Sometime in the late 1970s, it was decided at a secret meeting of top film critics that John Ford’s The Searchers was an unalloyed masterpiece. I wasn’t at that meeting (I had a dentist appointment), but I would like to have been. I would have used my turn at the podium to argue for the other Alan LeMay-written work on frontier miscegenation and ‘turned’ women: John Huston’s The Unforgiven.
In The Searchers, the supposed horror was a white woman ‘turned’ Indian. This time it’s an Indian woman who is ‘turned’ white. ‘The unforgiven’ are a settler family of palefaces who steal an Indian baby and raise her as their own, where she grows up to bear a striking resemblance to a tanned Belgian and alarms the neighboring settlers. Eventually the Indian nation from which she was stolen comes calling for her return.