4.8 16
Director: John Ford

Cast: John Ford, John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Miles


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If John Ford is the greatest Western director, The Searchers is arguably his greatest film, at once a grand outdoor spectacle like such Ford classics as She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) and Rio Grande (1950) and a film about one man's troubling moral codes, a big-screen adventureSee more details below

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If John Ford is the greatest Western director, The Searchers is arguably his greatest film, at once a grand outdoor spectacle like such Ford classics as She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) and Rio Grande (1950) and a film about one man's troubling moral codes, a big-screen adventure of the 1950s that anticipated the complex themes and characters that would dominate the 1970s. John Wayne plays Ethan Edwards, a former Confederate soldier who returns to his brother Aaron's frontier cabin three years after the end of the Civil War. Ethan still has his rebel uniform and weapons, a large stash of Yankee gold, and no explanations as to where he's been since Lee's surrender. A loner not comfortable in the bosom of his family, Ethan also harbors a bitter hatred of Indians (though he knows their lore and language well) and trusts no one but himself. Ethan and Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter), Aaron's adopted son, join a makeshift band of Texas Rangers fending off an assault by renegade Comanches. Before they can run off the Indians, several homes are attacked, and Ethan returns to discover his brother and sister-in-law dead and their two daughters kidnapped. While they soon learn that one of the girls is dead, the other, Debbie, is still alive, and with obsessive determination, Ethan and Martin spend the next five years in a relentless search for Debbie -- and for Scar (Henry Brandon), the fearsome Comanche chief who abducted her. But while Martin wants to save his sister and bring her home, Ethan seems primarily motivated by his hatred of the Comanches; it's hard to say if he wants to rescue Debbie or murder the girl who has lived with Indians too long to be considered "white." John Wayne gives perhaps his finest performance in a role that predated screen antiheroes of the 1970s; by the film's conclusion, his single-minded obsession seems less like heroism and more like madness. Wayne bravely refuses to soft-pedal Ethan's ugly side, and the result is a remarkable portrait of a man incapable of answering to anyone but himself, who ultimately has more in common with his despised Indians than with his more "civilized" brethren. Natalie Wood is striking in her brief role as the 16-year-old Debbie, lost between two worlds, and Winton C. Hoch's Technicolor photography captures Monument Valley's savage beauty with subtle grace. The Searchers paved the way for such revisionist Westerns as The Wild Bunch (1969) and McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), and its influence on movies from Taxi Driver (1976) to Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and Star Wars (1977) testifies to its lasting importance.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ben Wolf
Critic Dave Kehr wrote of The Searchers: "We may still be waiting for the Great American Novel, but John Ford gave us the Great American Film in 1956." He was right. John Wayne, in his favorite role, gives a magnificent, nuanced performance as the unrelenting tracker Ethan Edwards. The tale of this Confederate veteran's obsessive search for his youngest niece, kidnapped years ago by the Indian chief who killed her family, manages to function both as a dark, brooding western about racism and as straight-ahead entertainment filled with humorous moments and breathtaking action. The film inspired countless American directors, from Bogdanovich to Scorsese. And through his truly democratic staging, placing everyone in equally important parts of the frame regardless of box office stature, Ford delineates all the contradictory aspects of our national character. Set against the overwhelming Monument Valley landscape, the humanity of the characters, with all their merits and flaws, expresses deep emotional truths in what has been called the most beautiful movie ever made.
All Movie Guide - Lucia Bozzola
Described by the director as a "psychological epic", The Searchers (1956) is John Ford's most revered Western, for its visual richness and profoundly ambiguous critique of the genre's (and America's) racism. Ford pushed John Wayne's archetypal Westerner into the realm of antiheroism, as Ethan's five-year quest to rescue his niece from Comanche chief Scar mutates into killing her when he discovers her living placidly as Scar's bride. While Ethan's lethal racism signals his insanity, Wayne's charismatic presence and Ethan's desire to salvage the family unit of "civilized" settlers carries its own sheen of Western heroism. Still, the famous final image of Ethan's departure into the desert reveals that "civilization" has no place for such an uncompromising figure. Shot on location in Colorado and Monument Valley, Ford's vividly arid Technicolor vistas render Ethan a man of the magnificent and punishing landscape, unable to reconcile his inner savagery with domestic constraints. Greeted in America as just another quality Ford oater, the film was first reclaimed by French critics for the unresolved tensions and evocative style of Ford's narrative, elevating it to the status of cinematic art. With U.S. cinephiles following suit, The Searchers deeply influenced the 1970s "film school" generation (Martin Scorsese and Paul Schrader transformed it into Taxi Driver in 1976) and has since taken its place among the greatest Westerns ever made.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Warner Home Video
[Wide Screen]
Sales rank:

