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The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend

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3.86  ·  Rating Details  ·  928 Ratings  ·  183 Reviews
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 generati ...more
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published February 19th 2013 by Bloomsbury USA (first published January 1st 2013)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,938)
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Jim
Apr 14, 2014 Jim rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: History lovers and film buffs.
John Ford's classic movie The Searchers is one of my absolute favorite movies. I've watched it dozens of times and own the title on VHS and DVD (at least 3 different copies in the latter format). Obviously, I was a guaranteed sell for Mr Frankel's book. In spite of my familiarity with the movie it had oddly never occurred to me that the events on the screen had been based on actual historical occurrences. This book set me straight on that point, and showed the chain of events which resulted in ...more
Matt
Apr 26, 2016 Matt rated it really liked it
The film opens in darkness – and then a door opens out onto the endless, Technicolor plains. A woman steps out onto a porch and the camera follows, panning to the right. Over her shoulder, the camera catches a solitary rider heading towards the cabin – civilization – with the desolation and savagery of the frontier at his back. It is a perfect way to start a movie, encapsulating that old saw that every story begins with one of two events: a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes into town. Le ...more
happy
May 19, 2014 happy rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-general
I found this a fascinating look at both the history behind and the making of the movie “The Searchers”. Basically this book is divided into 4 parts. First Mr. Frankel tells the story of Cynthia Ann Parker, a young 9 yr old girl captured by the Comanche in 1836, and her uncle who spent 7 yrs looking for her. The second part tells the story of her son, the Comanche Chief Quanah Parker. The author then gives us the story of the Novel and the author of that novel – Alan LeMay. Finally he tells the s ...more
Sam Sattler
Feb 06, 2014 Sam Sattler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Glenn Frankel has written one of those rare books that combine two very different topics (Texas frontier history and cinema history) so seamlessly that the reader wonders why no one thought of doing it before now. Frankel begins his tale with the story of Cynthia Ann Parker, the little girl who was kidnapped by Comanche raiders after she watched them butcher most of her family. He ends it with an engrossing account of the making of one of Hollywood’s best-known movies, The Searchers, the John Wa ...more
Rick
Apr 30, 2014 Rick rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The Searchers is a fine account of the history, myth, novel, and filmmaking behind the John Ford movie by the same name. The first third of the book is about the double kidnapping of Cynthia Ann Parker, first by Comanche raiders and then, years later, by white soldiers—by the time she was “rescued” she was very much a Comanche, married, with two children, one of whom was Quanah Parker, who became one of the last resistors to reservation life and then a leader in assimilation, even hosting Presid ...more
Jim
Jun 16, 2013 Jim rated it really liked it
An excellent concept for a book, this volume has three successive sections, all tied together by the tough cord of John Ford's masterpiece, the classic Western film THE SEARCHERS. In the first section, author Glenn Frankel explores with intelligence and amazing depth the true story of Cynthia Ann Parker, kidnapped by Comanches from her family in 1836 Texas, raised as an Indian while her uncle spent years looking for her, and re-abducted back into white society as a grown woman with children -- o ...more
Evgenia
Mar 09, 2016 Evgenia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This is really two books, loosely affiliated, both excellent. The first is an exploration of the Native American practice of kidnapping and occasional assimilation of captives—often the encroaching white settlers—mostly through one infamous family’s experience. It is an honest, unromanticized examination of a custom that was sometimes empathetic, other times brutal, often both, and it neither condemns nor exalts the practitioners. It also does justice to the people who existed between the confli ...more
Margaret Sankey
Apr 19, 2013 Margaret Sankey rated it liked it
A while ago, I read a book attempting to reconstruct accurately the events surrounding the lives of Cynthia Ann Parker and her son Quanah. This takes a different tack--to what ends has this story been put, culminating in the filming of John Ford's The Searchers. Early chapters consider the leveraging of the captivity narrative by Parker relatives to encourage retaliation against the Comanche, while later, Quanah Parker used an emphasis on his half-white background to make a case for being a brid ...more
Bobby D
Sep 07, 2014 Bobby D rated it it was amazing
When I heard of this book I just had to read it. THE SEARCHERS is one of my favorite movies. It is difficult to realize that many of today's movie fans have never seen John Ford's 1957 film. My Son-in-law recently watched the Bluray version with my Grandsons. How many of us are aware of the historical events that lead to Alan LeMay's novel and to Frank Nugen's screenplay for what many consider John Ford's best film. And John Wayne's finest performance in a film that finds him bound and determin ...more
Frank Hughes
Apr 12, 2013 Frank Hughes rated it liked it
Less about the movie and more about one of the incidents that inspired the novel on which the movie is based. Fascinating stuff, but after a while I'm like "enough already". When we get to the filmmaking section the author shifts into high gear and speeds through a sort of Reader's Digest synopsis. At times he seems to accuse the novelist Alan LeMay and the filmmakers of painting a dark one-dimensional picture of the Comanche, despite the fact that he himself, early in the book, is exceptionally ...more
Adrian
Jun 29, 2014 Adrian added it
Frankel investigates an historical event that becomes a book and then a movie. The murder of a pioneer family and capturing of the daughter Cynthia Ann Parker by Commanches is the historical event. Parker spent 20 years among the Commanche before being recaptured by Texas Rangers. Frankel spends too long recounting Commanche history- its done better elsewhere- but the story of how it became a much changed story in a book by Alan Le May and changed even more when it became John Ford's movie 'The ...more
Nancy L.
Jun 04, 2015 Nancy L. rated it it was amazing
The worthy Jim Beaver states, "This is a book that transcends the movie behind it. It portrays real history with insight and intensity and gives enormous resonance to the book and movie drawn from that history." I agree in the strongest terms.

