The Searchers (1956)

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    The Biggest, Roughest, Toughest ...and Most Beautiful Picture Ever Made![/align]
    For continuity, all discussion
    please post here:-
    Duke's Movies- The Searchers


    Plot Summary
    When Ethan decide to go find the Indians who killed his family,
    he is joined by his nephew, Martin Pawley.
    The problem is that Pawley is half-Indian, and there's nothing
    in the world tha Edwards hate more than Indians.
    The journey to find the Indians and Edwards niece
    (and Pawley half-sister) last for years.

    Full Cast
    John Wayne .... Ethan Edwards
    Jeffrey Hunter .... Martin Pawley
    Vera Miles .... Laurie Jorgensen
    Ward Bond .... Rev. Capt. Samuel Johnston Clayton
    Natalie Wood .... Debbie Edwards (older)
    John Qualen .... Lars Jorgensen
    Olive Carey .... Mrs. Jorgensen
    Henry Brandon .... Chief Cicatrice (Scar)
    Ken Curtis .... Charlie McCorry
    Harry Carey Jr. .... Brad Jorgensen
    Antonio Moreno .... Emilio Figueroa
    Hank Worden .... Mose Harper
    Beulah Archuletta .... Wild Goose Flying in the Night Sky (Look)
    Walter Coy .... Aaron Edwards
    Dorothy Jordan .... Martha Edwards
    Pippa Scott .... Lucy Edwards
    Patrick Wayne .... Lt. Greenhill (as Pat Wayne)
    Lana Wood .... Debbie Edwards (younger)
    Pipe Line Begishe .... Comanche (uncredited)
    Exactly Sonnie Betsuie .... Comanche (uncredited)
    Danny Borzage .... Accordionist at funeral (uncredited)
    Ruth Clifford .... Deranged woman at fort (uncredited)
    Tommy Doss .... Wedding Musician (uncredited)
    Pete Grey Eyes .... Comanche (uncredited)
    Feather Hat Jr. .... Comanche (uncredited)
    Nacho Galindo .... Mexican bartender (uncredited)
    Jack Tin Horn .... Comanche (uncredited)
    Harry Black Horse .... Comanche (uncredited)
    Away Luna .... Comanche (uncredited)
    Robert Lyden .... Ben Edwards (uncredited)
    Cliff Lyons .... Col. Greenhill (uncredited)
    Peter Mamakos .... Jerem Futterman (uncredited)
    Mae Marsh .... Dark Cloaked Woman at Fort Guarding Deranged Woman (uncredited)
    Bob Many Mules .... Comanche (uncredited)
    Jack Pennick .... Sergeant at fort (uncredited)
    Lloyd Perryman .... Wedding Musician (uncredited)
    Chuck Roberson .... Ranger at wedding (uncredited)
    Smile White Sheep .... Comanche (uncredited)
    Many Mules Son .... Comanche (uncredited)
    Percy Shooting Star .... Comanche (uncredited)
    William Steele .... Nesby (uncredited)
    Chief Thundercloud .... Comanche chief (uncredited)
    Billy Yellow .... Comanche (uncredited)

    Writing Credits
    Alan Le May (novel)
    Frank S. Nugent (screenplay)

    Original Music
    Max Steiner

    Winton C. Hoch

    Bill Cartledge .... stunts (uncredited)
    Chuck Hayward .... stunts (uncredited)
    Bryan 'Slim' Hightower .... stunts (uncredited)
    John Hudkins .... stunts (uncredited)
    Fred Kennedy .... stunts (uncredited)
    Cliff Lyons .... stunts (uncredited)
    Frank McGrath .... stunts (uncredited)
    Chuck Roberson .... stunts (uncredited)
    Dale Van Sickel .... stunts (uncredited)
    Henry Wills .... stunts (uncredited)
    Terry Wilson .... stunts (uncredited)

    * One of the first movies to market itself with a making-of documentary aired on TV. Gig Young hosted the program, with Jeffrey Hunter as the guest.

    * In the climactic scene, John Wayne and Natalie Wood run up the side of a hill in Monument Valley, Utah... and come down the other side of the hill in the Bronson Canyon area of Griffith Park, Los Angeles (647 miles away).

