The Searchers (1956)
A scorching traditional Western filled with powerfully drawn characters played by actors with great stage presence. The plot is of the highest quality given that both sides are carefully drawn and their motives fully fleshed out. Shot in Vistavision where the 35mm reel is fed through the gate sideways, rather than vertically, the shots of the giant vistas in Monument Valley are unequalled. If you watch this film digitally then you must find the Blue-Ray edition in order to appreciate the quality.
The Searchers opens with the scene of Ethan Edward's (John Wayne) post Civil War return to a small ranch somewhere in the South West. The Ranch house was built under Sentinel Mesa between there and Mitchell Mesa right in the center of Monument Valley.
Mitchell Mesa, with Grey Whiskers Butte right of frame.
Mitchell Mesa left of frame, Grey Whiskers Butte to the right, and Mitchell Butte to the left of frame.
Left of frame Grey Whiskers Butte, right of frame, Mitchell Butte. John Wayne is riding from the direction of Kayenta.
Left of frame Grey Whiskers Butte, right of frame, Mitchell Butte
Sentinel Mesa rises behind the house
The position of the homestead within Monument Valley, south of the West Mitten. The same position was used for the fort in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)
Monument Valley from the north east: The position of the homestead in The Searchers (1956) between the West Mitten and the Visitors Center
The position of the homestead in The Searchers (1956): South of the Sentinel on Sentinel Mesa and West of the West Mitten
Scene: The discovery of the dead herd bull
Location: The North Window, under Camel Butte, Elephant Butte and Cly Butte.
Left to right: Camel Butte, Elephant Butte, the North Window (through the window Stagecoach Butte Group, the East Mitten) then Cly Butte.
Map of the North Window, showing the location of the dead herd bull.
The Reverend and his men ride to the homestead from the direction of Monument Valley and Valley Road.
Grey Whiskers Butte rises behind the homestead.
Sentinel Mesa rises to the north.
You can see two gravestones in the graveyard on the little mound at the right of frame.
Sentinel Mesa lines the north west of the homestead.
West Mitten looking north toward Sentinel Mesa.
The Reverend leads the posse through the desert.
At the edge of Sentinel Mesa, looking north toward Big Indian, Saddleback Mesa, King on his Castle and the Stagecoach Butte group.
Sentinel Mesa from the south east.
Left to right, Sentinel Mesa, Big Indian, Saddleback Mesa.
Eastern end of Camel Butte.
Left to right, Elephant Butte, Cly Butte and foreground left, Camel Butte (west end). The aperture between Elephant Butte and Cly Butte is known as the North Window.
Camel Butte (east end). The towers visible above the horsemen are in the Totem Pole Basin.
Figures in a giant landscape: The horsemen ride between the Big Thumb and the eastern end of Camel Butte. Three Sisters rises behind the scene. Valley Road runs through the valley between Camel Butte and the Three Sisters.
Left to right, the East Mitten, Cly Butte.
The Searchers find the dead cattle under Camel Butte
The Searchers find the dead cattle under Camel Butte
The Searchers: John Ford directs John Wayne under the Three Sisters. Note the use of a the big Mole-Richardson light to reduce the strong shadow under the brim of the hats worn by the actors.
Scene: Night attack by Indians on the homestead
Location: Some studio shots
Right to left Mitchell Butte, Grey Whiskers Butte, Mitchell Mesa.
Sentinel Mesa from the South East.
Sentinel Mesa, Big Indian and the Stagecoach constellation from the east
Saddleback Mesa, Big Indian, Stagecoach, Sentinel Mesa from the north west.
Monument Valley from the air from the north east over AZ Minerals Airfield. ©
West Mitten from the South East
Mitchell Mesa, Grey Whiskers, Mitchell Butte from the north east.
West Mitten from the South West
West Mitten from the South West. You can see the two gravestones on the rise behind the house in the third scene of the motion picture when the reverend and his posse arrive.
Sentinel Mesa from the south west.