And I'll go further and say that this is the best book I've read on both on Hollywood and 19th c. America in many a year. I'm not a huge fan of Wayne's or of the film, but I respect both Wayne's performance and the film itself as seminal. The enduring value
...more
Franz
Apr 19, 2013 Franz rated it really liked it
Frankel tells several linked stories. First there is the true story of Cynthia Ann Parker, who witnessed her family's murder as a nine year old as she was kidnapped by Commanche raiders in East Texas in 1836; the persistent and futile efforts of her uncle, James Parker, to scour the Indian lands of Texas in a dangerous multi-year search for her before finally wearing out and giving up; her rescue years later by a combined force of US Army cavalry and Texas Rangers who massacred much of her India ...more
Richard Kramer
Apr 09, 2013 Richard Kramer rated it it was amazing
In 1836 a nine-year-old girl named Cynthia Ann Parker was taken captive by Commanches in Texas, from land her homesteading family had co-opted from the tribe; they, in turn, co-opted Cynthia Ann (among others). Twenty-four years later, she was reclaimed or, to use the language of the time, redeem'd. Only she wasn't saved by this redemption; she was destroyed by it, as she had become a full member of the tribe, the wife of a warrior, the mother of his two sons, a sin in the eyes of he redeemers a ...more
Edgar Raines
Dec 29, 2013 Edgar Raines rated it it was amazing

Frankel begins his book with an account of the attack by Comanche Indians on Parker's Fort in 1836, the massacre of many of the inhabitants, and the abduction of several of the survivors including Cynthia Ann Parker, then nine years old. One of her uncles, James Parker, spent nine years attempting to penetrate Comanche country, locate his niece, and rescue his niece. All his efforts were futile. Then in 1860 a mixed force of Texas Rangers and U.S. Cavalry attacked a Comanche camp on the Pease Ri
...more
Ariel
Apr 28, 2013 Ariel rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
"The modern image of Indians-nurtured by the Native Americans rights movement, revisionist historians, and the film Dances with Wolves-has been one of profoundly spiritual and environmentally friendly genocide victims seeking harmony with the land and humankind. But the Comanches were nobody's victims and no one's friends. They were magnificent, brutal, and relentless."

I love a good true life story and this was one was amazing. When Cynthia Ann Parker was nine her family was massacred by the Com
...more
Joshua
May 04, 2013 Joshua rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2013
Kind of a duel bit of non-fiction here with Glenn Frankel devoting time to the actual Comanche kidnapping in 20th century texas, the novel that was inspired by it and ultimately the John Ford western drawn from the novel. Famed Comanche Quanah Parker was the son of the white woman taken by the Comanche in a raid on farmers in some remote agricultural outpost. As usual, I root hard for the Comanche when they face the texas rangers, the cavalry or any other person coming in contact with them. They ...more
Bill
Oct 12, 2013 Bill rated it liked it
Shelves: history, film
A fascinating book that is several books in one. It's a history of the relations between settlers and Comanches, concentrating on the kidnapping of Cynthia Ann Parker. It's a short biography of Quanah Parker, who tried to bridge the divide between whites and Indians. It's a pop culture history of the making of the movie The Searchers. Separately, all those stories are fascinating (though for me the main interest was on the making of the film). Where the book fails is trying all the parts togethe ...more
Larry
Apr 01, 2013 Larry rated it really liked it
The capture of Cynthia Ann Parker by the Comanche, and her subsequent recapture decades later, was the most famous of the Indian captivity accounts. It was an especially well known story because Parker's son, Quanah, became a Comanche leader, one who managed to exert influence in both of the two worlds (or at least to prosper). Frankel provides a detailed history of Cynthia and Quanah Parker's lives, and then describes how Alan Lemay, the novelist-screenwriter, and John Ford, the famous director ...more
Mary Ann
Jan 04, 2016 Mary Ann rated it it was amazing
This book is not the famous novel, “The Searchers.” Alan LeMay wrote that one. It isn’t the movie starring Joh Wayne. This book is the story behind those stories and also the short lived television series “The Quest.” Those stories were all based loosely on the stories told of Cynthia Ann Parker and her son, Quanah,
This book attempts to recreate the history and extract some truth from legend. It alko gives background material on the novel and the movie.
Let’s go back to Texas, 1836, the year
...more
Randy
Mar 29, 2015 Randy rated it it was amazing
Found this book while looking for something else to read on my Nook and enjoyed it far more than expected. In the last few decades, The Searchers has become recognized by many film critics as one of the best Westerns ever made, if not THE best example of the genre. Either way, I’ve grown to love the film as I’ve grown up and moved past my pre-teen hero worship of John Wayne to seek more depth and nuance from film watching experiences than I did at that age. While some films falter, Wayne’s depic ...more
Eric
Jul 20, 2014 Eric rated it it was amazing
Shelves: film, history-science
The ostensible subject of this one-of-a-kind work, which tries to nestle uncomfortably within the film studies subgenre of the “making-of” chronicle, is close to the hearts of many movie buffs, John Ford’s mercurial, lyrical, inscrutable Western myth “The Searchers.” It’s an extremely controversial film even yet, nearly 60 years after its release, for its complex, conflicted treatment of a very touchy subject in American life—race relations, and more specifically the devastating treatment of the ...more
Jeffrey
Feb 16, 2014 Jeffrey rated it it was amazing
Ranked #12 on AFI's 100 Greatest Films list, John Ford's classic film from 1956, THE SEARCHERS, is in fact based on a true story.