    * Western star Harry Carey died in 1947. Director John Ford cast Carey's wife (Olive Carey) as Mrs. Jorgensen (the mother) and Carey's son (Harry Carey Jr.) as one of the sons (Brad) as a tribute to Carey. In the closing scene with John Wayne framed in the doorway, Wayne holds his right elbow with his left hand in a pose that Carey fans would recognize as one that he often used. Wayne later stated he did it as a tribute to Carey. Off-camera, Olive watched.

    * Lana Wood played young Debbie Edwards and Natalie Wood, who was Lana's older sister by eight years, played teenaged Debbie Edwards.
    * The Mexican man who takes the searchers to meet Chief Scar is called Emilio Gabriel Fernandez y Figueroa. The name of this character, played by Antonio Moreno, is a combination of the names of Mexican actor and director Emilio Fernandez and his cinematographer, Gabriel Figueroa, both of whom were friends of director John Ford.

    * Hank Worden (Mose Harper) was tied up finishing shooting on The Indian Fighter (1955) and was unavailable for some shots in this movie. In scenes where the Rangers have ridden out together in Monument Valley, 'Old Mose Harper' is played in group shots by another actor hanging back and hiding his face. Single shots of Worden as Harper in these scenes were shot later.

    * Was voted the both the 13th Greatest Film of all time and the Greatest Western of all time by Entertainment Weekly.

    * Natalie Wood was still a student in high school when this film was being made, and on several occasions both John Wayne and Jeffrey Hunter had to pick her up at school on days when she was required on the set. This caused a good deal of excitement among Wood's female classmates.

    * The film's screenplay was adapted by Frank S. Nugent from Alan Le May's 1954 novel of the same name, that was first serialized as a short story in late fall 1954 issues of the Saturday Evening Post, and first titled, "The Avenging Texans", Acknowledged similarities existed between the film's script and an actual Comanche kidnapping of a young white girl in Texas in 1836.

    * Considering the part of Ethan Edwards to be the best character he ever portrayed on-screen and his favorite film role, John Wayne named a son Ethan in homage.

    * A significant portion of the film's labyrinthine plot is revealed on a throwaway prop that most casual viewers rarely notice. Just before the Indian raid on the Edwards homestead, the tombstone that Debbie hides next to reveals the source of Ethan's glaring hatred for Native Americans. The marker reads: "Here lies Mary Jane Edwards killed by Commanches May 12, 1852. A good wife and mother in her 41st year." Sixteen years earlier, Ethan's own mother was massacred by Comanches.

    * The eccentric character of Mose Harper, played by Hank Worden, is loosely based on an actual historical personage called Mad Mose, a legendary half-crazy Indian fighter of the American southwest with a fondness for rocking chairs.

    * The role of a young cavalry officer, Lt. Greenhill, is played by Patrick Wayne, John Wayne's son.

    * The medal Ethan Edwards gives to Debbie is not a Confederate or Union Army medal. It is a French medal awarded to mercenary soldiers who fought between 1865 and 1867 for the Emperor Maximilian of Mexico. This medal implies Ethan served in the French Mexican Expedition during his mysterious three year absence and also explains his fluency in Spanish.

    * According to John Wayne in a 1974 interview, John Ford hinted throughout the movie that Ethan had had an affair with his brother's wife, and was possibly the father of Lucy and Debbie. This meant Ethan's thirst for vengeance stemmed not from the murder of his brother, but of the woman Ethan had loved. This was so subtle that many viewers at the time missed it altogether.

    * In a biography of John Ford it is mentioned that Ward Bond, in his motel room after shooting, would walk around naked with the curtains open in hopes of attracting Vera Miles. Apparently, this plan did not have the intended results.

    * The melody behind the opening credits is "Lorena" by Joseph Webster and Henry DeLafayette Webster, a song much favored by Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. The lyrics are the longings of a man for his now-dead wife.

    * The medal that Ethan gives away is the Order of St. Guadalupe, the second highest award of the Mexicans at the time (equivalent to the Distinguished Service Cross). Many Confederates went south after the war and as a Horse Artillery Sergeant (red SGT stripes with yellow britches stripes) he would have been highly paid.

