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The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend [Hardcover]

Glenn Frankel
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (2 July 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608191052
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608191055
  • Product Dimensions: 24.8 x 16.2 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 33,623 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

The Searchers Explores the true-story-become-legend underpinning John Ford's film, and the making of the film itself. Full description

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The back story of The Searchers 1 Jun 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Glenn Frankel takes John Ford's classic Western back to its roots in the abduction stories of the 19th century. This was the inspiration for Alan Le May's novel, on which Ford based the film. Frankel notes that Le May did an exhaustive search of abduction stories in the Comancheria of North Texas and Oklahoma, including that of Cynthia Ann Parker, which Frankel opens with in his book.

Frankel chooses to deal with the subject matter chronologically with four sections devoted to Cynthia Ann Parker, Quanah Parker (her son by the Comanche warrior who abducted her), Alan Le May, and finally the film itself. Much of this material was new to me so I found it fascinating, but wished that Frankel had took a looser approach like Edward Bascombe did with his pamphlet on the film for the BFI series.

Ford himself was apparently interested in making a film about Quanah Parker, who is widely regarded as saving the remaining Comanche tribes by negotiating settlements with the United States. Quanah earned the respect of no less than Teddy Roosevelt himself who stayed at his Star House in Oklahoma on one of his hunting forays in the Plains state. But, Ford liked the theme of The Searchers better, which focused more on one man's search for an abducted child, than on the nature of the range wars that were prevalent on High Plains at the time, which led to these abductions.

Frankel discusses the turbulent relationship between Ford and John Wayne, notably the antipathy Ford seemed to have toward Wayne for opting of WWII, when many Hollywood actors and directors chose to serve in the war. Wayne was just beginning to enjoy a film career, thanks to his role in Ford's Stagecoach, and didn't want to start over again. Apparently, Ford was merciless in his abuse of Wayne on the film set, but Wayne swallowed his pride and took it, because he felt Ford drew the best out of him, and he later cherished his role as Ethan Edwards as his best role.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Myth rooted in truth 4 Nov 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
What makes this book fascinating is the narrative arc it makes between Cynthia Ann Parker's capture by the Comanches in the 1836 and John Ford's greatest film, The Searchers, released in 1956. The Parker narrative may be reasonably familiar to American historians of the West, and Frankel recycles material that is familiar to Fordians. But the putting them together is new, which Frankel has done in a clear, continuous narrative.

In effect this is a 120-year history from the facts of the Indian Wars in Texas to the way they were dramatized, epic-ized one might say, on the big screen in the twentieth century. What is more, my guess is that in writing this narrative, Frankel, who is a journalist, turns up a number of new elements or angles on the story. Certainly, while some of the Ford material is familiar, his account of the logistics of shooting a film in Monument Valley, a long way from domestic comforts, is novel and compelling. And it is good to have Alan Lemay, whose novel the film came from, restored to the picture.

Finally, for a European reader, this is in effect a book of history from an exotic country in so many ways. I am used to history as famous people - so Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln et alii - or `history from below' - how ordinary people lived ordinary lives at the time. But here, the obscure, shadowy Cynthia Ann Parker and her complicated uncle James obsessively searching for her among the Comanches combine a small anonymous story with a big history-making story in which you can watch the truth becoming American myth rooted in truth.

The book reads very well on Kindle, but the photos are inevitably just a bit too small and grey.

Tim Cawkwell ([...]
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb exploration of western history 31 July 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
If you know The Searchers only as the John Ford film, but always wondered about the central story of a white European girl kidnapped and adopted by the Comanches, then this book fills the gaps. It's really four books. Firstly, the story of Cynthia Parker, the abducted child whose story was the kernel of the western novel, screenplay and film. Next, it's the story of her son, the war chief Quannah Parker, whose story takes us into the early 20th century. The next part of the book focuses on the creation of the western novel, The Searchers by Alan Le May and then on to the making of the John Ford film. All the four stories are superbly told by Frankel, who doesn't pull his punches, particularly on John Ford. It's worth reading this book in conjunction with SC Gwynne's Empire of the Summer Moon, which tells the full story about the Comanches and Comancheria - absolutely brilliant.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Widespread for the Searchers 13 Dec 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A cleverly constructed book which covers the real story as well as all aspects of the film
The Searchers itself. This is a must for film buffs, but also for those who are genuinely interested
in what really happened in the West. At times the writing seems a little disjointed, but mostly this is
an insightful and fascinating book.
In particular, I was interested in the take on John Wayne - often criticised for his wooden acting these days- but seen here
as an outstanding actor working with a brilliant but irascible director. If the background story is new to the reader,
it offers a perspective on the relationships between white culture and the women who were 'tainted' by their capture
and inclusion in Native American culture.
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