Click HERE to watch the Theatrical Trailer!
The Searchers is not just a tale of the Old West based on the 1954 novel by Alan Le May. It has been suggested by film critics that its basis comes from the true story of nine-year-old Cynthia Ann Parker who was kidnapped in 1836. The similarities between Debbie Edwards in the film and Cynthia Ann are undeniable and yet the real life incident and the movie are not carbon copies of each other.
The movie starts out with the peaceful return of Ethan Edwards to his brother Aaron’s home in Texas. Homecomings aren’t always what you expect them to be and the next day Lars Jorgensen (a close neighbor) and the Texas Rangers arrive at the Edwards’ homestead to get help in hunting down the Comanches who have rustled cattle from Jorgensen. It is decided that Jorgensen, the Rangers, Ethan and the Edwards’ adoptive son Martin Pawley will leave to investigate and that Aaron Edwards will remain home with his family to protect them in case the need arises.
The hunting party doesn’t get far before they discover it was a ploy to pull the men away from their homes. While they aren’t far from either the Jorgensen or the Edwards homesteads, they are too far to simply turn around without killing their horses in the process of getting back. When they do return they find that the Edwards homestead was the target and they are too late. The buildings are in flames and the family is dead with the exception of the two daughters, Lucy and Debbie.
In anger Ethan, Martin and Lucy’s intended Brad Jorgensen set out on a search for the girls. It is a search that will never end until all answers are found. Lucy, is found dead in a canyon and in a rage Brad rushes to avenge her alone with disastrous results.
The search carries on. Ethan and Martin continue to look for Debbie. Here is where The Searchers and history depart ways to a fashion. While Debbie Edwards in our film was searched for by her adoptive brother Martin and her Uncle Ethan for five years, Cynthia Ann’s Uncle James W. Parker spent twenty-four years looking for her. Debbie had no children but was living as an Indian Chief’s wife. Cynthia Ann married a Comanche war chief and had several children. Debbie was torn between leaving the Comanches and staying with them. Cynthia Ann had no intentions of leaving. Both ladies were rescued, Debbie submitting to going home and Cynthia Ann against her will.
To read Cynthia Ann’s story and learn more about the making of the film pick up a copy of The Searchers by Glenn Frankel.
Shot in VistaVision The Searchers was released March 13, 1956. Instantly it was considered a commercial success. With a production budget of $3.75 million dollars and rental fees of $4.8 million in its first year of release here in the US and in Canada, The Searchers made both its production company (C.V. Whitney Pictures) and its distributor (Warner Brothers) happy.
To this day the film has continued to gain accolades from fans and film-goers alike. In 2007 The Searchers became #12 in the American Film Institute’s list of 100 Greatest American Movies of All Time and the following year the Institute named The Searchers the “Greatest American Western.” Different organizations in the film industry both here and abroad have placed The Searchers on their lists and always its at the top.
John Wayne was born Marion Robert Morrison on May 26, 1909 in Winterset Iowa. His heritage of English, Scotch and Irish blood could have made for a rough and tumble temperament. His upbringing in the Presbyterian church would make a hearty stand for the opposite. By 1916 the family had moved twice and had settled in Glendale California where his father became a pharmacist.
Eventually Hollywood would beckon but not in the usual way. As a student of the University of Southern California he played football. Then a surfing accident resulting in a broken collarbone ended his football career and his scholarship, without which he would be forced to leave college. Luck would be with him as coach Howard Jones liked Wayne and had given actor Tom Mix tickets to the games. Mix owed Jones and Wayne lucked out with a job. Through Mix and his close friend John Ford, Wayne was hired as a prop boy and a sometimes extra.
His big break came in 1930 when the unknown Wayne was cast as the lead in The Big Trail after being spotted by director Raoul Walsh when he was moving furniture. Despite the epic proportions of the film, shooting it in two formats (35mm & 70 mm Grandeur film) to the tune of over $2 million, the film was a flop. Wayne would be downsized to leads in A-films where he would stay until 1939 when John Ford cast him in Stagecoach. This time the film was a success. He would now get the roles his talent deserved.
The Searchers is regarded by many to be his best performance. Wayne even named his youngest son Ethan after the character he portrayed. Despite the many roles and instrumental films he made it wouldn’t be until 1969, almost the tail end of his acting career, that he would win an Oscar for his performance in True Grit. He granted many interviews including one with Playboy Magazine in May of 1971 in which he told the world what his friends already knew, exactly how he saw the world. He didn’t make everybody happy but he did remain true to himself.
Of the more than 170 films Wayne was in, he was the lead in 142 of his films, of which 83 were westerns. He worked until 1976 when working through stomach cancer became too difficult. He died on June 11, 1979.
Lana Wood was born Svetlana Gurdin on March 1, 1946 in sunny Santa Monica California to Russian parents. She became a child actress starring normally as small and bit-parts in her sister Natalie Wood’s pictures. Her film debut came in 1956 when she landed the role of the younger Debbie Edwards to her sister’s older Debbie Edwards in The Searchers. In the 1960’s Wood came into her own doing television appearances in many well known shows including, Bonanza, The Fugitive, Mission Impossible, Peyton Place and many others.
In April of 1971 she agreed to pose for Playboy and later that year she landed the role of Plenty O’Toole in the James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever. During her career she has done more than 20 films and appeared on over 300 television shows. She retired from acting in 1982 and concentrated on producing instead. Then she returned in front of the camera in 2008 and has stayed there in different rolls to the present day.
For more information please visit Park Ridge Classic Film.
The Searchers (1956)
With Special Guest:
Lana Wood seen in this film as the young Debbie Edwards and known to James Bond fans as Plenty O’ Tool in Diamonds Are Forever.
September 15, 2016
Live Organ music by Famed Organist Jay Warren at 6:30 PM
Feature Starts Approx. 7:30 PM (119 Minutes)
The Pickwick Theater
To Celebrate the Film’s 60th Anniversary
2 PM (Feature Only) All Seats $6
7 PM (Feature + Organist & Guest Appearance) – Day of Show $10 / Advanced $8