You are on page 1of 23

University of Texas Press

Society for Cinema & Media Studies

Darkening Ethan: John Ford's "The Searchers" (1956) from Novel to Screenplay to Screen
Author(s): Arthur M. Eckstein
Source: Cinema Journal, Vol. 38, No. 1 (Autumn, 1998), pp. 3-24
Published by: University of Texas Press on behalf of the Society for Cinema & Media Studies
Stable URL:
Accessed: 17/07/2009 22:06

Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless
you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you
may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.

Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at

Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed
page of such transmission.

JSTOR is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1995 to build trusted digital archives for scholarship. We work with the
scholarly community to preserve their work and the materials they rely upon, and to build a common research platform that
promotes the discovery and use of these resources. For more information about JSTOR, please contact

University of Texas Press and Society for Cinema & Media Studies are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize,
preserve and extend access to Cinema Journal.

DarkeningEthan:John Ford's The Searchers
(1956) from Novel to Screenplay to Screen
by Arthur M. Eckstein

Somefilm scholars charge that director John Ford was complicit in the savage
racism of The Searchers' central character, Ethan Edwards. This essay demon-
strates that Ford viewed Ethan as a negative, psychologically damaged, and tragic
figure. By comparingthe changes madefrom the source novel to the shooting script
to thefinalfilm, a constant darkeningof Ethan'spersonality is revealed-most of it
directly attributableto directorJohn Ford.

When The Searchers was first released in May 1956, some reviewers thought it
was just another John Ford western.1 That, of course, is not the dominant view
today:accordingto the Sight and Sound worldwide poll of film critics, The Search-
ers is rankedfifth among the all-time greatest films ever made.2Critics universally
acknowledge The Searchers to be visually magnificent. The movie also is often
viewed as socially profound: as an insightful, pioneering attack on racism.3More-
over, it is viewed as psychologicallyprofound. Commentators allege that it locates
the psychological roots of racism in the projection of one's own unacceptable im-
pulses and desires onto the Other, followed by the ferocious punishment of that
Other. Most specifically (to take a famous formulation), the Comanche war chief
named Scar (Henry Brandon) is seen as the dark alter ego of the central figure,
Ethan Edwards (John Wayne). Scar does what Ethan Edwards wants to do but
cannot do and cannot even admit to wanting:he annihilatesEthan'sbrother'sfam-
ily and seizes the women for himself (or else destroys them). Scar is thus Ethan's
scar. No wonder Ethan hates Indians:from the very first scenes of the movie, they
symbolize his own unacceptable and barely controlled emotions.4
Is this readingtoo much into the film? Despite earlydismissalby some review-
ers and John Ford'stendency to downplaythose who took his films seriously,5new
evidence urges us to do just that:to take The Searchersseriously.This article exam-
ines Frank S. Nugent's revised final screenplay (manuscriptsof which exist both at
the University of Southern California and at Indiana University) and compares
Nugent's screenplayboth to Alan LeMay'soriginalnovel The Searchersand to the
finished film. Although Nugent's script has never before been used to analyze The
Searchers,it is clear it should be: there are surprisinglysharp differences between
what is in the screenplayand what we now see on the screen.6Every production of
a film is, of course, by necessity a collaborativeact, and I am not denying that.7
Nevertheless, John Ford'sinvolvement in The Searchersproject was very intense
ArthurM. Ecksteinis professorof historyat the Universityof Maryland,
has authoredtwo booksandthirtyarticles,includingseveralon the cinema.He is the co-
editorof "TheSearchers":
? 1998by the Universityof TexasPress,P.O.Box7819,Austin,TX78713-7819

CinemaJournal 38, No. 1, Fall 1998 3

and finally in the editing room.'0 The fact that all-Americanicon John Wayne plays Ethan Edwards also needs to be emphasized. and the screenplay'sending (whichFord originallyapproved) was totally reversed.LaurieJorgensen (VeraMiles). After all. crucial scenes that were in the script were deleted by Ford. just before their final violent assault on 4 CinemaJournal 38. combined with his enduring stature as the hero of innumerable westerns. No. There are many moments in the film when the image of Ethan/Wayne riding his great horse across the vast desert landscape evokes an almost instinctively positive cultural response-and there is no doubt that John Ford filmed Wayne that way. There is as great a difference in this direction between Nugent's screenplay and John Ford's fin- ished film as there is between LeMay'snovel and Nugent's screenplay. in the end the white female captive Debbie (Natalie Wood) is finallyfound among the Indians. makes it extremely diffi- cult for audiences even today to disengage totally from Ethan. there are certain brutal facts about the film that need to be faced. the Indian who dared to violate her sexual and ra- cial purity-Scar-is killed. is rescued from the traditional "fate worse than death. and the sharp differences between the script and the finished release print revealjust how much of the film was the result of Ford'spersonal vision and artistry.8And admit- tedly. the Ethan character and his actions became progressivelydarkerand more disturbed. Fall 1998 . Martin is now free to marryhis 100 percent white girlfriend. all go in a single direction-to create the dark and truly disturbed Ethan Edwards of The Search- ers. too. a low-angle "heroic" shot of them mounting their horses. In other words.again back on the soundstage in Hollywood. Wayne'ssheer forcefulness on the screen. What this study demonstrates is that as the process of transferalof plot and character from novel to script and then to screen occurred." and returns voluntarilyto white civilization. filmed against the night sky. They just do not expect John Wayne to be evil. Ford can now be shown to have imposed his will on all this material-as he made last-minute changes and transformationswhile on location in Monument Valley. one of the men searching for Debbie. who attempts to marryMartin Pauley (JeffreyHunter)."lThe same is true of certain images of the Texas Rangers. So. Westerns have often been described as a "whitetriumphalistgenre. who is herself a virulent racist. not only is the film we are familiarwith not LeMay'snovel but it is not even Nugent's final shooting script. These findings are all the more important because John Ford has recently been repeatedly charged with complicity in Ethan Edwards'sracism. Look ends up dead for her pains.right from the beginning (including oversight of Frank Nugent's script). thus realizing the traditionalfate of the nonwhite partner in interracial relationships in films of the 1950s. is the Comanche girl Look (BeulahArchuletta). notably. Crucial scenes not in Nugent's script were added on the spot. the Ethan Edwardswho has become one of the most famous charactersin all of American motion picture history. very late in the productionprocess. 1.the fun- damental changes Ford made."9and there is a sense in which The Searchers seems to fit this traditionalistbill. This is a "happyending" fully in compliance with the overt antimiscegenation stance of the Motion Picture Production Code as it stood in the summer of 1955. Moreover. when The Searcherswas filmed. In addition.

15 Very little of this antisocial behavior was in Alan LeMay'snovel."'3That is not the statement of a Hollywood hack. for he is secretly in love with Martha (Dorothy Jor- dan). The director of almost 140 films. which Ford supervised. It is implied that before the film begins he was a successful outlaw. vicious. So. toward whites outside his immediate family he is cold. found it hard to resist the call of traditionally heroic visual images. it should be obvious to anyone who has seen the finished movie that Ethan Edwards is not a traditionalwestern hero. What needs to be emphasized is that with Nugent's screenplayin hand we can now actuallysee Ford continually darkeningthe Ethan characterfrom the begin- ning of the production process right through to its end. which of course Ford was not-though it sometimes pleased him to pose as one. Here we may begin with Ford'sown statement that The Searcherswas intended to be "apsychological epic. TowardIndians he is mo- tivated only by brutal racism.Jr. does the film's melancholy theme song. What makes a man ride away from home?") and whose lyrics Ford personally supervised.. In short. solitary. one of the most visually oriented and least verbal of directors. These scenes show that Ford. Ethan is a grim. his brother'swife (and she with him). Much more was in screenwriter Frank Nugent's final shooting script. and views all religion with bitter cynicism. he spends the movie searching for his young niece Debbie (Martha'sdaughter)not to rescue her from the Comanches but to kill her.. CinemaJournal 38.. His words about The Searchers as a "psychologicalepic" point us directly to the personality of Ethan Edwards. disruptsfunerals (and weddings). which fore- grounds Ethan as a problem from the movie's first moments ("Whatmakes a man to wander? . "When I looked up at him in rehearsal it was into the meanest. that we should view Ford or the movie he made as fundamentallycomplicit with Ethan and his racist attitudes. too. and he is far more powerful than his brother. and often gratuitouslyinsulting. the winner of six Academy Awards(more than any other director in history) in a film career that stretched back to 1914...Scar'scamp.'2 None of this means. says of the first scene he played with John Wayne in the film.who had known Wayne for many years. driven Ethan Edwardsof The Search- ers was created only duringthe filming of the movie itself as the result of crucial ad hoc decisions made by Ford.'4 Indeed.And within his immediate family he constitutes an especially terrible danger."Carey. however. Eyes like an angrysnake. coldest eyes I had ever seen. The issue of authorialintent can thus be laid to rest: commentators on The Searchers have not been reading any- thing dark into Ethan and the film that John Ford did not wish them to see. Furthermore. Fall 1998 5 . As HarryCarey. was shocked. No.he desecrates the bodies of the dead (gleefully shoot- ing out the eyes of dead Comanches or scalping them).and forbidding figure for whom social constraints mean nothing. But the full version of the fearsome. At first Ford worked on this with Nugent. but then later (and here our information is new) he worked on changing Ethan in a very majorway by himself. He shoots people in the back (and then robs them).. Above all. 1. Ford was also the key figure (with Stagecoach in 1939) in the creation of the "serious"western genre. suspicious.

