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

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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:

Andy Bowers Andy Bowers

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

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.

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