    * In 2007, the America Film Institute ranked this as the #12 Greatest Movie of All Time.

    * Buddy Holly's famous song "That'll Be the Day" was inspired by John Wayne's frequent use of the phrase in this film.

    * The song playing as John Wayne approaches at the beginning of the film is a slow version of "The Bonnie Blue Flag", which along with "Dixie" were the two "anthems" of the Confederacy.

    * According to Harry Carey Jr.'s book "Company of Heroes", John Wayne stayed in character between takes.

    * The medal Ethan gives to young Debbie at the beginning of the film is, in fact, the Serbian Order of St. Sava, established in 1883.

    * Fess Parker was offered the part of Martin but Walt Disney refused to loan him out. Jeffrey Hunter got the role instead. Parker and Hunter would later star together in The Great Locomotive Chase (1956).

    * According to film restorer Ned Price, by 1991 when the first digital transfer was made (on Laserdisc), the yellow layer of the original VistaVision negative had completely faded, making it unusable. Black and white separation masters (yellow, cyan, and magenta) made in the late 1950s have been used since then to master DVD releases.

    * Ranked #1 on the American Film Institute's list of the 10 greatest films in the genre "Western" in June 2008.

    * Robert Wagner auditioned for the role of Martin Pawley.

    * John Wayne's performance as Ethan Edwards is ranked #87 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time (2006).

    * Martha (Dorothy Jordan) was the real life wife of film producer Merian C. Cooper.

    * Items #11 and #14 give contradicting descriptions of the medal given to Debbie. The medal may be a prop combining features of French and Mexican medals. The white and blue Maltese cross is similar to the white and red cross on the Mexican Order of Guadalupe and the red and green ribbon appears on the French Order of Merite Agricole.

    * In the dance scene just before the wedding, the male dancers are some of the most famous and toughest stunt men of the period. Chuck Hayward, Terry Wilson, John Hudkins, Fred Kennedy, Frank McGrath and Chuck Roberson can all be seen dancing. After the scene the crew nicknamed them "Ford's chorus girls". At the end of the scene John Wayne moves to the bar and Roberson says, "Let's have a drink." As he speaks, Hayward and Wilson move into the shot behind Wayne. Wayne is then surrounded by the three men who doubled him at various times in the movie.

    * Reportedly this film was seen in a theater in Texas by Buddy Holly and his friends in the summer of 1956. They were so impressed with Ethan's (John Wayne) repeated use of the phrase "That'll be the day" that they used it as the title for their now standard R'n'R song that they composed soon after.

    * Film debut of Pippa Scott.

    In the scene directly after Ethan (John Wayne) shoots several buffalo in the small herd so they "...won't fill any Indian bellies this winter!", as the mounted Cavalry is going through the creek after a deep snowfall, there is a car that can be seen in the background. It is traveling from left to right and its lights can be seen in the background as it starts from the center of the screen in the shot and moves to the right.

    The language spoken by the "Comanche" Indians is actually Navajo.

    The actors playing Comanche Indians are all Navajo, with the exception of Chief Scar, played by a German actor. The language, traditional dress, dances depicted in the film are all Navajo, not Comanche. The scene where the "Comanche" natives are singing, with Ethan (John Wayne) declaring that they are singing a Comanche "Death Song" is actually a social Navajo "Squaw Dance Song".

    * Errors in geography: Monument Valley is not in Texas.

    * Anachronisms: As the cavalry approaches and begins to cross the snow-covered river to the left, it becomes obvious that along the river is a road, because a car appears and drives to the right-hand corner of the shot and stops just beyond a tree.

    * Revealing mistakes: Debbie's head is visible at the top of a distant sand dune as she awaits her cue to run over the hill to join Ethan and Martin.

    * Revealing mistakes: When projected or seen in 1:1.33 aspect ratio, when Martin sneaks into Scar's village, we can see spot lights above the top of the painted backdrop. With the correct VistaVision aspect ratio of 1:1.85, that would be out of frame.

    * Continuity: When the Indians charge across the river, Ethan is shooting at them with an octagonal barreled rifle, when the angle changes, he is shooting with a round barreled carbine.