Jorgensen ("Sheused to be a schoolteacher. Ethan does not myste- riouslydisappearfor three years from the familyranch after the CivilWar.but the simpler and nobler man of the novel has never let slip any sign of this. and the simpler Martha of the novel neither knows nor reciprocates. Ford and Frank Nugent carefullyread LeMay'sThe Searcherstogether. The problem is that the sight of Comanches drives Amos so wild with hatred that he is likely to attack them (as Brad Jorgensen does in the film).17Some of the dialogue in the revised final screenplay comes-perhaps not surprisingly-right out of the pages of LeMay.23This speech. 1.The frontier.18 But there are also strikingdifferences.How differentFord'sThe Searcherswould be. in which 6 CinemaJournal 38. suppressed love affairbetween him and Martha.16 In the winter of 1954-55. unlike the movie.because there is no dangerous. This is a fundamental misreading of the situation.the script and then the film suggest that during this time Ethan was first a merce- naryfor Emperor Maximilianin Mexico and then an outlaw.and thatwas the case he does in the script Nugent and Ford wrote and as he does in the final film.22Thus. But the cynical.embittered. ")that the motherlyMrs. * Unlike the movie.True. this is because in the novel. with its violence and revenge and wandering. the Ethan figure returns to the family ranch in Texas immediately after the South'ssurrender.and displacedEthan of Ford'sThe Search- ers is not in the least concerned with the advance of civilization. No.'9In what follows. the novel does not suggest even slightly that Ethan was a law-breakerand an outlaw. in the novel Amos is in love with Martha. especially because his only home. A detailed discussion is necessary here. not only is Amos an idealist and an optimist. there is no need for the Ethan characterto stay far know"). This was obviously the result of conscious artistic decisions on Ford and Nugent's part.. * In LeMay'snovel. is in fact so opti- mistic and idealistic that Ford felt compelled to gently satirizeit even when it was left to Mrs. but he never has any conscious desire or intent to kill Debbie: he just wants to rescue her. has asserted that Ford labored to create in Ethan a character more sympathetic than Amos.Jorgensen(Olive Carey)gives in the film. Concentratingjust on those areas in which Ford's finished film completely follows Nugent's script. in his important new book on John Wayne.21 * In the novel.20 * In part. how differentour impressionof Ethan would be. and out of this reading they produced a script. Amos gives the optimistic and idealistic speech about the eventual coming of civilizationto the frontier ("Some day this land will be a good place to live. Fall 1998 . if-as in the novel-he gave that speech! It would completely change the film. it immediately becomes clear that the Ethan of the film is already a much more disturbed and sinister figure than the novel's Amos Edwards. I will proceed in rough chronological order through the plot. The first phase in the process of converting Ethan into a near-villaininvolved the constructionof a screenplayout of Alan LeMay'snovel. taken almostverbatimfrom the novel. Ethan does not constitute a se- rious threat to the family.But in the novel.. Ford normallyworked closely with his screenwriter. * In LeMay'snovel.

then it becomes particularlysignificant that Debbie is-in contrast to the novel-mar- ried to Scar. "I hope you die!" One could hardly have a better example of how Ford and Nugent took an element in LeMay'snovel and modified it until it became an outright attack on a more hostile Ethan. of course.then.and at Scar'scamp in the desert we even see him try to do it. If Scar is Ethan'sevil twin. in- vented for the film.Ford and Nugent have greatlyexpanded Amos'sracismuntil it assumes overpoweringdimensions in Ethan'scharacter. she has begun sleeping with the Indiansand has there- fore destroyed her sexual and racial purity. Ethan's conduct thus constitutes a terrible act against Debbie-and Marty responds with horror. Clearly. In the novel (as in the film). and luminouslybeautiful NatalieWood. and Martyaccepts the gift.31The sexual relationship between Debbie and Scar.27 * It is easy to link the above two changes to another major (indeed central) change: in the novel. Some commenta- tors explain it as simply the most vicious expression of Ethan's racism:as Debbie has growninto adolescence. This raises the question of why Ethan wants to kill Debbie. Amos in LeMay'snovel certainly has a strong component of racial animus in his character. They never have sexual rela- tions.25 * A similar change has been made concerning Ethan's last will and testament.29This latter fact would suggest that The Searchers represents not John Ford's complicity in white racism but rather the opposite: his first thoroughgoing attack on it. and ex- claiming. Fall 1998 7 . a theme to which he would return-more and more explicitly-dur- ing his last decade of that Debbie turns into the intelligent. sensitive. by con- trast. Ethan's desire to kill her is bound to strike viewers as not just horrifying but downright insane. only later do the searchersenter Scar's camp and find out that the white girl there is Debbie. But this is all the invention of Ford and Nugent. so she must be that CinemaJournal 38. is that Ethan intends to kill Debbie. No. case the Comancheswill kill Debbie. rejecting the will. throwing it in Ethan's face.28The sexual relationship between Debbie and Scar.She is merely his adopted daughter. Furthermore.30 Some critics argue that (in tandem with the race issue) Debbie stands for Ethan's own polluted wishes toward his family and so must be destroyed for that reason. Amos/Ethan gives MartinPauley his will. and she truly views him as her father.Moreover.26In the film. leaving him all his property "because I have no known blood kin. Debbie is not marriedto Scar. Ethan gives his last will and testament to Marty "because I have no blood kin"after he has seen that the captive Debbie is alive but Scar'swife." But in the novel this happens because Amos sincerely believes Debbie has been killed by the Comanches. in the screenplay Nugent and Ford originallywrote. the symbol of his unacceptable desires.and there seem to be all sorts of psychologi- cal implications in that. she is said to look exactlylike Martha. But Amos also sincerely loves Debbie and wishes to rescue her. was another powerful motif Ford and Nugent invented for the movie. The audience is told this shocking fact repeatedly. 1. his tendency to go crazywhenever he sees Comanches is a crucial antecedent for Ethan's racism in the film.24One of the most famous and most dis- turbing aspects of the film. thus has a profound impact on the nature of the story.

