In The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend, Pulitzer Prize winning author and Director of the UT Austin School of Journalism, Glenn Frankel uses the classic Hollywood movie to explore two separate but interconnecting story lines: the story of Cynthia Ann Parker, a girl taken captive by Comanches in 1836 and the story of John Ford and his cinematic vision. Frankel places each story in historical context. In the first part of the book he unpacks the powerful rise of the Comanche, the arrival of Anglo settlers on the Texas frontier, and ensuing conflict that occurred between the two groups. In the next section of the book he shows how Cynthia Ann Parker’s story became the subject of a novel by Alan LeMay and then a movie by John Ford. Delving into each aspect of the filmmaker’s career from beginning to end, he uses The Searchers (filmed in 1954) to demonstrate how Ford mythologized Parker’s story, solidified John Wayne’s career, and made John Ford into an American legend.
Listen to Erika Bsumek’s interview with Glenn Frankel in the audio file below to hear them discuss the interrelated histories of myth making and movie making in the retelling of Cynthia Ann Parker’s story in John Ford’s unforgettable film, The Searchers.
Screen shots from the trailer for The Searchers. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
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