‘The Searchers’: John Wayne and Jeffrey Hunter Picked Natalie Wood up From High School During Production

Actor John Wayne found one of his greatest Western feature films in The Searchers. However, the movie boasted an impressive supporting cast that aided in drawing the audience’s interest. Wood was a young star on the set of The Searchers, but Wayne and Hunter stepped up to the plate to help out.

John Wayne starred in ‘The Searchers’ with Jeffrey Hunter and Natalie Wood

'The Searchers' starring John Wayne, Natalie Wood, and Jeffrey Hunter. Poster showing Wayne wearing a cowboy hat looking ahead with a sunset in the background.
John Wayne | LMPC via Getty Images

The Searchers tells the story of Ethan Edwards (Wayne) and Martin Pawley (Hunter). Ethan returns home to Texas after the Civil War, but soon after, Comanches kidnap and kill his brother’s family. He makes a promise to track down any surviving family members to bring them home.

Ethan discovers that his young niece, Debbie (Wood), is the last surviving member. Her adopted brother, Martin, joins along on the journey, despite the dangerous road ahead of them. They travel deep into Comanche territory, determined to bring Debbie home alive. However, the longer she remains in their custody, the lower the chances are for her survival.

John Wayne and Jeffrey Hunter picked up Natalie Wood after high school classes

According to the official John Wayne Instagram account, Wayne certainly helped Wood while filming The Searchers. However, he didn’t do it all alone. He also had help from Hunter. Wood was still a teenager while they were working on the movie. As a result, she was required to still be in high school while they were shooting The Searchers. Wayne and Hunter agreed to pick her up from school, which caused quite the commotion.

“Natalie Wood was still in high school while The Searchers was being filmed,” the official Wayne Instagram wrote. “John Wayne and Jeffrey Hunter picked her up from school several times and, as you can imagine, her classmates were very excited!”

The comments under the post called him an “iconic legend” for agreeing to do this. Others wrote about how much they loved his interactions with his co-stars. However, some Wayne fans emphasized how The Searchers and his other movies had a big impact on them. The film certainly left its mark, as many consider it to be one of the greatest Western movies ever made.

The Western actor recognized ‘The Searchers’ set wasn’t very appealing to his co-star

According to an interview the Wayne Twitter account posted, Wood highly respected working with him on The Searchers. The interviewer asked for her favorite memory of working with Wayne on this feature, and she had a very clear memory of it. Wood was a teenager, but the movie set certainly wasn’t very exciting for a person her age. Nevertheless, Wayne wanted to make sure that she felt comfortable on the set.

“Gosh, I’ve known him over the years even beyond that picture, and he was such a lovely man,” Wood said. “I think his kindness more than anything. His consideration toward other actors. When I was working on that picture, it was a difficult location. It was in the Monument Valley, and we were on a [Native American] reservation, and there were no other young people. I was the only young person around.”

Wood continued: “You know, they had sort of John Ford company, and so they played poker every night. You know, for a teenager, it wasn’t really the greatest. Of all the people, I think John Wayne was the most aware of that and very kind about it. He was a terrific fellow.”

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