and he dies a martyrto the traditionalheroic code. No doubt Wayne meant this innocently. But this does not mean that there is no incestuous element in LeMay's book. Wayne declared: "He did what he had to do. Amos never gives young Debbie a gold medal. when its target had been his own brother Aaron. But this very process made the Ethan of John Ford'sThe Searchersa far more complex and disturbingpersonalitythan the Amos of Alan LeMay'sbook. Amos refuses to shoot a Comanche woman in the backwho might or might not be Debbie- and she then turns and shoots him. He is one eighth Cherokee. * In terms of the race issue. in LeMay'snovel. the Ethan figure dies. and perhaps more. who 8 Cinema Journal 38. During the final attack on Scar'scamp. John Wayne unintentionally revealed this fundamental aspect of the film in a classic Freudian slip during an interview in 1974. his mission (and his desires) finally accomplished. No. In discussing Ethan. but her stepbrother Martin).33 This entire sexual subtext involving Debbie/Martha.38 * Finally.35In fact. the novel. rather.Debbie openly declares her love for her rescuer (not her uncle. and in the end he is far more attractiveand dependable (although the product of miscegenation) than Ethan can ever be. Ethan rejects Martinthroughout the first part of the movie. The sinister. symbolizinghis love for Martha(as Ethan does in the film). But the idea of a highly sympathetic "half-breed"Marty(who in the end. intended to contrast sharplywith Ethan' is not Ethan'sstory. who is marriedto Martha).36 What Ford and Nugent obviously did was to transferthese psychosexualtensions from Debbie and Martin to Debbie/Martha and Ethan (as one can see in John Wayne'slater statements). the central problem within the family is-precisely-that Martha is not Ethan's wife. Martin gives Debbie a gold locket. for just this racial reason. But the Martin of Nugent's script and Ford's finished film-who sincerely loves Debbie in a brotherly way and is not devastatinglyconcerned about her miscegenation with Scar-is himself part Indian. even so.34Similarly.Debbie's ongoing sexual relationshipwith Scar not only foregrounds Ethan's ob- session with miscegenation but also keeps before the audience the entire issue of his sexualjealousy (a sexualjealousythat has been present from the very firstscenes. Indeed there is: at the end of LeMay'sThe Searchers. one should also note that in LeMay'snovel. The Indians fucked his wife. Martin Pauley is 100 percent white.and they immediately go to bed together. 1. who looks exactly like Martha?In another interview."32What could Wayne have been thinking? In the film. bitter racism and hatred. with the film'sapproval. Wayne actually presented a fantasy of Ethan and Debbie living together on the Edwards ranch in a loving relationship after the end of the film. semipsychotic Ethan. and visuallyhe is quite dark. Fall 1998 . what he was fantasizing was Ethan living in satisfaction for the rest of his life with Martha-like Debbie.will marry100 percent white Laurie) is an element in the story consciously added by Ford and Nugent. Or was Wayne thinking perhaps of Debbie. Scar.37Yet Martin grows morally ever stronger as the film progresses. LeMay's novel tells Martin'sstoryfrom his point of view.and Ethan is miss- ing from the novel. who then became the central figure.

What follows is the famous scene between a very grim Ethan and the pitiful white female captiveswho have somehow survivedthe attack.S." the famous song of Custer's Seventh CavalryRegiment. but in the novel the com- mander is explicitly not Custer. and apparentlyeven in the filmed rough cut. in which Peter Ortiz looks exactly like Custer and wears Custer's famous fancy uniform. in which there is a discussion of Custer'spersonality as it connects to this scene. of course.We startwith a majorsequence that once existed in the script: what no commentary on The Searchers has previously noted is that in Frank Nugent's screenplay for the movie. Ethan goes on to sug- gest that if any female white captives have been killed during the fighting (which turns out to be the case). not by the Indians.39 But was the Ethan of the movie originallyso unlikely to display such signs of chivalry?It is time now to begin focusing discussion directly on the new evidence provided by Nugent's revised final screenplay. women. does not hesitate to shoot either Indians or whites in the back. No. The sequence appears on pages 90-92 of Nugent's revised final screenplay. as well as from the John Ford papers relating to The Searchers at Indiana University.4l The confrontation between Ethan and Custer was placed after the scene in which Ethan and Marty find a Comanche winter encampment where everyone-men. furiousat being humiliatedbefore the eastern correspondents. of course ex- hibits no such signs of chivalry. 1. as in the film. and Ford probably filmed it. the white captives are killed by the Comanches (not. there are no Indian prisoners being herded along with whips. The General. by CinemaJournal 38. there was a sequence in which Ethan does speak out on behalf of defenseless women-indeed. remarkingthat the next time he might try attackingwhere the men were.Ethan enters and sourly interrupts him. on behalf of defenseless Comanchewomen. they were probablykilled by the panickysoldiers. The reason previous commentaries on The Searchers say nothing about this se- quence is that Ford cut it from the finished film. in which his men were outnumbered four to one and the Indians had all the advantages.because the soldiershave been shootingtotallyindiscriminatelyinto the camp. This is obvious from the publicity photograph. Cavalrycommanderwhom the script calls simply "TheGeneral"but who is clearlysupposed to be General George ArmstrongCuster. Fall 1998 9 . since a publicity photograph (with John Wayne) still exists depicting the central scene involved. The origin of the scene between Ethan and Custer lies in a short sequence in LeMay'snovel in which the searchers discover the massacred Comanche village. orders Ethan from the room. LeMay underlined the cavalry'sindiscriminate killing. The sequence that was cut takes place inside the fort in an office. instead of the women and children-the headlines look better that way. and chil- dren-has been slaughtered by the army and immediately following a scene in which the miserable survivors are shown being herded along with whips by the cavalry into a fort to the strains of "GarryOwen. The General holds forth pompouslyto newspapercorrespondentsfrom the East about the great braverydisplayedby his regiment-with himself naturallyin the lead-during the "battle"that has just taken place.40The sequence centered on a confron- tation between Ethan and a U. remain in the release print-and they are still shocking today.42These latter two scenes did.

of course. This could not have been a decision WarnerBros.who eliminated the Custer sequence from the movie. savage racist-right at the height of McCarthyism. because the whole reason Ford formed Argosy Pictures with Merian C. Ford's film Fort Apache (1948). The Ethan of 10 CinemaJournal 38. with the pompous.Ford and Nugent invented all this for the script. Fall 1998 . we would have had JohnWayne (now as Ethan) directlycriticizingand sourly lampooningthis sort of propaganda. a reference to the famous ending of Fort Apache (the kind of self-referentialmoment in which Ford delighted).the cavalry).and-above all-there is no direct. which was something Ford was interested in (cf. his own pro- duction company that made The Searchers. Indeed. 1. Ford'sproduction notes for The Searchersnot only contain a discussion of Custer but this discussion is a total attack on his personality. it was inherentlydramaticand. SittingBull (1954). the "Custer Cut" is not in The Searchers.We know that Ford would return againto this issue of the makingof "history"six years after The Searchersin the cynical scenes with the press in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance(1962).First. treacherous. was the first Hollywood motion picture ever to attack Custer'spublic image.48 Why.then. especially. made. The answer should be quite obvious by now. the movie is longer than most 1950s westerns. but the Custer sequence would have added only two minutes or so to the finished film. that in 1956 it was still politicallyimpossibleto depict Custerdirectlyin a negativelight. the commander of a cavalryregiment (JohnWayne) misleads eastern press corre- spondents about a previous battle and turns a sordid reality into a glorious myth. the scene between Ethan and Custer was. In the earlier film. the opening of The Searchers. BarbaraFord.44Second.the sequence was eliminated. says that her father was one of the two best film editors she ever saw at work. did the directorcut out the confrontationbetween Ethan and Custer from The Searchers?The answer cannot be.45Similarly. the sequence would have been a sharp slap at Custer.was to ensure that he alwayshad com- plete artisticcontrol over his films (WarnerBros. in return for a large share of the profits). who became a professional film editor. during the process of post- production.47Thus it was Ford himself. Ethan would have suddenly appeared to be an adherent of the traditionalheroic code. a man Ford despised. dramaticconfrontation between Amos and the cavalrycommander.46Third. Cooper. now we can add that Ford seriously thought about inserting a similar consideration of "history"(with General Custer himself as the propagandist)into The Searchers. and this was especially true of Ford. a procedure in which every director is intimately involved. merely provided postproduction facilities and acted as the distributor of Ford's finished product. But. in itself. This would have occurred during the editing of the rough cut into the release print.visuallydramatic:Ethan Edwardsmeets Custer!Such a confrontationwould have enrichedthe film and historicallyanchored it. "Texas1868"). and self-indulgent General Owen Thursday(Henry Fonda).43 Ford was clearlyattractedto a confrontationbetween Ethan and Custer. No. here. If the scene with Ethan lecturing Custer on proper manly conduct had remained in the movie. for instance.49Nor can the answerlie in the sheer length of The Searchers:at 119 minutes. a large-scale production directed by Sidney Salkow.had alreadypresented Custer as a repulsive.

