Old School Americana & Nostalgia


The John Wayne Western Helped Bring ‘Taxi Driver’ to Life

The John Wayne Western Helped Bring ‘Taxi Driver’ to Life

Movie directors find inspiration from movies at times and this is the case for Martin Scorsese with a John Wayne film. When Scorsese made Taxi Driver in the 1970s, traces of Wayne’s Ethan Edwards from The Searchers can be found in Travis. Both characters were deeply disturbed at some level. Yet this personal disturbance came out in different ways for them.

Ethan, in John Ford’s incredibly classic The Searchers, has returned to his homestead only to find it empty. In addition, Ethan learns that his niece has been kidnapped by Native Americans. This leads him to take along his nephew Martin, played by Jeffrey Hunter, and go find her.

As this search unfurls, the movie viewer sees revenge and hatred boil to the top with Ethan. He wanted to find his niece and, in the process, get even for what they did to her. It’s a compelling story, but it’s filled with violence and anger. Wayne squeezes as much as he can out of Ethan for Ford.

Martin Scorsese Found John Wayne Movie ‘Uncomfortable’

Martin Scorsese offered his thoughts about The Searchers. “Like all great works of art, it’s uncomfortable,” Scorsese wrote for The Hollywood Reporter in 2013 when reviewing a book about the movie. “The core of the movie is deeply painful.”

Besides the focus on Ethan Edwards and his prejudices and hot-headedness, The Searchers has incredible cinematography. The movie was filmed in Utah with the towering spires of rock formations and mountains all around. Wide shots of Ethan and Martin riding their horses across the desert land is impactful. Ford used as much of the land as he could in producing his masterpiece.

Traces of Ethan can be found in Robert De Niro’s Travis in Taxi Driver, according to ScreenRant. In that movie, once again, there’s a loner in Travis looking to get revenge. He, too, is out to rescue someone. For Taxi Driver, that falls to Iris, played by Jodie Foster. That’s one connection to The Searchers.

Another one has to do with how disturbed the movie’s lead characters are on the inside. They see the world through hateful, wrathful eyes. There’s not one iota of wanting a peaceful solution to be reached in their predicaments. For them, the only way out is through their foes.

Other Directors Influenced By ‘The Searchers’

While Martin Scorsese has his reasons for viewing The Searchers as he does, other directors also dig the movie. Reportedly before he makes each movie, Steven Spielberg actually will sit down and watch this flick, The Telegraph reports. George Lucas happened to integrate a core theme from The Searchers into Star Wars. It’s when Lucas takes an older man (either Alex Guinness or Harrison Ford) with a younger man (Mark Hamill). They go out in search of a woman to rescue (Carrie Fisher).

In a recent television series, Breaking Bad‘s Vince Gilligan also points out that his show’s finale was influenced by The Searchers. As it turns out, it wasn’t just Scorsese who found something meaningful in the John Wayne-John Ford movie.