"THE SEARCHERS"



Revised Final Screenplay by



Frank Nugent







FADE IN



Behind the main title and the credits:



EXT. PLAINS COUNTRY - CLOSE SHOT - MOVING JUST ABOVE GROUND

LEVEL - A STUDY OF HOOFPRINTS - LATE AFTERNOON



The hoofprints are deeply etched in the ground, picking their

way through scrubby desert growth. An occasional tumbleweed

drifts with the light breeze across the pattern of prints;

and lightly-blown soil and sand begin the work of erasing

them. The CAMERA FOLLOWING the hoofprints



RAISES SLOWLY TO:



EXT. PLAINS COUNTRY - LONG SHOT - LATE AFTERNOON



We see the rider now. BACK TO CAMERA, jogging slowly along --

heading down a long valley toward a still-distant ranch house

with its outlying barn and corrals.



EXT. PLAINS COUNTRY - MED. SHOT - MOVING - LATE AFTERNOON



The CAMERA FRAMES and MOVES with the lone horseman. He is

ETHAN EDWARDS, a man as hard as the country he is crossing.



Ethan is in his forties, with a three-day stubble of beard.



Dust is caked in the lines of his face and powders his

clothing. He wears a long Confederate overcoat, torn at one

pocket, patched and clumsily stitched at the elbows.



His trousers are a faded blue with an off-color stripe down

the legs where once there had been the yellow stripes of the

Yankee cavalry. His saddle is Mexican and across it he carries

a folded serape in place of the Texas poncho...



Rider and horse have come a long way. The CAMERA HOLDS and

PANS the rider past and we see another detail; strapped onto

his saddle roll is a sabre and scabbard with a gray silk

sash wrapped around it... Horse and rider pass, moving closer

to the ranch as a little girl and a small dog come tearing

around the corner of the house.



EXT. THE YARD OF THE EDWARDS RANCH - MED. SHOT - DEBBIE -

LATE AFTERNOON



She is staring wide-eyed at the distant horseman o.s.



Her little dog has seen him too and is barking excitedly.



DEBBIE quickly reaches to grab the dog by the scruff of the

neck, crouching over him. Debbie is 11 years old with a

piquant, memorable face.



EXT. THE YARD - CLOSE SHOT - DEBBIE



Here we must establish and dramatize what it is about her

face that is memorable, so that if we were to see her again

five or six years later, we would know it is she -- perhaps

the eye color or the slant of eyebrow, or a trick of

scratching bridge of nose with crooked forefinger.



EXT. THE EDWARDS HOUSE - MED. SHOT - AARON - LATE AFTERNOON



The ranch house is of adobe, solidly built, with a sod and

cross-timbered roof, deep windows. A small gallery or porch

extends across the front. AARON EDWARDS comes through the

door, attracted by the dog's barking -- and then he, too,

sees the approaching horseman and comes farther out -- curious

but not at all apprehensive. Aaron is a lean, weathered and

tired man, with a down-swept mustache; a gentler-looking man

than Ethan and possibly a few years older.



As he squints off, studying the rider, his older daughter,

LUCY, comes out to stand behind him. Lucy is from 16 to 18 --

a pleasant, feminine girl. She is carrying a mixing bowl

with some sort of batter in it, which she now completely

forgets to whip in her interest in the approaching stranger.



In the next instant MARTHA EDWARDS follows the daughter onto

the porch. Martha is a still-lovely woman, although the years

have etched fine wrinkles about her eyes and mouth, and work

has worn and coarsened her hands. Those hands will never be

idle when Martha is on scene... And now, while she shares

the family's interest in the approaching horseman, she

automatically notes that Lucy has forgotten her task -- and

she takes the mixing bowl from her and stirs the batter.