Ethan specifically expresses the traditionalideology that it is the proper role of a man to attackarmed men. as MartinWinklerhas pointed out. He was. and with his contempt for those men who do not follow that code (such as Custer) elimi- nated. This extraordinaryimage of Ethan is thus John Ford'salone.51 In fact. the whole sequence at the fort ended quite differentlyin Nugent'sshoot- ing script. obsessed with murdering a young girl who is a member of his own family and who has done nothing to him. by accident. because that would be a terrible violation of his heroic code.50A close perusal of the screenplaystrength- ens this point: in Frank Nugent's final script. The result was that Ethan was a significantly darker character in the finished film than he was in the final shooting script. "They ain't white-not anymore"(which is not in the novel).was wrong for The Searchers.53It was all cut from the finished film. what- ever its attractions. unshaven. a characterperfectly capable of killing his niece. The adjutantthen gives Ethanwhat turnsout to be a crucialclue: trinketsfound amongthe dead Comanches that point to tradersin New Mexico. a conversationfollows with the General'sadjutantin which Ethan seems to express sincere concern about Debbie: the destructionof the Comanche camp has left the searcherswith no idea where to look. despite the resulting narrativeinco- herence: Ethan and Martynow appear to wander into New Mexico for no reason. Yet. and however much he had en- joyed filming the scene.the "CusterCut"is still a sour and embittered person. After Ethan'sracist declarationabout the rescued captives. did Ford cut this scene-and why did he instead add the close-up of Ethan's angry face? For one thing. Fall 1998 11 . Why. As it stands. is based on elements in LeMay's novel. and they are desperate to find her. in which the armyofficer gives the searchers crucial information about where to find Debbie.that the Custer scene. in the scene with Custer. and embittered face as he stares with open hatred at the pitiful white women who have been "rescued"from the Comanches. in fact.Ethan sincerely thanksthe armyofficer. time is runningout. This is why the Ethan of the finished film. and Ethan and Martyimmediately set off in pursuit. then. No. and thus find Debbie by sheer luck. 1. Ford knew. never women. The iconographyhere. the sequence within the fort ends with the famous dolly-in to a close-up of Ethan'sdeeply shadowed. The Ethan of the finished version of The Searchers does not ever assert or follow the heroic code. the audience would have had a strongclue that Ethan-whatever his internaldemons- could never kill Debbie. the Comancheros. If this scene had been left in the film. the meanness in Ethan'sheart remains at the center of the film. either intellectually or instinctively. is that of a traditionalwestern villain-not a hero.52 This materialin Nugent's script. there is not the slightest suggestion of such a camerashot. he decided very late in the productionprocess to eliminate it. he hated expository dialogue such as the conversation between Ethan and CinemaJournal 38. And Ethan'sinternal demons would in turn look much less importantto the film as a whole. But with Ethan'sassertion of the traditionalheroic code eliminated. is such a disturbing and subversive an- tithesis to the code of heroic ethics and behavior. but one of the most funda- mental conventions in westerns is that the hero should attempt (in the traditionof chivalry)to protect and defend women and children.

But it is dramawith a specific point. who is desperate to stop him. Modern Art. A second later we see Ethan. villainous face-as Ford decided to do-implies the opposite to the audience: that when Ethan finds Debbie he is going to kill her. the Texas Rangers (including Ethan and Martin) make the final assault on Scar'scamp. Nugent's screenplayimplies that Ethan some- how still cares about Debbie. Figure 1." but it also is a powerful stroke of visual drama. his eyes glazed. Ethan emerging from the tent holding Scar'sscalp. filled with terror. hate-filled face not only reinforces "They ain't white . the adjutant: movies were images and action. in the course of this effort. remounted on his great black horse. . Ending the sequence with the dolly-in to Ethan's terrifying. not words. and during the ensuing chaos Ethan charges his great black horse right into Scar'steepee (in itself a rather startling act!). ending the sequence with the close-up of Ethan'sdeeply shadowed.55 But the elimination of the confrontation between Ethan and Custer and the elimination of Ethan'sconversationwith the adjutantand the ending of that scene with the dolly-in to Ethan's hate-filled face are not the only major changes Ford made late in the production process to emphasize Ethan'sdarkside.. Debbie sees him too and. and begins to scalp him. Martysneaks down into the camp just before the attackin a last attempt to get Debbie (who is sleeping in Scar'steepee) out alive. ! Courtesy The Museum of !. Then the Rangers attack. he finds Scar dead. 12 CinemaJournal 38. Fall 1998 . 1. Near the end of The Searchers. runs away. holding the bloody scalp of Scar in one hand. pulls out a knife. New York.54Further. No.. Ethan charges after her. he manages to kill Scar in a gunfight. dismounting inside. his horse knocking down Martin. and-in a series of close-ups-Ethan lifts up Scar'shead. The camera cuts away only at the very last mo- ment.

and children) but is nevertheless sincerely insulted by the accusation that he engaged in their scalping. pushes away one of Scar'swives. and given Ford's own contemptuous depiction of whites who engage in it.57Some writers. Ethan becomes free to accept Debbie. to realize that in Frank Nugent's shooting script (i.once Ethan scalps Scar and shows exactlywhat he is capable of.60Given that it was a terrible violation of the code of the Western hero. while accepting this harsh assessment of Ethan. Telly Savalas and Shelley Winters in Sidney Pollack's The Scalphunters (1968). In Budd Boetticher's Comanche Station (1960). scalping in westerns is associated with the most primitive and brutal savagery-white or Indian. at the very last moment. Ethan's scalping of Scar is one of the most shocking scenes in The Searchers and has caused much comment.added the horrific scene of Ethan scalping Scar to the film while on location in Arizona. women. Cavalry sergeant is responsible for the massacre of an entire village of Comanches (men. It is all the more important.and spontaneously. with the scalping of Scar he clearly reaches the nadir of barbarism.58 Clearly. the script John Ford took with him to Monument Valley) Ethan does not scalp Scar.56 Ethan's scalping of Scar can therefore be seen as his final descent into mad- ness. for he does not have to kill her as a scapegoat for his own unacceptable feelings. Ford personally. Conversely.and the film condemns it. Rather. No. the director'sdecision to add this horrendous act shows that Ford intended to portrayEthan'smadness even more prominently. because mutilations like this completely con- tradict the heroic code of behavior. he looks inside.S. Ethan's scalping of Scar is integrally linked to the most climactic moment of the film- Ethan'sdecision.59 Thus. But although Ethan seems insane in the scene in which he condemns the female white captives at the fort. the only whites ever shown scalping Indians are repulsive "white trash":for instance. then.he comes up to Scar'steepee and swings off his horse. Instead. even Wyatt Earp-who is portrayed in this film as a total cynic-is so appalled that he orders the thugs thrown out of the saloon as men unfit for anyone's company.e. a movie whose themes are very close to those of The Searchers. Fall 1998 13 . a brutal U. The insanity the act implies is strengthened. Thus. the audience's suspense and anxiety over Debbie's fate are even more intensified. Cinema Journal 38. As MartinWinkler has pointed out. His fanatic racialhatred has been clear all along (combined with a repressed and jealous sexuality). and sees Scar'sdead body. to spare Debbie. go further. of course. As for John Ford.Ethan'shorrible act of mutilating a corpse has become a crucial ele- ment in the prevailing analyses of The Searchers. It is simply unheard of in westerns for a white heroic figure to engage in scalping. riding off after Debbie. he then frowns in frustrationand remounts.. 1. his own attitude toward whites who engaged in scalping is made plain in Cheyenne Autumn (1964): when two repulsive white thugs come into a Dodge City saloon carrying Cheyenne scalps they have taken. by the audience's "knowl- edge" that Ethan is determined to follow up this horrorwith an even greater one- the murder of Debbie. The idea never even occurs to him. suggesting that the very ex- tremity and insanity of the act bring him to a kind of catharsis:with his villainous alter ego finally punished.

The dark door closes on him. he briefly grips his right that Ford shot the film in a way that makes Ethan'sultimate act of mercy far more mysteri- ous than it was originally. still in her Comanche clothes. the only person Ethan has saved Debbie from is himself. Ford removed this crucial line of dialogue. then Laurie and Martyfollow.she rides huddled againsthis chest. the refrain of the theme song. and finally by spontaneously creating and including a new twist in the plot (the scalping) that shows Ethan in the worst possible light just before his act of mercy. instead of entering the house. The final scene of The Searchers. in which Ethan puts up his gun at the last mo- ment and says softly to Debbie."62But given Ford'scavalierattitude toward Nugent's script.and Mrs. But Ethan is left alone. and Ford wipes quickly to total black. and thus there remains much room for speculation. It is thus hardlysurpris- ing that when the silhouetted Ethan walks away at the end of The Searchers.63 What we can say with certainty.64But such an optimistic interpretationseems out of line with the deeply pes- simistic tone of The Searchers. no one tries to call him back. No. standing in the doorway. indicatesthat Ethan is 14 Cinema Journal 38. as if in pain.however.a darksilhouette now against the desert light behind him. Ethan can- not kill Debbie because she looks too much like Martha. however. we can no longer be sure that the scene reflects Nugent'sideas. made just three years before (1953.61In the finished film. since the background music chosen for the moment when Ethan spares Debbie is "Martha'sTheme. heard over the film'sstrikingfinal images. he turns around and walks out into the desert dust and wind.which has become one of the most famous in the history of Hollywood. poses yet another mystery. Much discussion has been generated over the question of why Ford does not have Ethan enter the house (i. In a sequence filmed from inside the darkhouse looking out through the doorwayinto the desert-a conscious echo of the film'sopening moment two hours (and seven years) earlier-Debbie is taken from Ethan by Mr. A well-known parallel would be the consciously mythic ending of Shane. Ethan'sdecision ultimatelyto spare Debbie is never explained in the movie. Fall 1998 . finally come home) with everyone else. Some scholars have argued that there is nothing sinister here: with his mission accom- plished and Debbie safely returned to white society. in which the godlike hero (Alan Ladd) rides off on his white horse into the mountains as a little boy calls out to him. Ethan-in the tradition of the western hero-is going on now to other adventures.Ethan returns Debbie to the Jorgensenhomestead. begging him to stay. Thus Ethan is excluded from communityand familyat both the beginning and the end of the finished film. their future together assured. 1.And while Shane has saved the settler community. He may still have been fol- lowing the script'sexplanation for Ethan's action even in the release print. It was explained in Nugent's script.Ford did this not only by cutting Nugent's explanatory line of dialogue but also by cutting those scenes in which Ethan appeared rela- tively mild and noble. "Yousure favoryour mother."That is.. George Stevens). by adding (at the fort) the chilling close-up of Ethan'shate- filled face when he sees the white captives.e. dir. Then.He turns to face the camera directly. Ford gives the last scene a melancholyedge. Jorgensen and enters the house with them as everyone walks past the camera.