    * Continuity: When the Indians charge across the river toward the reverend's posse, the river changes both direction and color throughout the scene. In some shots, the river is a muddy red, while in others it is clearer and blue. In the shots of Ethan firing his rifle, the river moves from his left to his right. But in the shots of the Indians getting shot and falling from their horses, the river moves from Ethan's (and the viewer's) right to his left. Then, as the Indians retreat, the river switches back to moving left to right.

    * Continuity: When Martin briefly threatens the injured Ethan with a knife, the knife switches from his left hand to his right between shots.

    * Anachronisms: Marty's knife hilt seems to be a Ka-Bar knife, designed in WWII.

    * Crew or equipment visible: After Ethan stokes the campfire and Martin turns in for the night, the camera tilts up to Futterman on a rock. The angle is so high that the top of the studio backdrop and a studio light are visible when the film is projected or seen in 1:1.33 aspect ratio.

    * Anachronisms: Laurie is seen wearing what appear to be riveted blue jeans in Texas around the year 1869 or 1870. Denim pants reinforced with rivets were not patented and mass produced until 1873 (by Levi Strauss in San Francisco), and prior to that were likely unknown outside of Reno, Nevada, where they had been invented by a local tailor.

    * Continuity: Ethan rides his horse into Scar's teepee and scalps his corpse. Afterward, he is riding and shooting with the rest of Capt. Clayton's men outside, before he exits the teepee with Scar's scalp.

    * Continuity: When the Indians chase the Rangers across the river, Capt. Clayton falls off his horse and into the water. When the Rangers regroup on the far bank to shoot back, he is dry.

    * Continuity: At the beginning of the movie, a blanket is draped on the hitching rail. When the shot moves from inside the darkened house to the bright outdoors the blanket is gone.

    * Crew or equipment visible: In the cabin where the cavalry is holding the deranged woman and the two teenage girls, a filming light is visible in the ceiling after the deranged woman screams and grabs the doll. The light is partially hidden behind a horizontal stovepipe and the glare is clearly visible for most of the scene.

    * Plot holes: Ethan and Mose are on horseback and pass Martin who is on foot during the return to Aaron's ranch. Martin arrives at the burning ranch only seconds behind Ethan and Mose, but should have been hours behind.

    * Continuity: When Aaron Edwards is looking around outside to spot Indians, it is dusk. We then see a quick cut away to a bright blue sky when he spots something, and then a cut back to dusk.

    * Anachronisms: The movie begins in 1868; however, all of the guns used are mid 1870s vintage. The pistols used are Colt 1873 Peacemakers and the rifles are Winchester Model 1892. Although both Spencer and Volcanic Repeating Arms both produced cartridge firing repeating rifles, it is more likely that most of the men, not being professional gun hands, would have carried Civil War surplus rifles (muzzleloaders) like Mose.

    * Continuity: When the Aaron's family goes out to welcome Ethan, the dog follows Debbie and stays on her right-hand side. In the next shot the dog is on her left.

    * Continuity: After the children go to sleep, Aaron's pipe disappears from his hand. Afterward, when he is hiding Ethan's money, the pipe reappears in his mouth.

    * Continuity: In the open shot of the funeral scene, Rev. Capt. Clayton has only Ethan and Martin near him. But in the subsequent shot a man appears just behind Ethan.

    * Continuity: While Laurie reads Martin's letter, Charlie stays plucking the guitar. In the next shot he is touching his chin with his left hand.

    * Continuity: During their fight, Martin and Charlie rolled up in a almost completely yellow bedspread. From one shot to another the bedspread changes its color.

    * Continuity: During the battle with the Comanche crossing the river, Mose and Martin seem enveloped in dusk while firing from behind a log, whereas their companions, seen in other shots, are viewed in bright sunlight.

    * Continuity: The horses Ethan and Marty are riding are not in sequence. When Marty rides his horse to death and is seen carrying his saddle, he was riding his buckskin (which is the horse that supposedly died). When he rides out with Ethan to look for the two girls, he is again on the same buckskin horse. Also, when Marty leaves and goes after Ethan, Laurie gives him her blaze-faced sorrel 'Sweet Face'. When Ethan and Marty are riding together after Marty buys 'Look', they are both riding dark faced dark horses and not leading any other horses. Later on, Marty is once again on 'Sweet Face'.

