Movie House Memories

The Searchers (1956)

Episode #18

Warner Bros released The Searchers to theaters on May 26, 1956. John Ford directs the western which stars John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, and Vera Miles.

‘The Searchers’ Summary

In The Searchers, Ethan Edwards is an ex-Confederate soldier still fighting the Indian Wars. When he finds that Comanches massacred family and kidnapped his niece, he vows to bring her back. Along the way he kills everyone of the Indians he can find that’s responsible. In all, Ethan travels five years on his quest to find her. When he does track her down, he realizes even though she’s alive and safe, she’s now assimilated completely into the Comanches way of life.

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Warner Bros. released The Searchers on May 26, 1956. John Ford directed the film starring John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, and Vera Miles.

User Rating: 4.65 ( 1 votes)
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7 years ago

Hello MHM crew! I discovered this podcast when I was looking for James Bond reviews on youtube and came across “Male Bonding” there. I must say I’m pretty impressed with the work you all put into these podcasts and have been binge listening to many of the MHM episodes in the last week. This episode was great, I have seen The Searchers many times but you have brought up some interesting theories I hadn’t heard before that make me want to rewatch it. In regards to the legacy, you mentioned that you were shocked that it didn’t get any Oscar nominations. Back then, I gather that westerns weren’t considered prestige pictures for the most part and I don’t think this got particularly good reviews. In the 20 years before The Searchers, I only count four westerns getting nominated for Best Picture. And I think its rather telling that John Ford, the greatest western director of all, won 4 directing Oscars, but none were for a western. I was surprised that AFI didn’t nominate “that’ll be the day” as one of the greatest quotes, especially since it inspired Buddy Holly to use that line to create a hit song. Walter Hill also had Stallone say it a few times in the film “Bullet to the Head,” which I found amusing. BTW, you should take a look at the WGA’s 101 Greatest Screenplays List(came out in 2013), many of the titles you’ve been reviewing(including this film) made their list as well.

7 years ago
Reply to  Eddie

Thanks for finding us and listening in!

You have a good point about the Oscar nominations. I think because I consider it one of the best westerns ever made that it should have received more award nominations than it did.

Edward Dixon
5 years ago

So many random conclusions with so little evidence.

For one, that was NOT the grave of Ethan’s wife, but his mother. They tell the little girl to go hide by “Grandma.” Also, she would have been 57 if alive in 1868 and I don’t think they were giving a then 48-year-old Wayne a wife who’d been almost 10 years older, but rather had him playing a years younger with a mother who’d likely had him in her mid-teens.

For another, while I guess it’s possible that Ethan found Lucy alive and for some unknown reason abandoned by the Indians and that he then kills her, there’s really nothing – absolutely nothing – that points to that. He’s clearly shaken when he rides back, not angry, but traumatized. Traumatized, I’d say, by what he found, not what he did. He pulls out his knife and nervously flings dirt, as if he doesn’t know what else to do. He’s NOT cleaning a knife with dirt, whatever sense that would make. Why would he avoid a shot to not tip off the others that he had killed Lucy and then immediately pull out a (supposedly) bloody knife in front of them and “clean” it, when he could have just wiped it on his coat while burying Lucy? Why would the Indians leave a living sex slave to just sit there doing her nails till Ethan comes along and slaughters her? They wouldn’t have. They would kept her and kept using her. What’s implied is that she was basically raped to death in a frenzy, probably by several Indian men. Ethan finding a teenage girl, nude, with bleeding ravaged genitals, would certainly account for his shock and distractedness. Cleaning his knife? Hardly.

As to Debbie being his daughter, I guess it’s possible, but there’s nothing that points directly to that. Certainly, there was something between him and his brother’s wife, but that could have pre-dated the marriage and maybe never even been consummated. Maybe it was always an unspoken flirtation between them. To suggest that Debbie, the younger daughter, was his, would mean he’d slept with his brother’s wife AFTER she and the brother were married, since she has two older siblings. Again, it’s possible, but certainly not confirmed by anything. Just as easy to read that Ethan would have been Martha’s first choice, but he didn’t want to settle down to domestic life and so she settled for the brother who would.

Fourth, just because Ethan knew Martin’s mother does not mean he slept with her or that Martin was his son. He knew her because he lived in the same small community of people. They were neighbors at some point, for some time, and he was there when her family was slaughtered and his brother took Martin in. I mean, c’mon. “Ethan recognized the hair! Martin is his son!” Give me a break.

Those are the major issues I had. I still enjoyed the banter and the serious approach you took to a great, great film. I just find it a little silly to jump to all those conclusions as being likely just because because some of them are (remotely) possible.

Ed Dixon

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