and more specifically. cautioning Laurie againstwaking the girl (a very protective.66 Given that the ending of the final script had a now-protective Ethan leading everyone home. when the Supreme Court'sBrown v. The movie would end with Laurie climbing up onto Marty'shorse with Marty. and his finger is not on his lips). No. but where. for "searchingway out there" turns out to refer not to searchingthe vast desert of MonumentValleybut the vast desert of Ethan'ssoul. the man obsessed with racialpurity. In addition. Ethan was to smile down at Laurie and put a finger to his lips.5 The question then becomes not so much why Ethan fails to enter the house with everyone else but. / His peace of mind he knows he'll find. Ethan is no longer shown acting in any particularlymotherly way toward Debbie in the finished film (she is not sleeping. Ford excludes only Ethan. What the screenplay originally set forth as the film's last moment is that we would see Laurie running up to Ethan from the Jorgensens'porch (just as we still do in the release print). Lord. in the very last moment of the movie. we cannot know why Ford changed the original ending of The Searchers so radically. the ending in the shooting script Ford took with him to Monument Valley.why Ford intentionallykeeps him from community and family. where?" These words indicate that John Ford intends for us to understand that Ethan's "search"was at heart an interior one all along.still deeply disturbed:"A man may search his heart and soul. Ford did-with fully conscious in- tent-exclude Ethan from home. "Our"ending. just as important. indeed motherly. Fall 1998 1 5 . They see Ethan as pun- ished not merely for his obsessive racism but. and she is quickly taken from him. After all. And. for the terrifying CinemaJournal 38.And this question becomes all the more central to the film once we take into account the other ending of The Searchers. he has not completely crossed that desert yet. as does the part-IndianMarty(withhis white wife-to-be).But one obvious reason Ethan is still presented as dis- turbed at the end of the film and is forbidden to enter the house and be reunited with community and family is that Ford is punishing him for his savage racism.and the camera would swing around to view them following Ethan (with Debbie in his protecting arms) to the house. In Frank Nugent's revised final screenplay. in other words.gesture). Board of Education decision had just brought race relationsback to the forefrontof Americannationalconsciousness.His exclusionthus seems a strikingexampleof Ford'ssocialcriticism-an examplesharplyrelevantin 1955-56.67 Strictly speaking. 1. Then he was to ride on to the house. that is.6 Some commentators seek to shift the focus deeper. we can conclude that at some point during the location shooting in Monument ValleyFord made the majordecision to create the far more ambigu- ous and somber ending the film now has. comes from Ford'sconscious last-minute decision to separate Ethan sharplyfrom all the others. Ethan does join everyone else in enter- ing the house. the Comanche-raised Debbie does enter the house (still wearing her Comanche clothes). instead of remaining in his protective arms. all his other decisions that darkened Ethan's character and conduct. O Lord. the song says. he is holding a sleeping Debbie in his arms. Here. Ford's decision to change all this emphasizes. go searchin'way out there. and now brings to a culmina- tion point. rather.

And once again. As he said in an interview with Peter Bogdanovichin which he expressed satisfactionwith the scene.72For our purposes. and it bears all the hallmarks of Ford's personal style.Ethan leaves. Ethan runs through the ruins shouting. the script had Ethan calling out Lucy's and Debbie's names. for a similar purpose. then Ethan enters the scene. none of this was in Nugent's shooting script.and then through his threat to kill Debbie. It is another example of Ford's foregrounding of the incestuous relationship that lies at the heart of the film- emphasized as well by Ethan's terrible grief (transformed into violent anger) when he finds Martha'sblood-soaked. On the contrary. the head of the white community). It was all completely new. it retained a certain subtlety.and there was no scene in which Ethan finds Martha'sripped-openbloody clothes.threat he has been to his family (in one form or another) throughout the movie: firstthroughthe possibilitythat he would commit adulterousrelationswith Martha.but the indicationswere scattered haphazardlythrough- out the first few scenes. Ben. an authentic Civil War ballad whose subjectis adultery. the reverend who is also the captain of the local TexasRangers (i. his sister-in-law.e. Ford told Peter Bogdanovich the truth about his de- sire to make the highly problematic relationship between Ethan and Martha 16 Cinema Journal 38. Fall 1998 .70 Ford. never Martha's. stepping silently past Martha. as we can see because they take place outdoors.then he. "Martha! Martha!"That is. which was filmed on a soundstage a month later. leaves. Ford did this first by creatingwhat has become one of the most famous scenes in the film: the "good-bye"of Ethan and Martha. In the release print.But none of this famous scene was ever in Nugent's shooting script. or his nephew. In the backgroundwe hear the melan- choly song "Lorena"("Martha'sTheme"). or for Lucy and Debbie. though. Aaron. by contrast. only action underlined by music.yet made the existence of adulterous-incestuousfeelings clear in a way that only a fool could miss.Claytonlooks down into his coffee cup and disapprovinglyswirls the coffee around. too. Nugent's script indeed pointed to the existence of powerful incestuous-adulterous feelings be- tween Ethan and Martha.73Ethan'sshouting "Martha!Martha!"and the terrible scene that follows were thus additions shot by Ford on location in Monument Valley (in July 1955). In fact.69An examinationof Nugent's script provides one final revelation here. destroyed by Scar'sComanches. occurs in another crucial scene a little later. foregrounded this incestuous relationship far more forcefully in the finished print. Clayton-and the audience-sees Marthasecretly and lovingly caressing Ethan's Confederate cloak. for it is a scene with no dialogue. these shots prepared the way for the theme and tone of the famous good-bye of Ethan and Martha. 1. the point is that via this scene Ford made Ethan'sincestuous threat to Aaron'sfamily far more obvious to the audience than it ever was in Nugent's screenplay. witnessed disapprovinglyby Samuel Clayton (Ward Bond).. when Ethan discovers the burning Edwardscabin. ripped-open blue dress.71 Ford filmed the good-bye of Ethan and Martha once he was back on the soundstage from Monument Valley (August 1955). and he and Martha almost kiss and then helplessly pull away. No. his nieces). her daughter. Within the Edwardscabin. he is concerned for her alone (not for his brother. A similar process.

