|Key Cast||John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Ward Bond, Natalie Wood, Henry Brandon, Vera Miles|
John Wayne is an Obsessed Antihero in John Ford’s Masterpiece “The Searchers”
Among the most famous American films of all time, John Ford’s epic “The Searchers” is widely regarded as a pinnacle of the Western genre. In a career-defining role, John Wayne portrays Ethan Edwards, a Confederate veteran of moody temperament and veiled motivations. A few years after the end of the Civil War, he journeys to the remote West Texas abode of his brother, Aaron (Walter Coy), who lives with his wife, Martha, and their children—including an adopted son, Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter).
A captain of the Texas Rangers, Samuel Clayton (Ward Bond), soon arrives to report cattle stolen from a nearby ranch, and enlists Edwards and Pawley to help investigate. The cattle-rustling turns out to have been a ploy by Comanche Indians to lure the men away from the ranch houses. When Edwards and the rest hurry back, they find the scene of a massacre and Edwards’ two nieces, Debbie (played as a teenager by Natalie Wood) and Lucy (Pippa Scott), abducted by the Indians.
As Edwards and the Rangers set off in pursuit and skirmish with the Comanches, his abiding hatred of the Indian people becomes clear—and, in contrast to Pawley’s earnest desire to rescue his adopted sisters, seems to be his overriding preoccupation. Lucy’s fate is soon discovered, while Edwards’ hunt for Debbie and the Comanches who kidnapped her—led by Scar (Henry Brandon), driven by his own desire for vengeance—becomes a multi-year obsession.
John Wayne’s depiction of an ambiguous antihero, wracked with racism and isolation, is one of the Hollywood legend’s most complicated roles. “The Searchers” was groundbreaking in its muddling of the traditional Western’s good-and-bad, black-and-white storyline.
“The Searchers” is as distinctive for its incredible cinematography — the work of Winton C. Hoch, who collaborated with John Ford on a number of films—which sets the astounding formations of Monument Valley as the unforgettable backdrop to Edwards’ unrelenting search for Comanche chief Scar and his niece Debbie.
A lavishly-acclaimed movie, “The Searchers” has been named one of the American Film Institute’s Top 100 movies of all time and was added to the prestigious U.S. National Film Registry in 1989.
• The movie “The Searchers” was based on a Saturday Evening Post story named “The Avenging Texans” by Alan LeMay. The story was abridged and serialized in the magazine in 1954 and was later published in book form as “The Searchers.” The screenplay for the movie was written by Frank Nugent who purposely wrote the western with John Wayne in mind as the star. Frank Nugent was a very successful western movie screenwriter and had written the screenplays for some other successful John Ford directed westerns – “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,” “Fort Apache”, “Wagon Master” and “3 Godfathers.”
In order to add some comic relief to the movie version of “The Searchers”, Frank Nugent purposely added two new characters to the film that were not in the book. One of them was Mose Harper who was a somewhat senile old man played by Hank Worden. The other was the Reverend Sam Clayton played by Ward Bond.
• John Wayne was still shooting the action/adventure movie “Blood Alley” when director John Ford began work on “The Searchers.” Ford wanted to shoot the snow scenes for “The Searchers” while he could, so he sent a company to Gunnison, Colorado and Alberta, Canada to start shooting these grueling scenes during the harsh winter. The rest of “The Searchers” was shot on location in Monument Valley, Utah. John Ford loved this location for making his films and used Monument Valley to not only make “The Searchers” but also these other classic western movies: “Fort Apache”, “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon”, “Stagecoach” and “My Darling Clementine.” John Ford’s use of this location was so successful that Monument Valley has become a location icon for western movies.
• Some of the dialogue from “The Searchers” have become famous quotes. Most notable among them is the line “That’ll be the day” that went on to inspire singer-songwriter Buddy Holly to write the 1957 hit song “That’ll be the day.” Click here to find our more details about “That’ll be the Day, Buddy Holly and John Wayne.”
• By the time they filmed “The Searchers” together, director John Ford and actor John Wayne had already made the following western movies:
Fort Apache (1948)
3 Godfathers (1948)
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)
Rio Grande (1950)
• After making “The Searchers” in 1956, John Ford and John Wayne made these classic western movies together:
The Horse Soldiers (1959)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
How the West Was Won (1962)
• The collaboration between director John Ford and actor John Wayne has become one of the greatest director/actor partnerships ever. Ford and Wayne not only made western movies together, but also war, drama, adventure, comedy and romance films. One of the most famous of their non-western alliances is the film “The Quiet Man” for which John Ford won a 1953 Best Director Academy Award.
• Although it was named an American Film Institute Top 100 film, “The Searchers” did not win any Academy Awards when it was initially released. Moreover, critics’ reviews of the western were mixed. Since this time, this western has become a lavishly-acclaimed film and is considered one of the best western movies ever made. Cinematically, “The Searchers” is considered a work of art and has been credited with influencing the work of contemporary directors Steven Spielberg, Marin Scorsese and George Lucas.
• Selected in 1989 to the U.S. Library of Congress National Film Registry.
“The Searchers” Movie DVD
The Searchers movie is one of the greatest westerns ever made. Starring John Wayne and directed by John Ford, you can own this classic western now on DVD.
“The Searchers” Blu-Ray DiscThis Blu-ray version of “The Searchers” has the best picture quality and sound available for home viewing.
This Blu-ray disc also has many bonus features not available on the regular DVD. Most notable of these features is a documentary named “The Searchers: An Appreciation A Turning Of The Earth: John Ford, John Wayne and The Searchers.”
You’ll also find a special movie commentary by Peter Bogdanovich, who is a John Ford biographer.
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“The Searchers” Movie
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