Glenn Frankel is director of the School of Journalism and G.B. Dealey Regents Professor in Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.
His new book is The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend.
From the author's Q & A at DirectedByJohnFord.com:
DxJF: What prompted you to write the book?Visit Glenn Frankel's website.
GF: I’d loved The Searchers since I first saw it as a child and for perhaps 20 years I thought I’d love to write about it. Eventually, I started thinking about a coffee table book for the 50th anniversary in 2006, but then I got sidetracked by another foreign assignment for The Washington Post. When I got back from overseas, I wanted to write an American book, and nothing seemed more American than The Searchers. What I didn’t realize was that what began as a simple book about the making of a movie in 1955 would expand into a multi-generational epic spanning 150 years and the entire Southwest.
DxJF: What are the significant differences between the Alan LeMay fictional presentation of the Cynthia Parker story vs. the Ford’s film version of The Searchers? And how does Cynthia Ann’s real story compare to each?
GF: Alan LeMay took the original story, changed the date from 1836 to 1868, combined Cynthia Ann’s tale with that of several other abductees from other times and places, and then shifted the focus from the victim to the relatives who searched to find her. Ford faithfully uses the spirit of LeMay’s novel but shifts some significant parts to fit his needs. The uncle who heads the search becomes the central figure, most notably because he’s played by John Wayne and Wayne dominated every movie he was in. The novel is a powerful piece of work but it’s unrelentingly dark and grim, and Ford leavens it with a tablespoon of cornball humor. Finally, and perhaps most important, Ford raises to the surface all of the racial and sexual tensions that underlie the book. He gives Martin some Indian blood, thus making one of the heroes a “half breed.” And he makes clear that Ethan [played by John Wayne] is searching for Debbie not to restore her to the family but to kill her because she has grown into a young woman and, willingly or not, has had sex with a Comanches.
In both the novel and the film...[read on]