But John Ford turned out to be too sophisticated an artist.he is overruled. visual images in movies (and especially in complex movies such as The Searchers) are notoriously overde- termined. the exactcharacterof Ford's attitude toward Ethan.clear to all. the Martha-like Debbie. Two importantconclusions follow from the above discussion. Fall 1998 1 7 . It was negative: Ethan has great power and frontier exper- tise.74But of course it was John Ford who decided to keep the gesture in the film. who-as Mrs. And even though Ethan ultimately does not kill Debbie (an unspeakableact that would have plunged him completely into the abyss). his widow. and Ethan then attempts to veto Martin'sattempt to go into the camp in secret to get her out alive: "I say NO!" decrees Ethan. This gesture-Ethan's sudden gripping of his right arm as if in pain-has become a very famous image. HarryCarey had been one of Ford'sown chief mentors during the early part of the director'scareer. It occurs when he comments to Martin that he is hoping that Debbie will be killed by the Comancheswhen the Rangerslaunchtheir final raidinto Scar'scamp ("That's what I'm counting on. and acknowledged Olive Carey. Rather. and sense of loss at the end of The Searchersare dramatizedin the sad gesture he makes as he is left by himself at the open door of the Jorgensens'. exclusion. Luckily. Ethan Edwards-are fundamentally mis- guided. civilization still needs to shut Ethan out. Jorgensen-had just come through the doorway and past the camera. for the firsttime. That would be a happy ending indeed-and it was the original ending. or too pessimistic. Ford worked consistently-first with his screenwriter Frank Nugent but then. Ethan'sloneliness..this articlehas shown. though he wanted to do so subtly. No. And of course the threat of incestuous adultery on Ethan's part is soon re- placed in the film by the even more frightful threat of his murder of a child-his niece. tragic figure. for it would be too simple to believe that his last-minute decision to spare Debbie has suddenly "cleansed"him of all his previous sinister impulses. for that. one can therefore well understand why Ethan is excluded from community and family. holding his right arm as if in pain. By the end of The Searchers. "I know you are. in Nugent's screenplay. it was done to honor the actor Harry Carey.At a crucial moment earlier in the movie (although actually filmed after the final scene). the new infor- mationconcerningNugent'sfinalrevisedscreenplayfor The Searchersdemonstrates that the charges recently leveled against Ford-that in this film he is complicit in the attitudes of the central character. Sr. Of course. 1.who had often used the gesture in his silent films. later in the production process. It originated as a spontaneous physical act by John Wayne during the filming of the (revised) ending." he says grimly.75but more is involved here than mere sentimentality. He changed Nugent's script con- sistently-in one direction-to bring this about. by himself-to darken Ethan'spersonality.The Ethan of CinemaJournal 38." Martin answers with great bitterness). First. but Ford intended him to be a psychologicallydamaged. Ethan makes exactly the same gesture. But it should now be clear that whatever the origins of Ethan'sgesture in the last scene. Ford's decision to reuse that gesture at an earlier dramatic mo- ment has transformedit into a symbol of Ethan'sdesire to see Debbie destroyed.

I actuallyshot a few pages of it. the script Ford and Nugent wrote certainlyformed an outline for much of the film. in which the danger of incestuous adultery is made very clear.Ford cut out those scripted scenes at the fort in which Ethan appearsrelativelynoble compared to Custer and seems sincerely concerned about Debbie and added instead the famous dolly-into a close-up of Ethan'ssinisterface. Amos Edwards.He also reversed Nugent's originalend- ing. in 1914. is symbolicof the entire process involved-and is its culmination.Indeed. "Iliked your script.79FrankNugent himself was perfectlywell awareof how much Ford personallycontrolledthe artisticprocess. Further.the cast and crew. but the Ethan of John Ford'sfinal release print is darker still. and reversed the happy ending he had taken with him out on location.not for anyone else in the family. In Alan LeMay'snovel." Nugent added a general rule: the finished 18 Cinema Journal 38."76 The near-psychoticEthan we now see came about through a variety of deci- sions by the director. early on he may have helped point to the direction Ethan'sdepiction would take. the director'sson: as associateproducer he organizeda complex but highly efficient shooting schedule that made the main work in the summer of 1955 go extremely smoothly. John Ford started in Hollywood.this perhaps gives us a clearer idea of how the direc- tor reallyworked. The film was the prod- uct of many talents. As Ford told Peter Bogdanovich. so it is very unlikelythat Ford took any detailed artisticadvice from him once the film was being shot. for a memo from him (in early 1955) envisioningthe film'swhite protagonistsnotes that "they[Ethan and Marty]are only a shade less barbaricthan the savagesthey follow.Nugent'sscriptwas a farmore psychologicallydisturbedfigurethanhis model.Much of the transformationof Nugent's shooting script must actuallyhave occurred on location in Monument Valley."78 YetJohn Ford's relationship with his son was also beginning to deterioratebadlyrightat this time. and even the men who performed the dangerous riding stunts. includingnovelist Alan LeMay. The director also added the shocking scene in which Ethan scalps Scar (another scene filmed in close-up). Ford created the scene in the burning ranch house in which Ethan'sconcern is only for Martha. Clearly. No. our employment of Nugent's screenplay in analyzingThe Searchers reveals just how much the film we see on the screen is John Ford's own dark vi- sion. Fall 1998 . as well as the good-bye scene between Ethan and Martha. after all. is the definite trend in the depiction of Ethan as a person: the later we go in the production process of The Searchers. of a man who could never reallybe part of a family. which excluded the harsherfinal Ethan of the film.the more disturbed and disturbingEthan'spersonalitybecomes.77One might espe- ciallynote the contributionof PatrickFord.Ford'snew ending.Ford did not make The Searchersall by himself. 1.he liked to tell the storyof how Ford came back from locationworkon WagonMaster (1950) and told him. Moreover. He did major script cutting and rearranging. added crucial material and filmed it on the spot. But what needs emphasis here. The Searchers is "the tragedy of a loner. in fact. Second. in which Ethan (protectiveand even motherlytowardDebbie) is reunited with communityand family.was responsible for the final film is striking how many of those scenes are in fact "silent"cinema: images and action with only music to accompanythem. first. Most important.all the most famous and moving scenes in the film are not in the script.

See. University of Southern California. and Genera- tion in John Ford's The Searchers. "Double Vision: Miscegenation and Point of View in The Searchers. and talented screenwriters accepted his dominant presence.: "is alwaysFord's. 136-37.. "RacializedSpectacle. Notes 1.1979). or in Sight and Sound 26 (Autumn 1956):94-95 (by LindsayAnderson. 170. in his view of how a film had to unfold. 8. 164. See the review in Time. The Genius of the Sys- tem: Hollywood Filmmakingin the Studio Era (New York:Pantheon.My Darling Daughter': Gender.. 152. The Book of Westerns (New York:Continuum. cf. Archives. 1996). See Marty Roth. eds.John Ford: A Biography (New York:Lorrimer. The Western Films ofJohn Ford (Secaucus. Book of Westerns." Film Quar- terly 34.82Such stories must be given serious weight.never the writer's.whojudgesthe filmas hollowandmechanical)."in Cameron and Pye. Cinema Journal 38. "TheSearchers:An American Dilemma. which is why his actors knew that he viewed them as mere puppets. 927. 7. eds. No. 1986). 4. no. 1956. John Ford (Boston: Twayne. e. even as great a star as Henry Fonda found that out while attempting to talk to Ford about a role he had performed six hundred times on Broadway. 214-15. Douglas Pye. 1974)."in Ian Cameron and Douglas Pye. The manuscripts of Nugent's shooting script-entitled "'The Searchers. 42. 229. "'Yes. On filmmaking as inevitably involving the contributions of many talents and techni- cians. "A Better Sense of History: John Ford and the Indians.83The previously unknown alternativeversion of John Ford's currently most honored film-the version of The Searchers that is found in the final revised screenplay-decisively proves the director'sdominance in a new way."Screen 37 (1996): 53-58. 159. and Kristen Whissel. By 1956 that was backed by more than forty years of experience in the industry. 1988).81 There have alwaysbeen stories about how Ford savagely refused to take any advice while on the set.J. Peter Stowell. 173. cf.Ebert'sVideoCompanion(KansasCity:Andrews- McMeel. Bloomington."New Orleans Review 18 (1991): 67-68. Joseph McBride and Michael Wilmington. Miscegenation. 1. 44.' Revised Fi- nal Screenplay by Frank Nugent" (March 1956)-can be found in the Warner Bros. "JohnFord: A Reassessment. June 25. See also Michael Dempsey. We are not dealing here with mere eccentricity. mostly as a director. The list of the choicesof the Sightand Soundworldwidepoll of film criticsis most convenientlyfoundin RogerEbert. N. Richard Maltby. Ford thus sought total control of the product that went out under his name. 1996). 6. Brendan Nagle of the University of Southern Californiaand Jane Armstrong of Indiana University have been invaluable in helping me access the copies of the screenplay.. 2 (Winter 1980-81): 9-23. A."80 Nugent would not have been surprised at the way his shooting scriptfor The Searcherswas transformedby John Ford. 1975).we are dealing with Ford'sfierce confidence. see Thomas Schatz. even in the films of great directors. J. Ex- change Relations. 3. and the Western in Johanna d'Arc of Mongolia. John Ford (New York:Da Capo Press. Place. Fall 1998 19 . or obstinacy. and in the John Ford Archives. Indiana University. See Andrew Sinclair.g. See especially Brian Henderson. 5." Film Quarterly 38 (1975): 9-10. 58-59. The director described himself as the architect of all his films. 2.

