searchersWhenever one of those lists of the greatest films is put together, there are always a few films that are sure to show up – like Citizen Kane, Chinatown, The Godfather, and Gone with the Wind. Another of the films that is almost always on those lists is the classic John Ford western, The Searchers. Indeed, The Searchers, with perhaps John Wayne’s best performance at its center, is a great film from the screenplay to the gorgeous cinematography and production design.

The story of the film itself is most likely worth a book or two on its own. However, as it turns out, the story the film is based on is a true life tale that is even more incredible that the one told on film. In his wonderful book, The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend, author Glenn Frankel takes us on the true life adventure of a young girl snatched away from her family by Comanche “Indians” and the people who searched for her decades.

About The Searchers by Glenn Frankel : “In 1836 in East Texas, nine-year-old Cynthia Ann Parker was kidnapped by Comanches. She was raised by the tribe and eventually became the wife of a warrior. Twenty-four years after her capture, she was reclaimed by the U.S. cavalry and Texas Rangers and restored to her white family, to die in misery and obscurity. Cynthia Ann’s story has been told and re-told over generations to become a foundational American tale. The myth gave rise to operas and one-act plays, and in the 1950s to a novel by Alan LeMay, which would be adapted into one of Hollywood’s most legendary films, The Searchers, ‘The Biggest, Roughest, Toughest… and Most Beautiful Picture Ever Made!’ directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne. Glenn Frankel, beginning in Hollywood and then returning to the origins of the story, creates a rich and nuanced anatomy of a timeless film and a quintessentially American myth. The dominant story that has emerged departs dramatically from documented history: it is of the inevitable triumph of white civilization, underpinned by anxiety about the sullying of white women by “savages.” What makes John Ford’s film so powerful, and so important, Frankel argues, is that it both upholds that myth and undermines it, baring the ambiguities surrounding race, sexuality, and violence in the settling of the West and the making of America.”

In his book, Mr. Frankel weaves the true history with Hollywood legend and the result is a perfect book for anyone interested in how true events become lore.

The Searchers by Glenn Frankel is available from Amazon and other fine booksellers.