    * Continuity: At the beginning of the film, when the Rangers discover the prize bull and decide that it is a "murder raid", Martin rides off in the same direction as those going to the Jorgensen ranch (west) instead of heading south, towards his family's place.

    * Audio/visual unsynchronized: When the Comanches ride down on Ethan and Marty from the sand dune, one Comanche can be seen and heard firing his rifle. However, he fires his rifle a second time but no gunshot sound effect can be heard.

    * Factual errors: The term 'yatahey' is heard being shouted by an Indian in the background. Yatahey is the Navajo word for hello, and would likely not be used by Comanche Indians.

    * Crew or equipment visible: In the long tracking shot of the calvary riding through the Comanche village near the end of the film, dust kicked up by the dolly riding on its track is visible at the bottom right corner of the screen.

    * Revealing mistakes: In the scene where Lars Jorgensen is trying to stop Ethan and Martin from entering his house just before Laurie's wedding, their shadows can clearly be seen on the painted backdrop behind. A few minutes later, when Martin and Charlie go outside to fight, their shadows are also briefly seen on the backdrop.

    * Continuity: When the fight between Marty and Charlie is broken up by the wedding guest, both men are completely covered in white dust. When they cut to a closer shot of the two men, they are much cleaner with only a small amount of brown dust on them.

    * Continuity: During the final battle, when the Texas Rangers rush the Indian camp, the scene goes from night to broad daylight from that point on.

    * Audio/visual unsynchronized: During the shootout with the Indians at the river, Rev. Capt. Claytons' gun is emptied and Ethan throws him a loaded gun; Clayton throws his hat and hits Ethan. Ethan is moving his lips and saying something but, there is no sound.

    * Continuity: Just after the shooting at the river Ethan is sitting and putting new bullets in his rifle while talking to Clayton, then he walks up to the two by the horses behind with his rifle in his left hand. Just before the cut to a closeup on the three, he shifts the rifle to his right hand. But after the cut to the closeup he is still holding his rifle in his left hand.

    * Continuity: In the scene early in the movie when Ward Bond's Preacher/Texas Rangers Captain is trying to recruit Ethan and his brother, John Wayne puts on his gun belt and in the next shot buckles it again.

    * Continuity: When Brad returns to Ethan and Marty after scouting the Comanche camp, he tells them that they are camped a half mile away. After learning of Lucy's fate, he mounts his horse and rides off towards the camp. About five to seven seconds after his departure, we hear the sounds of gunfire. For a good saddle horse, carrying an average sized man and saddle with gear, to run a half mile at full speed would require roughly 50 to 60 seconds lead time. Brad could not have come remotely close to the Comanches in the time between his leaving and the sounds of gunfire.

    * Continuity: When the Reverend breaks up the fight between Martin and Charlie, a group of men are seen behind the Reverend with Martin and Charlie in front of him however, when the fight resumes, Seth, the violinist, has appeared behind Charlie.

    * Crew or equipment visible: (At 1:10:32) Immediately after John Wayne goes crazy shooting at the buffalo, they hear the Calvary trumpet. It then cuts to the Calvary riding their horses through the snow filled creek. In the background, (to the right in the 1.85 ratio version on Blu-Ray), there is a car driving along a road that is stopped by a crew member.

    * Errors made by characters (possibly deliberate errors by the filmmakers): Mamasita is using an aluminum pot to cook Frijoles.

    * Continuity: When Martin is taking a bath, Laurie brings in 2 buckets of water and leaves them by the door. Then when the camera cuts to a close up of Martin in the tub, the buckets are next to the tub. When the camera pans back to a full shot, the buckets are by the door again.

    * Continuity: When the reverend's posse is crossing the river, you can clearly see the Indian war party following behind on the river bank. When the posse gets to the other side, the war party is not visible on the opposite bank or in the river.

