Revised Final Screenplay by
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 -
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.
He looks at her, frowning, then slowly steps out onto the
hard ground. Martha hands the bowl back to Lucy and follows
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:
His eyes shift to Martha and hold. Ethan is, and always has
been, in love with his brother's wife and she with him.
(a bit shakily)
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.
How should I know?
But Mose Harper said...
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.
Ben, ain't you?
(frowning at Debbie)
Lucy, you ain't much bigger than
when I saw you last.
Ethan looks in the direction of the pointing finger.
EXT. YARD - ANOTHER ANGLE
as Lucy steps down from the porch and approaches.
Lucy's going on seventeen now...
An' she's got a beau! Kisses him,
That's enough... Go on inside and
help Lucy set the table... You, too,
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.
(wheeling on him)
Martin checks his stride, stares in surprise.
Martin!... Here we've been standing...
Ethan, you haven't forgotten Martin?
Oh... Mistook you for a half-breed.
Not quite... Quarter Cherokee. The
rest is Welsh... So they tell me.
You've done a lot of growin'...
It was Ethan found you squallin' in
a sage clump after your folks was
It just happened to be me... No need
to make any more of it...
I'll take care of your horse for
you, Uncle Ethan.
Again, he starts to lead away.
Martin stops again.
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.
Supper'll be ready by the time you
wash up... Let me take your coat for
He hesitates, then grudgingly surrenders it -- conscious of
its sorry condition.
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.
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
Ethan has shaved, changed his shirt. He straightens
contentedly and every eye is on him, expectantly.
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.
Ben! Deborah! Bed!
But I've got to help with the dishes.
Not tonight... Ben, put that sword
It's not a sword, ma... it's a saber!
(moving to Ethan)
Did you kill many damYankees with
this sabre, Uncle Ethan?
How many damYankees, Uncle Ethan?
Ben!... Martin, he'll sleep in the
bunkhouse with you tonight.
Martin nods and crosses to kiss Martha good night.
Good night, Aunt Martha... Uncle
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
Ben reluctantly puts the scabbard away, turns to Ethan.
Will you tell me tomorrow about the
The war ended three years ago, boy!
It did?... Then whyn't you come home
BEN!... Go 'long with Martin. MARCH!
As Ben reluctantly heads out with Martin, Deborah crosses to
Ethan's side and studies him gravely.
Lucy's wearing the gold locket you
gave her when she was a little girl...
She don't wear it much account of it
makes her neck green.
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.
(then he remembers
He crosses to where his pack is -- a side table or something --
and burrows into it. Debbie is at his side.
How about this?
It is a gold medal or medallion -- something appropriate to
Maximilian of Mexico -- suspended by a long multi-colored
Oh! LOOK! My gold locket!
She holds it high for mother -- and all -- to see. Martha
takes it and reacts at its weight.
It's solid gold... Ethan, I don't
think she's old enough...
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
Oh, thank you, Uncle Ethan...
The two girls leave the main room. Martha a