day.To hear J.I. Allison, Holly’s drummer and best friend, tell it, they went to see the movie, and afterwards, Holly was noodling on his guitar, he had a tune in his head. He told Allison that they should write a song and Allison replied, “That’ll be the day.” (A phrase that Wayne says approximately four times throughout the film — I thought it would be more.) Holly: “That’s a good idea.”

Seeing the movie has not been high on my list of things to do. Released in 1955, I thought it would be difficult to find, and probably not worth all that effort to watch.

And then I found out one of my friends owns it.

Even so, it’s taken longer than you would think for me to watch it. First was borrowing it — conflicting schedules meant that even though I found out he had it in April, I didn’t borrow it until the middle of May. I’ve now had the movie for over a week and I just watched it today. Again, part of that is my schedule, but part of it is that I was a little worried about watching it — I was really worried I wasn’t going to like it.

I can’t explain why that’s such a problem — you would have to actually know about Holly to know his connection to it. I’m sure thousands of people have either loved or hated the movie without knowing about Holly’s connection. In a nutshell, I really wanted to like it, but was pretty sure I wouldn’t like it. When D. loaned me the movie, he kept reminding me that “not everything is about Buddy Holly.”

I agree, but without Holly, there is likely no other way that I’d a) even know about The Searchers or b) have any desire to watch the movie. I tend to get a little too invested in movies and am probably the worst person ever to watch a tense scene with.

The premise is pretty basic — after Native Americans raid and burn down the home of Wayne’s (Ethan Edwards) brother, Wayne sets out to rescue his niece, who was taken captive. That said, there are a bunch of little things that go on while he’s gone — it’s five (-plus?) years, which is noted by Wayne but not depicted really well — that add to the story, and some interesting characters that have their moment, but mostly just add colour (stereotype of the Wild West, with its colourful personalities?). The other, pre-politically correct stereotypes are there are as well, but that kind of goes without saying — it’s just something you take with a grain of salt in a ’50s-era movie.

Yes, I’m glad I watched it. No, not everything is about Buddy Holly. (Though I love six-degrees-of-separation arguments.)

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