The Searchers was the first production from "distinguished turfman" C. V. Whitney; it was directed by John Ford and distributed by Warner Bros. While the film was primarily set in the staked plains (Llano Estacado) of northwestern Texas, it was actually filmed in Monument Valley, Arizona/Utah. Additional scenes were filmed in Mexican Hat, Utah, in Bronson Canyon in Griffith Park, Los Angeles, and in Alberta. The film was shot in the VistaVision widescreen process. Ford originally wanted to cast Fess Parker, whose performance as Davy Crockett on television had helped spark a national craze, in the Jeffrey Hunter role, but Walt Disney, to whom Parker was under contract, refused to allow it and did not tell Parker about the offer, according to Parker's videotaped interview for the Archive of American Television. Parker has said retrospectively that this was easily his worst career reversal.
As part of its promotion of The Searchers in 1956, Warner Bros. produced and broadcast one of the first behind-the-scenes, "making-of" programs in movie history, which aired as an episode of its Warner Bros. Presents TV series.
The Searchers is the first of only three films produced by Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney's C. V. Whitney Pictures; the second was The Missouri Traveler in 1958 with Brandon deWilde and Lee Marvin, and the last was The Young Land in 1959 with Wayne's son Patrick Wayne and Dennis Hopper.