Special Features

New digital high-definition transfer from restored Vista Vision picture and audio elements; New featurtte The Searchers: An Appreciation; A Turning of the Earth: John Ford, John Wayne, and the Searchers, 1998 documentary narrated by John Milius; Introduction by John Wayne's son and The Searchers co-star Patrick Wayne; Commentary by director/John Ford biographer Peter Bogdanovich; Vintage Behind the Cameras segments from the Warner Bros. Presents TV series

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
John Wayne Ethan Edwards
Jeffrey Hunter Martin Pawley
Vera Miles Laurie Jorgensen
Ward Bond Capt. Reverend Clayton
Natalie Wood Debbie Edwards, older
John Milius Narrated
John Qualen Lars Jorgensen
Hank Worden Mose Harper
Olive Carey Mrs. Jorgensen
Henry Brandon Chief Scar
Ken Curtis Charlie McCony
Harry Carey Brad Jorgensen
Antonio Moreno Emilio Figueroa
Lana Wood Debbie Edwards, younger
Walter Coy Aaron Edwards
Dorothy Jordan Martha Edwards
Pippa Scott Lucy Edwards
Patrick Wayne Lieutenant Greenhill
Beulah Archuletta Look
Shooting Star Actor
Ruth Clifford Deranged woman at fort
Cliff Lyons Col. Greenhill
Peter Mamakos Jerem Futterman
Mae Marsh Woman at fort
Jack Pennick Private
Chuck Roberson Man at wedding
Bill Steele Nesby
Chief Thundercloud Comanche chief
Nacho Galindo Mexican bartender
Robert Lyden Ben Edwards
Danny Borzage Accordionist at Funeral

Technical Credits
John Ford Director
James Basevi Art Director
C. Frank Beetson Costumes/Costume Designer
Frank Beetson Costumes/Costume Designer
George Brown Special Effects
Merian C. Cooper Executive Producer
Patrick Ford Associate Producer
Victor A. Gangelin Set Decoration/Design
Winton Hoch Cinematographer,Screenwriter
Frank Hotaling Art Director
Hugh McDowell Sound/Sound Designer
Jack Murray Editor
Frank S. Nugent Screenwriter
Webb Overlander Makeup
Ann Peck Costumes/Costume Designer
Wingate Smith Asst. Director
Max Steiner Score Composer
C.V. Whitney Producer
Howard Wilson Sound/Sound Designer

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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Searchers
1. Chapter 1
2. Chapter 2
3. Chapter 3
4. Chapter 4
5. Chapter 5
6. Chapter 6
7. Chapter 7
8. Chapter 8
9. Chapter 9
10. Chapter 10
11. Chapter 11
12. Chapter 12
13. Chapter 13
14. Chapter 14
15. Chapter 15
16. Chapter 16
17. Chapter 17
18. Chapter 18
19. Chapter 19
20. Chapter 20
21. Chapter 21
22. Chapter 22
23. Chapter 23
24. Chapter 24
25. Chapter 25
26. Chapter 26
27. Chapter 27
28. Chapter 28
29. Chapter 29
30. Chapter 30
31. Chapter 31
32. Chapter 32
33. Chapter 33
34. Chapter 34
35. Chapter 35
3. Chapter 36
37. Chapter 37
38. Chapter 38
39. Chapter 39
40. Chapter 40
41. Chapter 41
42. Chapter 42
43. Chapter 43
44. Chapter 44

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