The Searchers Overview:

The Searchers (1956) was a Action - Adventure Film directed by John Ford and produced by Merian C. Cooper and Patrick Ford.

The film was based on the novel of the same name written by Alan Le May published in 1954.


Arguably the finest western in the Ford and Wayne canon, this appears perennially on every list of the greatest American films of all time. After Comanches kill his brother's family and kidnap their daughters, better Confederate veteran Wayne sets forth on a hate-ridden quest to find his nieces (Scott and Wood) and save them from the "savages." He reluctantly brings along young Hunter, the adopted son of a family also killed by Indians. Their quest leads them hundreds of miles over seven agonizing years of dead ends and double crosses. As it becomes clear that Wood has accepted her life among the Comanches, Wayne resolves not to rescue her but to save her from disgrace by killing her, a resolve that comes to a heart-stopping, emotional climax. Ford's story of moral ambiguity lives in Wayne dense, richly layered characterization of a man whose brutal tendencies, hardened by his experiences of war and the frontier, balance with a tender, forlorn longing for home and family, expressed in his words to the frightened girl as he holds her life in his hands: "Let's go home, Debbie." The character dramatically upends Wayne's heroic archetype; it's rumored that after shooting the film, Ford, who had directed Wayne many times before, exclaimed, "I didn't know he could act!" Highly influential to a generation of filmmakers.

(Source: available at Amazon AMC Classic Movie Companion).


The Searchers was inducted into the National Film Registry in 1989.

BlogHub Articles:

Revisiting John Ford's The Searchers

By Rick29 on Dec 19, 2022 From Classic Film & TV Cafe

John Wayne as Ethan.A few months ago, I hosted a Classic Western Films Tournament on Twitter, in which The Searchers (in a series of close contests) was crowned champion. The outpouring of passionate support for John Ford's 1956 classic inspired me to revisit a movie I hadn't seen in several decades... Read full article

DOUBLE BILL #7: Stagecoach (1939) and The Searchers (1956)

By Carol Martinheira on Oct 10, 2017 From The Old Hollywood Garden

DOUBLE BILL #7: Stagecoach (1939) and The Searchers (1956) On October 10, 2017October 10, 2017 By CarolIn Uncategorized John Ford and John Wayne. One of cinema?s greatest and most celebrated director-actor partnerships. They made dozens of films together and they were ... Read full article

The Searchers (1956)

By Beatrice on Apr 30, 2016 From Flickers in Time

The Searchers Directed by John Ford Written by Frank S. Nugent from the novel by Alan Le May 1956/USA Warner Bros./C.V. Whitney Pictures Repeat viewing/Netflix rental #318 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die Ethan: That’ll be the day. My husband said “It’s that sad West... Read full article

"...And Scene!" blogathon: "The Searchers", a silent farewell

By Caftan Woman on Jun 25, 2015 From Caftan Woman

John Ford Monument Valley Sister Celluloid presents the “…And Scene!” Blogathon running June 25 - 28. Click here for the memorable scenes that continually fascinate these movie bloggers. The scene that deeply touches me with every viewing is from John Ford's 1956 masterpiece,... Read full article

The Searchers (1956, John Ford)

By Andrew Wickliffe on Jan 19, 2015 From The Stop Button

John Ford is never trying to be discreet with The Searchers, he’s just not willing to talk down to the audience. In the first ten minutes of the film, he and screenwriter Frank S. Nugent quickly establish John Wayne’s character and his relationship with his family. Ford, Nugent, Wayne an... Read full article

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Quotes from

[after a double-take, Ethan and Martin recognize Debbie as the captive who shows them a lance of human scalps in Chief Scar's tent]
Ethan: We've seen scalps before.
Chief Scar: [shows them the gold locket that Ethan gave Debbie] This before?
Ethan: [to Figuroa] I came to trade, not to admire his collection. Tell him we'll pitch camp the other side of the creek. Talk tomorrow.

Ethan: A fella could mistake you for a half-breed.
Martin: Not quite, I'm eighth Cherokee, the rest is Welsh and English. Least that's what they tell me.

Ethan: Our turnin' back don't mean nothin', not in the long run. She's alive, she's safe... for a while. They'll keep her to raise her as one of their own till, until she's of an age to...
Martin: Don't you think there's a chance we still might find her?
Ethan: Injun will chase a thing till he thinks he's chased it enough. Then he quits. Same way when he runs. Seems like he never learns there's such a thing as a critter that'll just keep comin' on. So we'll find 'em in the end, I promise you. We'll find 'em. Just as sure as the turnin' of the earth.

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Facts about

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".
Hank Worden (Mose Harper) was tied up finishing shooting on The Indian Fighter 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.
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.
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National Film Registry

The Searchers

Released 1956
Inducted 1989

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Also directed by John Ford

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Also produced by Merian C. Cooper

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Also released in 1956

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