    * Continuity: When the Reverends' posse is about half way across the river, the scene cuts to a close up of five Indians coming over a dirt bank. Seconds later, a puff of smoke is seen coming from the bottom of the screen when all five Indians fall off their horses and into the water (the ropes used to trip up the horses are visible in the muddied water). The posse is already across the river and too far away to make such a shot; one shot cannot bring down five Indians.

    * Revealing mistakes: Right after he takes the loaded gun from Ethan & throws his hat at Ethan, Clayton's gun goes off unintentionally before he takes his first shot.

    * Revealing mistakes: When the titular searchers find the dead Indian buried under a boulder, the Indian can clearly be seen breathing.

    * Anachronisms: In the scene of the snowy creek crossing, a woman on horseback can clearly be seen wearing sun-glasses.

    * Errors made by characters (possibly deliberate errors by the filmmakers): When Laurie receives the letter from Marty she throws it into the open fire in disgust. It's obviously supposed to catch fire but it doesn't. Her father, Lars, quickly kneels down and can be seen setting light to the paper before dropping it on the hearth and stamping on it to put the flames out.

    Memorable Quotes

    Filming Locations
    Aspen, Colorado, USA
    Bronson Caves, Bronson Canyon, Griffith Park - 4730 Crystal Springs Drive, Los Angeles, California, USA
    Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
    Goosenecks State Park - State Highway 316, Mexican Hat, Utah, USA
    Gunnison, Colorado, USA
    Monument Valley, Utah, USA
    RKO-Pathé Studios - 9336 Washington Blvd., Culver City, California, USA

    See also this great link to the locations:-
    The Searchers- 1956

    Previous Discussion:-
    Did Ethan Kill Lucy?

    For continuity, all discussion
    please post here:-
    Duke's Movies- The Searchers

    Best Wishes
    London- England

    Edited 17 times, last by ethanedwards ().

  • The Searchers is a 1956 American Western film directed by John Ford,
    based on the 1954 novel by Alan Le May, and set during the Texas–Indian Wars.
    The film stars John Wayne as a middle-aged Civil War veteran who spends years
    looking for his abducted niece (Natalie Wood), accompanied by his adoptive nephew (Jeffrey Hunter).

    The film was a commercial success, although it received no major Academy Award nominations.
    Since its release, it has come to be considered a masterpiece,
    and one of the greatest films ever made.
    It was named the Greatest American Western of all time by the American Film Institute in 2008,
    and it placed 12th on the American Film Institute's 2007 list of the
    100 greatest American movies of all time.
    Entertainment Weekly named it the best Western of all time.
    The British Film Institute's Sight & Sound magazine ranked it as
    the seventh best movie of all time in a 2012 survey.

    The Biggest, Roughest, Toughest ...and Most Beautiful Picture Ever Made!

    This, one line statement, just about sums it up, doesn't it?
    On most polls, this one nearly always, comes out top.
    It's fantastic film, with great actors, acting and scenery.
    Duke got into the part of Ethan, and he made it his own,
    with a deep and brooding persona, and a deep down hatred
    of the Indian, rascism, in its earliest form.

    Was he the father of Debbie?

    User Review


    Ford and Wayne doing what they do best
    18 December 1998 | by Neil Dennis ( (London, England)

    John Ford's classic Western, has inspired many quest movies and tv series since its release. The film is a series of episodes linked by the 10 year quest for a niece stolen by Indians as a child. Wayne's Ethan Edwards, an embittered Confederate veteran shows only hatred for all redskins and is uncomprimising in his intended treatment of his niece when he finds her. Modern cinema audiences may find this uncomfortable, especially since western folklore has been reassessed over the last 20 years. But don't let this put you off. Ford's treatment is a modern allegory and Ethan can be forgiven his sins when, at the final denoument, one act of kindness gives us hope, and we feel Ethan has learned an important lesson. Tolerance. Everything about this film makes it a classic and perhaps the best in its genre. Ford's direction is as impeccable as ever, Frank Nugent's script and Winton Hoch's cinematography give us some of the classic images of the cinema. John Wayne, as ever, doesn't even need to act. He just sits tall in the saddle and perpetuates the myth.

    Best Wishes
    London- England

    Edited 5 times, last by ethanedwards ().