see Michael Walker. Fall 1998 ."The Westerns of Delmer Daves. See Pye. 81-83."6. See Henderson."6." 22. Thus." Sight and Sound 74 (Spring 1972): 212. Wills'sconten- tion that Amos Edwards intends to kill Debbie (Wayne'sAmerica. 24. Cf. On Laurie Jorgensen's vicious racism.. "LeMayand Ford. Note also the quotes from Ford in Sinclair. 219. 18. ratherthan on Ethan's disturbed character. 14. See Alan LeMay. 13. John Ford: Hollywood's Old Master (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. see Walker. On John Wayne'splace in American culture. See LeMay. 33.John Wayne'sAmerica (New York:Simon & Schuster. The Searchers. 464-66. 20 Cinema Journal 38.John Ford: The Man and His Films (Berkeley: Universityof CaliforniaPress.. 127-28. on Wayne'srole in The Searchers. 17. For examples of Ford's direct intervention in the script. Book of Westerns. Hollywood'sOld Master. On Ford's characterizationof The Searchers.: Scarecrow. see Gallagher."Literature/FilmQuarterly 16 (1988): 7. see his letter to Michael Killanin in March 1955. 1997). 12. LeMay. "LeMayand Ford. The Searchers. 3-15. On this.Ford. 271. Ford. Debbie's conversation with Martywhen she is found in Scar'scamp or Laurie's later racist outburst against Debbie.J. Wayne'sAmerica.. 19. 32. see Peter Lehman. (Card is the only pre- vious commentator to offer a detailed and extensive comparisonof LeMay'snovel with Ford'sfilm. also see James Van Dyck Card." 127. Davis. 253. "The Searchers by Alan LeMay and John Ford. 331n."in William Luhr and Pe- ter Lehman. About Ford'senthusiasm and intensity for the project. See LeMay. The Searchers. For the close collaboration of Ford and Nugent on The Searchers script. "AmericanDilemma. noted in passing by Card. 1986). Company of Heroes: My Life as an Actor in the John Ford Stock Company (Metuchen."Better Sense of History. On Ford's usual close supervision of the screenwriting for his films. see Nugent. 253. quoted in Davis. 203. 27. 22. 1954). see especially Ronald L. On the usual fate of the nonwhite partner in miscegenetic romances in films of the 1950s. 21. For instance. On the strictures of the Motion Picture Production Code. 219-20. 1995)."'26. see Dan Ford. 15. The Searchers. 170-71. 20. 1979). The difference here between the film and the novel is rightly noted (if only in passing) by Card. in LeMay'sscene in Scar'scamp. "'The Searchers. 253) has no support in the text. 1977)." in Cameron and Pye. 16. who attempts to shoot her. see ibid. it goes unnoticed by Wills. 1994). "LeMayand Ford."36. See LeMay. Pappy: The Life ofJohn Ford (Englewood Cliffs. "LeMayand Ford. 17. but his main focus is on Ford'stheme of familyunity. "Double Vision. Card. On Ford's love of the visual and disdain for dialogue. 239) in contrast to Nugent's and Ford's Ethan. Jr.J. 52-53. cf. The Searchers (New York:Harper Bros. Harry Carey. see Garry Wills. Ibid. see Tag Gallagher. See Maltby. "The Searchers. Card."4. Amos Edwards attempts to rescue Debbie (The Searchers. Authorship and Narrative in the Cinema (New York: Putnam. 134. 234-35. "Westerns of Delmer Daves. Wills'sposition is found in his Wayne'sAmerica. 101. 1. No. revealed in her verbal attack on Debbie toward the end of The Searchers. N."229. N. "'There'sNo Way of Knowing':Analysis of The Searchers." 7..) 23. 271. 251-61. 251. 9. 25. 26. 11. see Joseph McBride. 10. eds.: Prentice-Hall. eds..

For Wayne's fantasy about Ethan and Debbie ("and that little girl would grow to love him").28. this whole sequence in The Searchers."'4-5. in the Ford Archives at Indiana University. Ibid. see F. For Scar as Ethan'sdouble. 44."'140. 558. About John Ford (New York:McGraw-Hill. Sergeant Rutledge (1960). Wills. LeMay.. "'The Searchers. Wayne'sAmerica. see Nugent. 271-72. and Cheyenne Autumn (1964). see Nugent's com- ments in Lindsay Anderson. 38. 41. "LeMay and Ford. ibid. See the February 15. 300. See LeMay. 134-41. Card. 36. This scene was not in the shooting script. and some of the dialogue from precisely these pages of the novel (234-35) appears practicallyunchanged in the film. "AmericanDilemma. In fact. The scene is slightly am- biguous: perhaps Amos only puts up his pistol at the last moment because he be- lieves the Comanche woman is Debbie. On Martybeing part Indian. Hutten. Cf. see Paul A. Cf. Wayne'sAmerica."Don't call me 'Uncle Ethan'! I ain'tyour uncle!" "Come on. 29. ed. 1981). Donovan's Reef (1963). 42. 242- 44. No. 1955. the substitution is noted by Card."'5. Wills ignores the fact that Wayne shoots Indians in the back in The Searchers (at the end of the attack by the river) and whites. 32. no need to make more of it". see also Wills. Olsen. 234-35. the number "7"is visible on the regimental flags. she conforms completely to the traditionalHollywood stereo- type of"the valuable woman":see Maltby. cf. The Searchers. 20. also see Card. Amos's death is described in LeMay. Ethan to Marty:"Fella could mistake you for a half-breed!"When reminded that he himself found Martywhen Marty'sfamily was massacred:"Itjust happened to be me. "'TheSearchers. 43. when seen on the wide screen (although not so clear on videotape). too (Jeremy Futterman and his men). Ford and Nugent knew this perfectly well..American (New York:Free Press. Ford was an expert on nineteenth-century Americanpopular music. blanket-head!" Ethan's hostility to Marty on racial grounds is emphasized in Henderson." 7..then sliding gracefullyoff the horse to come in to dinner. 1995). for comparison. 39. asserts that Wayne always refused to be shown shooting people in the back-and not even shooting from ambush until The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). 30. until Ethan sets him straight (see Cinema Journal 38. In addition. see Nugent. bears a very strong resemblance to Custer's actual massacre of Black Kettle's Cheyenne camp on the WashitaRiverin western Oklahomain November 1868-and "TheGeneral"even thinks he has attacked and destroyed a Cheyenne camp. 40. "LeMay and Ford. Anthony Macklin. see the references cited in note 4.John Wayne. story notes for The Searchers in box 6. "'The Searchers. folder 21. The Custer Reader (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. 33. See LeMay. 255. The Searchers. 264-65."Better Sense of History. 31. When Debbie is 140. Fall 1998 21 . 1. Two Rode Together(1961). The Searchers. "LeMayand Ford. since both had read the novel while working on the screenplay. 37. 35. 286."43 and 47. 1992). See RandyRoberts and James S." 15-16. Wayne'samazingremarkabout Ethan's"wife"receives no comment in ibid." 5."'I Come Ready':An Interview with John Wayne. The Searchers. For Debbie as Martha's double. 420. 34. Nugent. Ford under- lines Marty's"Indianness"when he makes his first appearance-wearing Indian-like clothes and riding a horse bareback." 4. For the publicity photograph. as originallyfilmed."Film Heritage 10 (1975): 30-31. The director obviously knew what he was doing here.