Merricks Butte from the north west.
Mitchell Mesa from the North West.
From Artists Point, the East Mitten, Stagecoach Butte and Cly Butte
Artists Point, with the north west face of Cly Butte rising above it
Above Gouldings Lodge within Rock Door Mesa looking east to Monument Valley with the Stagecoach Butte and King on his Castle visible.
Gouldings Lodge from the air from the north. The location is in the gorge above Gouldings.
The Searchers - In the gorge behind Gouldings Lodge
The gorge above Gouldings Lodge in the 1990s: Powerlines, yard fences and a road
Figures in a landscape. A huge duststorm builds over Monument Valley adding to the immensity of the scene. John Ford was either lucky or waited weeks for the right moment to capture this outstanding scene. The camera looks over from Route 163 toward the Mittens.
The Stagecoach constellation appears right of frame.
Scene: The second homestead
Location: Under Mitchell Butte
Under Mitchell Butte, Mitchell Mesa rises in the background.
Grey Whiskers Butte with Mitchell Mesa rising the background.
The Searchers camp at this pool below Mitchell Butte and Rock Door Mesa above Gouldings Lodge rises in the background across what what become the route of US 163. The second homestead in the motion picture will be built in front of this pool.
Train Rock, beyond Gouldings Lodge to the North, rises in the background.
A panorama composed of several frames. Train Rock rises in the far background, center frame. Rock Door Mesa above Gouldings Lodge is left of frame. The course of US 163 is in the valley between the pool and Rock Door Mesa.
John Wayne and Jeffrey Hunter under Mitchell Mesa
In the above frame, you can see an automobile which is driving along the road in the background. It stops before it reaches the end of the trees.
A scene shot in the studio but magnificently framed and posed.
The Totem Pole basin with Sand Springs in the foreground. Out of the frame to the left is Rooster Rock.
The Searchers make their escape from the Indian encampment under Thunderbird Mesa going toward Sand Springs. This is the first of two magnificent panning shots. In this first panning shot, the towers behind the Totem Pole were just coming into view when the editor cut the shot.
The Searchers ride hell-for-leather the length of Thunderbird Mesa toward Sand Springs pursued by the Indians in one of the great riding scenes in all Westerns. This image is a combination of two panning shots. The first panning shot showed the Searchers making their escape, and takes in the section of Thunderbird Mesa closest to Sand Springs, and the second panning shot shows the Indians in hot pursuit under an overlapping section of Thunderbird Mesa farthest from Sand Springs and closer to Valley Road. The two panning shots overlap, which allow them to be joined.
The Searchers gallop hell-for-leather under Thunderbird Mesa toward the Totem Pole
On top of Ford Point, so called by the Indians because John Ford used to sit up there in a lawn chair for hours, taking in the vista and planning shots.
Ford Point, overlooking Valley Road as it runs in front of Merricks Butte and the classic vista of Monument Valley toward the two Mittens and the Stagecoach Butte grouping.
The classic view of Monument Valley. The West Mitten to the left, and East Mitten to the right and Merricks Butte far right.
Sentinel Mesa left of frame, Stagecoach Butte center frame.
Scene: The Searchers are trailed by two columns of Indians
Location: Rock Door Mesa opposite Mitchell Butte.
The valley through which US 163 runs between Rock Door Mesa and Mitchell Butte.
John Wayne and Jeffery Hunter
John Wayne and Jeffery Hunter
A spectacularly attired John Ford in front of the Totem Pole, looking like he has been cast in a Sergio Leone Western, on location for The Searchers (1956). In 1974, Clint Eastwood holds Miles Melloughs at gunpoint here in The Eiger Sanction (1975).
A Japanese lobby card for The Searchers (1956) showing Agathla Peak in the background. No scenes in the motion picture used this location.
+ SEE ALSO
- Motion Picture Locations in Monument Valley
+ EXTERNAL LINKS
- Cinema Retro the journal of choice for motion pictures of the Sixties and Seventies.
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