John Wayne Thought These 2 Classic Westerns Were Better Than ‘The Searchers’
Western star John Wayne starred in a variety of classic films, such as The Searchers. His longtime fans all have a different favorite movie and performance from the actor, showing the true breadth of his career. Wayne himself openly discussed The Searchers and where it ranked for him alongside other classics in his filmography. Turns out he actually thought two of his Westerns were much better.
‘The Searchers’ actor John Wayne played Ethan Edwards John Wayne as Ethan Edwards | Warner Bros. Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images
Wayne starred as the main character, Ethan Edwards, in The Searchers. After the Civil War ends, he returns to Texas to see his family. However, he is thrown into a different kind of war when commandos attack his brother’s family. Some end up dead, while some are kidnapped. Therefore, Ethan sets out with Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter) to rescue his niece, Debbie (Natalie Wood). The deeper they venture into Comanche territory, the more dangerous their mission becomes.
The Searchers currently holds a 94% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, remaining one of Wayne’s best films of his career. However, the film touched more lives than audiences. Legendary director Martin Scorsese praised The Searchers, citing it as a source of inspiration for his career. It is often labeled as one of the greatest films ever made. However, Wayne had a slightly different opinion.
John Wayne thought “Red River” and “Stagecoach” were both the best westerns
Marc Eliot’s book, American Titan: In Search of John Wayne, wrote about his legacy from The Searchers and beyond. The Western star asked if John Ford’s film was the best he’d ever made, but the actor quickly replied that it wasn’t. However, Wayne still loved the film and felt it deserved more praise than it was getting at the time.
“No, I don’t,” Wayne replied. “The two classic Westerns were the best – Stagecoach and Red River -[although I thought] The seekers … deserved more praise than they received.”
Wayne’s answer here makes sense. Stagecoach and Red River will always hold a special place in the Western movie star’s career. Ford’s Stagecoach marked the beginning of success in the actor’s career. It was an ensemble film that allowed him to stand out, cementing him as a movie star for the ages.
Meanwhile, Howard Hawks’ Red River allowed Wayne to give a different performance than he had before. In addition, he once said that it was the first time he considered himself a “real” actor. Therefore, it stands to reason that he ranked both of these films above The Searchers, which came later in his career.
He won his only Oscar for True Grit
The Searchers didn’t give Wayne the Oscar attention he expected. Instead, he earned his first nomination for a non-Western film performance in the war film Sands of Iwo Jima. Wayne’s second Oscar nomination was outside of the acting categories and in the Best Picture category for a passion project called The Alamo. He finally secured an Academy Award win for his performance in True Grit, which remains one of the most popular Westerns of his career.
Wayne always felt that his greatest works didn’t get the attention they deserved. He placed “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” and “Red River” as some of his best work, yet it didn’t get the attention of awards season. Additionally, many Wayne fans felt he deserved more recognition for his recent performance in The Shootist, but he didn’t get the attention he deserved there either.