Ford. the head of Twentieth Century-Fox. see Winkler.The actualscalpingscene (an interior)was filmed later. 464. was actually shot at the end of principal photography-back on a Hollywood soundstage. 47. 63.."201. and Wills. The incident on the Washitawould later be filmed again in Arthur Penn's Little Big Man (1970)-but it is now clear that Ford got there first. 1992). 52. "RacializedSpectacle. see Gallagher. 277. 51. 30.g. Stowell seems unawareof Ethan'sstatement in Nugent's script. That is. see Davis. Pappy. Hollywood's Old Master. On Salkow'sfilm. "Inept . This is clear because the scene of Ethan riding out of Scar'steepee holding the bloody scalpwas filmed in Monument Valley. Ford. "TheSearchers":John Ford's Classic Western after Forty Years(forthcoming)."in Arthur M. it was filmed at a point when Ford's view of Ethan had become fully developed. The Custer Reader. On Ford'slove of the visual. 194-96. 242-44. About John Ford. See Whissel. 170. refers to Ethan'sstatement. 140. "'The Searchers. Winkler. See Martin M.see Stowell. 259. but not here. No. 504. 49. 61. eds.. 58. see Nugent in Anderson. 244.. Nugent. AboutJohn Ford. Cult Movies (New York."in Martin M. arrogant. and on Ford'sattitude toward it. see Davis. Compare the finished film with Nugent. on a Hollywood soundstage. 62. Pa. "'The Searchers. 173. Nugent.About John Ford. Zanuck. Instead of the line of dialogue."'139.. 32. "'The Searchers. Fall 1998 . Stowell.see box 6.. 1981). 136. 50. see Ford. 45. Winkler. 506. 1. 54. 48."'93-94. Custer Reader. 139-41). a glory-hunter". Ford."'90-91). and its chilling ending."' 140. Ford has Ethan lift Debbie up with both arms. Hollywood's Old Master. Winkler. In LeMay'sThe Searchers (167. an echo of his loving gesture toward Debbie as a child that occurred at the very beginning of the movie. Brooks.. 55. Classics and the Cinema (Lewisburg. Nugent."Endingof The Searchers. Danny Peary. Winkler has made a similarpoint in "TragicFeatures in John Ford's The Searchers. The other was Darryl F. There are many places in the scriptwhere Nugent suggests camerashots (e. see also Davis. WesternFilms of Ford. ed. See Place. He was extremely knowledgeable about the real history of the American West."TragicFea- tures. "'The Searchers. See Hutton. synopsis of the film. 60. 244. 195. 1. (It should be emphasized that neither of these scenes 22 Cinema Journal 38."'94. but only from a WarnerBros. Eckstein and James F. Hollywood's Old Master. see Hutton. For the suggestion that "Martha'sTheme" indicates that Ethan cannot kill Debbie because she is too much like Martha. 136. Nugent. 271-72. Wayne'sAmerica. in the Ford Archives at Indiana University. 56. On scalping in western films. Nugent describes Ford'stotal control over the rough cut in Anderson. The scene with the white captives.. folder 21. "'The Searchers." 56.. 59. On the founding of Argosy Pictures and its artistic purpose. 3-15..: Bucknell University Press. 142). On the chronology of the filming of The Searchers. Amos and Martyrealize that the trinkets found in the Comanche camp point to the Comancheros and New Mexico. cf."Homeric Epic and the Ending of The Searchers. a phony . 46." 57. 314. 53. Nugent discusses Ford's hatred of exposition (and especially expository dialogue) in Anderson. so perhaps Ethan's love of Marthais being combined with recognition of Debbie's fundamentalinnocence.

of course. note that at the end of the film. N.) 64. This actuallywould have paral- leled the point of view in the first scene of the film as Nugent originallywrote it. and he conceived it not only indepen- dently of the indications in Nugent's script but in direct violation of those indications. ruined by work. as an expert on nineteenth-century American popular music (see Nugent in Anderson. Later. One of the most famous aspects of Ford's finished version of The Searchers is. the script has Ethan tenderly examine Martha's hands. We can now say that John Ford conceived this very famous visual motif alone. Ford."in Peter Lehman.. once he was out in Monument Valley.Y.Ford. Nugent'sscripthas Marthaholding Ethan'sConfederatecloaktenderly as she steps aside in the first scene to allow Ethan to enter the Edwards'cabin upon his return ("'The Searchers. seen in part from a cave opening). but from the direction of a door opening (and then closing) looking outfrom the house into the desert (first from the Edwards'homestead." 201.) For those commentators who believe that Scar is Ethan'sdouble. Cinema Journal 38. 395. 1990). is in Nugent's shooting script. For Ford's emphasis on the visual and disdain for expository dialogue. See especially Henderson. Stowell. 67. 68. tied togetherwith "Lorena"(i. Clearlywhat Ford did was to gather up and then modify the scattered indications of Ethan and Martha'srelationship in the script and present them to the audience all at one time." 201. On the "search"in The Searchers really being an interior one. 313."' 1. Close Viewings:An Anthology of New Film Criticism (Tallahassee:Florida State Uni- versity Press. in great detail).. surely knew that the subject of "Lorena"was a true love that was impossible to consummate because it would be adultery: We loved each other then. 331.. Twas not thy woman'sheart that spoke."'142). About John Ford."'6). "'The Searchers.e. Ethan-amid general slaughter-spares Debbie." 22. ed. Note also Richard Corliss. looking toward the Jorgensens'house ("'The Searchers. they come right from Ford. and Winkler. Ford reversed the point of view from which the ending is seen. 173. 69. just as Scar-amid general slaughter-had spared Debbie at the film's beginning. Hollywood'sOld Master. Nugent. Once more. see Place. See Peter Lehman.. 70. More than we ever dared to tell . "TragicFeatures. "TragicFeatures. "Texas1868/America 1956: The Searchers. 1. 65. 71. the point of view is from Ethan's (and Marty'sand Laurie's) direction. (I owe this observation to Jeanne Rutenburg. andWinkler.:Overlook. 331-32. 136. 170. Fall 1998 23 . "Ifwe try. 136. WesternFilms of Ford.. Stowell. 1974). 170. Ford. attention paid to Nugent's script reveals the scope and power of Ford'spersonal artistry. "Martha'sTheme"). then at the end from the Jorgensens'). TalkingPictures: Screenwriters in the American Cinema (Woodstock. Cult Films. No. then."Youwere alwayshurtingyour hands"(10-11). "AmericanDilemma. see Davis."'142.. Gallagher. that the points of view of the opening and closing shots are indeed parallel. Ford. Lorena. 3-15. One may also note that in reversingthe ending of The Searchersas found in the screen- play. See especially Place. we may forget. see also Peary. In Nugent's end- ing." Were words of thine long years ago . 66. after dinner. 173. "doorway"shots that are repeated at crucial points throughout the film (including at the point when Ethan spares Debbie. 242-44). which was from Ethan's direction looking toward the Edwards' homestead ("'The Search- ers. The Western Films of John Ford. and he says softly.

L.(Ford'shabit of independence is nevertheless underlined by the fact that he consistently refused to use storyboards. No. 11)."'32-33.The memo was sent to Ford. See Gallagher.Ford. 173-74. 76. Quoted in Bogdanovich.. emphasizing his desire to impose his personal control and vision. Wayne. 74. 464-66. The self-description is found on 457. The Fall Guy (N. 1955) can be found in box 6. Fall 1998 . See Gallagher. 82. 91. Ford certainly did not take Patrick'sview of Martin Pauley (see above. D. broke The tie which linked my soul to thee. For a detailed discussion of Ford'sworking methods.Jr. and Nugent.Ford. 80. See Peter Bogdanovich.carryinghis entire movie instead in his head.B. 244.see Gallagher. Webster. H. Pappy. 72.C. 17-25. Ford. Patrick Ford's organizing of the complex shooting schedule is noted in Ford. stern and pressing. 81. 265-69. 465. For more on Ford's relationshipswith performers. in the Ford Archives at Indiana University. 1980). The song originated in a true-life unconsummated adulterous affairby its author. 156-72. A duty. Compare the finished film with Nugent. On the deteriorating relations between Ford and his son at this time. 73. 38-44. Hollywood's Old Master. 420-21. see Davis.Ford.John Ford (Berkeley:Universityof CaliforniaPress. 83. see his comments in Anderson. Hollywood's Old found in Ford. Regardingthe Wagon Master story. 271. and Carey. His memo on the charactersof Ethan and Marty(February 1. 91-92. 75. see the memoir of Chuck Roberson. 1978). 288-89. "'The Searchers. 24 Cinema Journal 38. Crystalbelieves that Ford would have greatly preferred to play every part himself (305).) On the dangerousridingstunts requiredin The Search- ers. which ended their long friendship. regarding Nugent's gen- eral rule. see the interviews with Shirley Jones and Linda Crystal in Davis. 1. About John Ford.Ford. Regarding screenwriters. Hollywood'sOld Master. Pappy.Ford. Rev. and Davis. 275. Merian Cooper. see Roberts and Olsen. A description of the disastrous interactions between Ford and Fonda on the set of MisterRoberts(summer and autumn 1954). The film in a general way clearly follows the narrativeoutline of the script. 79. Company of Heroes.: Hancock. see in general Gallagher. which is hardlysurprising. 464. Vancouver. 457-75. For a more detailed discussion. see Gallagher. 77. Thy heart was alwaystrue to me. 78.304-5. folder 21.