The Searchers (1956)

 ●  English ● 1 hr 58 mins

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Ethan Edwards, returned from the Civil War to the Texas ranch of his brother, hopes to find a home with his family and to be near the woman he obviously but secretly loves. However, when a Comanche raid destroys these plans, Ethan sets out, along with his 1/8 Indian nephew Martin, on a years-long journey to find the niece kidnapped by the Indians under Chief Scar. But as the quest goes on, Martin begins to realize that his uncle's hatred for the Indians is beginning to spill over onto his now-assimilated niece. Martin becomes uncertain whether Ethan plans to rescue Debbie...or kill her.
See Storyline (May Contain Spoilers)

Cast: Jeffrey Hunter, John Wayne, Vera Miles

Crew: John Ford (Director), Winton C Hoch (Director of Photography), Max Steiner (Music Director)

Rating: U (India)

Genres: Adventure, Drama

Release Dates: 13 Mar 1956 (India)

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

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Music Rating
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Did you know? Robert Wagner auditioned for the role of Martin Pawley. Read More
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as Martin Pawley
as Ethan Edwards
as Laurie Jorgensen
as Emilio Figueroa
as Martha Edwards
as Chief Cicatriz (Scar)
as Brad Jorgensen
as Lars Jorgensen
as Charlie McCorry
as Debbie Edwards (young)
as Debbie Edwards (older)
as Mose Harper
as Mrs Jorgensen
as Lt. Greenhill
as Lucy Edwards
as Aaron Edwards
as Rev. Capt. Samuel Johnson Clayton

Direction

Director

Production

Producer
Production Company

Distribution

Distributor

Writers

Camera and Electrical

Director of Photography

Music

Music Director
Lyricist

Editorial

Editor
Film Type:
Feature Film
Language:
English
Colour Info:
Color
Sound Mix:
Mono
Frame Rate:
24 fps
Aspect Ratio:
2.35 : 1
Stereoscopy:
No
Taglines:
The Biggest, Roughest, Toughest ...and Most Beautiful Picture Ever Made!
He had to find her... he had to find her...
The story that sweeps from the great Southwest to the Canadian border in VistaVision.
Goofs:
Revealing Mistakes
When Ethan and Marty finally find Debbie she has grown from a child (Lana Wood) into a young woman (Natalie Wood), yet there is no sign of aging amongst the other members of the cast.

Revealing Mistakes
When 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 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
Ethan rides his horse into Scar's tepee and scalps his corpse. Afterward, he is riding and shooting with the rest of Capt. Clayton's men outside, before he exits the tepee with Scar's scalp.

Revealing Mistakes
Debbie's lipstick, clothing, and perfectly coiffed hair after five years of living with the Comanche.

Revealing Mistakes
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.

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
The "dead" Indian under the rock, when the rock is removed, is clearly breathing.

Factual Mistake
Ethan's medal, which he gives to Debbie, is 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.

Errors in Geography
The Native Americans were supposed to be Comanche, but virtually everything about them was Navajo or generic Hollywood "Indian"--nothing distinctly Comanche. They speak Navajo throughout the film (a common word is "yatahey" i.e. "hello").

Errors in Geography
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.

Errors in Geography
Monument Valley, a well-known stretch of the Arizona-Utah border, is used to represent Texas.

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
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
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
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
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
In the open shot of the funeral scene, Reverend Captain Clayton has only Ethan and Martin near him. But in the subsequent shot a man appears just behind Ethan.

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
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
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.

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.

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 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.

Character Error
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.

Character Error
Mamacita is using an aluminum pot to cook Frijoles.

Audio/Video Mismatch
During the shootout with the Indians at the river, Rev. Capt. Clayton's 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.

Audio/Video Mismatch
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.
Trivia:
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).

The film was inspired by real events. In 1836 Comanches abducted one Cynthia Ann Parker. She was raised by them, became a member of the tribe and gave birth to a son. One day US soldiers attacked the tribe's encampment and "recaptured" her. However, she did not want to leave "her people", and regretted this and the loss of her son for the rest of her life. Fiction, however, has nothing on truth: Her son, Quanah Parker, became a Comanche leader and fought the army for many years. When he and his band finally surrendered, he went to live among whites and became a successful businessman. He actually played himself in a 1908 silent film (The Bank Robbery (1908)). When John Ford cast the part of Quanah Parker in Two Rode Together (1961), he cast Henry Brandon, who played Chief Scar in this film.

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.

Robert Wagner auditioned for the role of Martin Pawley.

Jeffrey Hunter was nearly 29 at the time of filming, although his character was supposed to be a teenager.

Tied with Rebel Without a Cause (1955) as the year's 11th top box-office attraction.

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).

The Merseybeat band The Searchers took their name from this film. They are most famous for their cover of "Needles and Pins".

John Ford was willing to allow John Wayne to back out of this movie in order to star in Seven Men from Now (1956). Wayne chose to star in this film instead.

Ward Bond played the captain of a small unit of Texas Rangers. Among the actors playing the Rangers were Terry Wilson and Frank McGrath, both of whom later co-starred with Bond in the TV series Wagon Train (1957).

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.

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.

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.

The actors playing Comanche Indians are all Navajo, with the exception of Chief Scar, played by Henry Brandon, a German-born Jew. The language, traditional dress and dances depicted in the film are all Navajo, not Comanche. The "Comanche Death Song" is actually a social Navajo "Squaw Dance" song.

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

In 1963 critic and director Jean-Luc Godard called this film the fourth-greatest American film of the sound era, and once also compared its ending with "Ulysses being reunited with Telemachus".

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

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

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.

The song playing as John Wayne approaches at the beginning of the film is a slow version of "The Bonnie Blue Flag" (original title: "The Irish Jaunting Car"). This song and Daniel Decatur Emmett's "Dixie" were the two "anthems" of the Confederacy.

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

The melody behind the opening credits is "Lorena", written by Joseph Webster and Henry DeLafayette Webster. Though this song was written in Chicago in 1857, it is best known for being favored by Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. The lyrics are the longings of a man for his now-dead wife.

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.

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

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 Cynthia Ann Parker, a young white girl in Texas in 1836.

Lana Wood played young Debbie Edwards and Natalie Wood, who was Lana's older sister by eight years, played teenaged Debbie Edwards.

In the screenplay by Frank S. Nugent, the medal Ethan Edwards gives to Debbie is identified as "a gold medal or medallion" awarded by "Maximilian of Mexico" to mercenary soldiers who fought between 1865 and 1867 for the Emperor Maximilian's French forces. This medal implies Ethan served in the French Mexican Expedition during his three year absence and also explains his fluency in Spanish.

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

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

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.

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.

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 (of Ethan's mother) that Debbie hides next to reveals the source of Ethan's glaring hatred for Comanches. The marker reads: "Here lies Mary Jane Edwards killed by Commanches May 12, 1852. A good wife and mother in her 41st year."

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.

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 rock song, which they composed soon after.

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.

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 Wayne in homage.