EXT. YARD OF THE EDWARDS HOUSE - FULL SHOT - LATE AFTERNOON



Along the side of the house comes BEN EDWARDS, 14, with a

man-sized armload of chunkwood clutched to his chest. He,

too, has spotted the stranger and is all attention. So much

so that he trips, but recovers his footing. He pauses to

dump the wood into a woodbox by the door -- his eyes always

riveted on the oncoming rider -- and then he moves toward

the others, biting a splinter out of a finger. Beyond Ben,

MARTIN PAULEY emerges from the barn and crosses the open

ground heading toward CAMERA. Martin is somewhat under 20, a

lithe, perfectly coordinated male animal, with Indian-straight

hair and a white man's eyes. He is carrying bridle or other

horse-gear. He looks to the family on the porch -- to see if

they recognize the stranger -- then out again. He continues,

followed by Ben, toward where



Debbie crouches over her dog.



EXT. PLAINS COUNTRY - LONG SHOT - ETHAN - LATE AFTERNOON



As he rides downslope toward the house.



THE CREDITS END.



EXT. THE EDWARDS RANCH - MED. CLOSE SHOT - MARTHA, LUCY, AND

AARON - LATE AFTERNOON



Suddenly, Martha's eyes widen as she -- even before Aaron --

recognizes the distant rider. Her hand goes to her mouth to

check the name that trembles on her lips... An instant later

Aaron, too, identifies the oncoming horseman.



AARON

(incredulous)

Ethan?



He looks at her, frowning, then slowly steps out onto the

hard ground. Martha hands the bowl back to Lucy and follows

Aaron.



EXT. THE YARD OF THE EDWARDS HOUSE - FULL SHOT - THE GROUP



as Ethan rides in and sits his horse, looking down at them.

There is a noticeable constraint on all of them. Finally:



ETHAN

Hello, Aaron...



His eyes shift to Martha and hold. Ethan is, and always has

been, in love with his brother's wife and she with him.



ETHAN

Martha...



MARTHA

(a bit shakily)

Hello, Ethan.



Ethan slowly, stiffly swings out of the saddle. Aaron and

Martha exchange quick glances... troubled, puzzled. Aaron

pastes on an uncertain smile as Ethan comes around his horse

toward their side.



AARON

How's California?



ETHAN

How should I know?



AARON

But Mose Harper said...



ETHAN

That old goat still creakin'

around?... Whyn't someone bury him?



He goes to his saddle pack, begins unlacing it. Ben and Debbie

have inched closer -- half-shy, half-curious.



Debbie's dog begins sniffing at his heels. Ethan looks down

at them - not unfriendly, just a man not used to children.



ETHAN

Ben, ain't you?



Ben nods.



ETHAN

(frowning at Debbie)

Lucy, you ain't much bigger than

when I saw you last.



DEBBIE

I'm Deborah!

(pointing)

She's Lucy.



Ethan looks in the direction of the pointing finger.



EXT. YARD - ANOTHER ANGLE



as Lucy steps down from the porch and approaches.



MARTHA

Lucy's going on seventeen now...



BEN

An' she's got a beau! Kisses him,

too!



MARTHA

That's enough... Go on inside and

help Lucy set the table... You, too,

Deborah!



EXT. YARD - FULL SHOT - ANOTHER ANGLE



as Martin -- with slightly averted face -- crosses to take

the bridle of Ethan's horse and lead him away.



ETHAN

(wheeling on him)

MOMENTO!



Martin checks his stride, stares in surprise.



MARTHA

(contritely)

Martin!... Here we've been standing...

Ethan, you haven't forgotten Martin?



ETHAN

Oh... Mistook you for a half-breed.



MARTIN

(levelly)

Not quite... Quarter Cherokee. The

rest is Welsh... So they tell me.



ETHAN

You've done a lot of growin'...



AARON

It was Ethan found you squallin' in

a sage clump after your folks was

massacred...



ETHAN

(bluntly)

It just happened to be me... No need

to make any more of it...



MARTIN

I'll take care of your horse for

you, Uncle Ethan.



Again, he starts to lead away.



ETHAN

Hold on!



Martin stops again.



ETHAN

I'll take this...



He completes unlacing the pack and takes it -- treating it

as though it contained something of value. Martin watches

with a touch of resentment: Ethan doesn't trust him.



Ethan turns and sees the look. He doesn't care what Martin

thinks, nor does he explain. Martin leads the horse off.



MARTHA

Supper'll be ready by the time you

wash up... Let me take your coat for

you, Ethan.