In 1836 in East Texas, nine-year-old Cynthia Ann Parker was kidnapped by Comanches after watching her family being slaughtered. She was raised by the tribe, married one of the warriors, and gave birth to three children. Twenty four years later, she was reclaimed by the U.S. cavalry and restored to her white relatives. Unable to speak English, and grieving for her husba
...more
Christina Dudley
Jun 26, 2014 Christina Dudley rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
This book fell naturally into two parts, both of which I found fascinating. First, Frankel explored Texas history and the conflicts between Mexicans, Americans, and native Indian tribes as the land was settled. Basically, everyone behaved very badly, and Frankel does an evenhanded job describing how folks are folks, and no one had the monopoly on ruthless killing or viewing the other group as subhuman. He revisits the famous legend (to Texans) of Cynthia Ann Parker, kidnapped by the Comanches as ...more
Richard Moss
Nov 17, 2015 Richard Moss rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
I'm no fan of John Wayne's politics - his role in the Hollywood Communist witch hunts of the 1950s won't endear him to many today - but I love many of his films, particularly before he became a parody of himself in the later movies.

He wasn't a great actor, but he was a great presence, capable of great performances (albeit as variations on the same persona). His best performance comes in the John Ford Western The Searchers - and it's one of my favourite films.

Wayne as Ethan Edwards mirrors the fi
...more
Julie
Nov 19, 2014 Julie rated it really liked it
I was going to give this three stars for a while, but it changed my mind as it finished. This book is a brilliant history linking a famous event of American history to the legends and the works this and other similar events they inspired.

I first read, "Ride the Wind" by Lucia St. Clair Robson then I read LeMay's novel "The Searchers" which I surprisingly quite liked. I intend to watch the movie next which I might also be surprised by as I don't really expect to like it. But this book was a wond
...more
Janta
As always, a note about the ebook version: the text is 85% of the total ebook. The remainder is acknowledgements, notes, etc.

This was sort of like two books in one, plus an article. The first section of the book details the historical event that the novel (and subsequently the film) "The Searchers" is based on: the abduction of Cynthia Ann Parker by Comanches, and her life with them until "liberated" by Texas Rangers. Frankel does a good job of discussing both the actual even and the way it was
...more
Gary
Feb 06, 2015 Gary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This seemed like two different books between the same cover, and while each was interesting, I'm not sure they held together very well.

The first was about Cynthia Ann Parker, a young girl kidnapped by the Comanches with whom she then lived until her adulthood. Her uncle dedicated much of his life seeking to rescue her, to no avail. When the US cavalry found her accidentally many years after her abduction by raiding a Comanche camp, she had so come to adopt Comanche culture that she never re-adju
...more
Pirate
Oct 30, 2014 Pirate rated it it was amazing
Terrific subject and both parts are equally well observed and written, the terrifying ordeal of the kidnaps not just of the girl he highlights but of others experiences and her inability to return to the life she had before it and ironically how her son coped far better with dealing with both his Red Indian and White acquaintances. Really enjoyable and then the portrayal of the main characters involved in the filming are equally as fascinating, Pappy Ford wow what a complex man he was, fascinati ...more
Ramon4
Jan 25, 2016 Ramon4 rated it really liked it
Excellent history book. I can’t recall enjoying a non-fiction book as much as this one. Author Glenn Frankel starts with the classic 1956 film, THE SEARCHERS, starring John Wayne and directed by John Ford. He explains how the film is the retelling of the myth of Cynthia Ann Parker. Frankel then goes on to tells us about the facts and myths of the 1836 Comanche abduction of Cynthia Ann Parker, the fruitless search for her by her uncle, and then how she was found 23 years later as the US Army clos ...more
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Glenn Frankel worked for nearly 30 years for the Washington Post, as a reporter, a foreign correspondent, and editor of the Washington Post Magazine. As Jerusalem bureau chief, he won the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for "sensitive and balanced reporting from Israel and the Middle East." His first book, Beyond the Promised Land: Jews and Arabs on the Hard Road to a New Israel won the National Jewish Book A ...more
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