“The Searchers” to air on Turner Classic Movies

Movie poster for "The Searchers"The only thing more ridiculous than “The Searchers” not being nominated for  Best Picture at the 1956 Academy Awards is the fact that the John Ford directed  classic received no Oscar nominations at all. “The Searchers,” starring John  Wayne in one of his most memorable westerns, will air Tuesday night, May 4th, at  7 pm on Turner Classic Movies. Filmed in color using the VistaVision widescreen  process, “The Searchers” incorporates some spectacular location footage, most  notably Utah’s Monument Valley, an area Ford used in several of his westerns.  Appearing alongside Wayne are Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Miles, Ward Bond, Natalie  Wood and Harry Carey Jr.

“The Searchers” takes place in Texas in 1868, where Ethan Edwards (Wayne), a  hard bitten ex-Confederate soldier with a checkered reputation, is visiting the  ranch of his brother Aaron. Drawn away from the ranch to pursue Indian cattle  thieves, Ethan soon learns the livestock theft was only a ploy to draw most of  the men away from the Edwards ranch, and returns too late to save his brother,  sister-in-law and nephew from death, and both nieces from being kidnapped.  Eventually, Ethan is advised that the two girls, Lucy and Debbie, have been  abducted by a Comanche called Scar. With the help of Lucy’s fiancé Brad and  Debbie’s adopted brother Martin, Ethan begins on a long search to find both Scar  and his two nieces. The quest becomes very complicated when Martin comes to  realize that Ethan has some very harsh views concerning women who have lived  with Indians, and his agenda upon finding Debbie is even more disturbing.

Although “The Searchers” was completely snubbed at the 1956 Academy Awards,  it would, in time, receive the recognition it deserved. The American Film  Institute ranks “The Searchers” in 12th place in its 100 Years…100 Movies list,  and places it 1st in its Top Ten Westerns of all time. Still, the lack of a  single Oscar nomination remains a mystery, particularly in the categories of  Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Picture. If anyone knows anybody who thinks  the 1956 winner for Best Picture, “Around The World In 80 Days” is a better  motion picture than “The Searchers,” tell them I’m looking for them.

Notes: Natalie Wood played the role of Debbie as a grown girl, while  Natalie’s younger sister Lana appears as the young Debbie. Jeffrey Hunter’s part  of Martin was originally offered to Fess Parker, who was coming off his success  as Davy Crockett. Parker was under contract with the Disney studio at that time,  and, according to Fess, it was Walt Disney himself who prevented Parker from  playing the role. John Wayne’s oft repeated line, “that’ll be the day” inspired  the Buddy Holly song of the same name.