He hesitates, then grudgingly surrenders it -- conscious of

its sorry condition.



MARTHA

(smiling faintly)

And... welcome home.



He just nods, then turns to follow Aaron around the side of

the house toward the wash-up.



EXT. THE EDWARDS HOUSE - CLOSE SHOT - MARTHA



She stands alone, looking after Ethan -- his coat in her

arms. She holds it against her breast for just a moment and

her eyes are tender.



DISSOLVE TO:



INT. EDWARDS HOUSE - FULL SHOT - NIGHT



The family is finishing dinner -- and the scene is not quite,

but almost, a still-life. Loud in the room is the pendulum

tick of a Seth-Thomas clock on the mantel above the fireplace --

in which logs are burning briskly. Ben crouches near the

fireplace, fascinatedly examining the scabbard and sabre

Ethan has brought home from the wars.



He tries to ease the blade just a bit out of its scabbard.



Aaron sits at one end of the hand-hewn table, Martha at the

other. At her right is Ethan, his fork scraping the last

crumb off his plate. Lucy sits at her father's right and

Martin at his left. Next to Martin is Debbie. In the center

of the table is the sorry remnant of what was once a meal.

Lucy and Martin have finished eating. Aaron is sipping his

coffee, and Martha -- her own plate largely untasted -- is

watching Ethan.



Ethan has shaved, changed his shirt. He straightens

contentedly and every eye is on him, expectantly.



ETHAN

Good.



The clock rattles alarmingly -- the usual preliminary to its

striking; and then it bangs out the strokes like a fire-alarm

gong. Eight fast clangs.



AARON

Ben! Deborah! Bed!



DEBBIE

But I've got to help with the dishes.



MARTHA

Not tonight... Ben, put that sword

back.



BEN

It's not a sword, ma... it's a saber!

(moving to Ethan)

Did you kill many damYankees with

this sabre, Uncle Ethan?



ETHAN

(matter-of-factly)

Some...



BEN

How many damYankees, Uncle Ethan?



MARTHA

Ben!... Martin, he'll sleep in the

bunkhouse with you tonight.



Martin nods and crosses to kiss Martha good night.



MARTIN

Good night, Aunt Martha... Uncle

Aaron...

(he hesitates)

Good night, Uncle Ethan.



Ethan doesn't like being called Uncle -- as we must know

from the quick look he shoots at Martin. But he acknowledges

it.



ETHAN

Night.



Ben reluctantly puts the scabbard away, turns to Ethan.



BEN

Will you tell me tomorrow about the

war?



AARON

The war ended three years ago, boy!



BEN

It did?... Then whyn't you come home

before now?



MARTHA

BEN!... Go 'long with Martin. MARCH!



As Ben reluctantly heads out with Martin, Deborah crosses to

Ethan's side and studies him gravely.



DEBBIE

Lucy's wearing the gold locket you

gave her when she was a little girl...



ETHAN

Oh?



DEBBIE

She don't wear it much account of it

makes her neck green.



LUCY

(aghast)

Deborah!



DEBBIE

(defensively)

Well, it does... But I wouldn't care

if you gave me a gold locket if it

made my neck green or not.



Ethan looks at her gravely.



ETHAN

'Fraid I...

(then he remembers

something, rises)

Wait.



He crosses to where his pack is -- a side table or something --

and burrows into it. Debbie is at his side.



ETHAN

How about this?



It is a gold medal or medallion -- something appropriate to

Maximilian of Mexico -- suspended by a long multi-colored

satin ribbon.



DEBBIE

Oh! LOOK! My gold locket!



She holds it high for mother -- and all -- to see. Martha

takes it and reacts at its weight.



MARTHA

It's solid gold... Ethan, I don't

think she's old enough...



ETHAN

Let her keep it... Just something I

picked up in Mexico.



Martha reluctantly surrenders it to Debbie's eager hand.



Aaron hasn't missed the word "Mexico" and looks sharply at

Ethan.



DEBBIE

Oh, thank you, Uncle Ethan...



LUCY

(to Debbie)

Come along...



The two girls leave the main room. Martha a

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