Ford painted himself into a corner (not unlike Willie Wyler in "The Big Country") because he couldn't let The Duke shoot Natalie Wood.The honest ending is the shootout between him and Jeff Hunter that almost happens after they see she's alive takes place at the end of the movie, Jeff Hunter wins, saves Natalie's life, and shows he is just as good a man as the Duke - maybe better - in the end.Never forget, "The Searchers" only gained real prominence after the anti-war, Leftist crowd glommed onto it at the end of the 70s. The more Conservative 50s and 60s rejected it in favor of the cavalry trilogy.
I had to stop Anonymous comments due to spam. But I welcome all legitimate comments. Thanks.