The 19th-Century Kidnapping That Inspired John Ford’s The Searchers

Today's best authors.
March 28 2013 3:36 PM

The Murky True Story Behind The Searchers

Glenn Frankel discusses his new book about the making of an American legend.

John Wayne plays Ethan Edwards in the 1956 film "The Searchers."  Director John Ford and frequent leading man Wayne forged one of Hollywood's most enduring partnerships.
John Wayne plays Ethan Edwards in the 1956 film The Searchers.

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Listen to author Glenn Frankel discuss his new book, The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend:

John Ford’s The Searchers is widely considered not only one of the best Westerns of all time but one of the best movies, period. (It’s currently No. 7 on Sight & Sound’s list of the 50 greatest films.) Less well-known is the true story that inspired the film, the 1836 kidnapping of 9-year-old Cynthia Ann Parker, a white girl captured in a Comanche raid during the long-running war between Native Americans and European immigrants in Texas. Parker lived for decades with the Comanche before being returned, not altogether happily, to her original community. Former Washington Post reporter Glenn Frankel has written a new book that explores the facts and the myths surrounding Parker’s abduction, the legacy of both her white and Comanche families, and how it all came to be portrayed—and altered—by John Ford and John Wayne in The Searchers.

“Live at Politics & Prose” is a new show from Slate Radio that features some of today’s best writers reading from their new work and answering audience questions at Washington, D.C.’s famous bookstore. You can subscribe for free through iTunes or with our RSS Feed to catch all upcoming episodes.

You can even scan this QR code on your smartphone and subscribe to the podcast right away:


You’ll find other episodes of the program in our archives. You can also find out about attending future readings at the Politics & Prose event calendar page. Please send any feedback about the show to

Andy Bowers is the executive producer of Slate’s podcasts. Follow him on Twitter.



Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
Future Tense
Sept. 21 2014 11:38 PM “Welcome to the War of Tomorrow” How Futurama’s writers depicted asymmetrical warfare.
  Health & Science
The Good Word
Sept. 21 2014 11:44 PM Does This Name Make Me Sound High-Fat? Why it just seems so right to call a cracker “Cheez-It.”
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.