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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 Anns story has been told and re-told over generations to become a foundational American tale. The myth gave rise to operas and one-act plays, and in the 1950s to a novel by Alan LeMay, which would be adapted into one of Hollywoods most legendary films, The Searchers, The Biggest, Roughest, Toughest... and Most Beautiful Picture Ever Made! directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne. Glenn Frankel, beginning in Hollywood and then returning to the origins of the story, creates a rich and nuanced anatomy of a timeless film and a quintessentially American myth.

About the Author

Glenn Frankel

As a boy growing up in Rochester, NY, I loved movies, especially Westerns and most especially John Ford's The Searchers. Everything about it thrilled and frightened me---most especially John Wayne's towering performance as Ethan Edwards, the avenging uncle who searches for his abducted niece for seven years. I grew up to become a journalist and a foreign correspondent for the Washington Post, and when I came back to the United States in 2006 after a final tour in London I wanted to write a book about America. What could be more American than The Searchers? I quickly discovered that the movie was loosely based on the true story of Cynthia Ann Parker, who at nine years old was kidnapped by Comanches in East Texas in 1836. What started as a book about an iconic movie evolved into something more ambitious about history and legend. The book did surprisingly well critically and sold respectably, and I found myself searching for another book that combined a classic film with a turbulent era in American history. I soon stumbled upon the story of the making of High Noon and its connection to the Hollywood blacklist. It has turned out to be a fascinating project. I was able to find government records at the National Archives that had been released over the past 15 years but had never been widely published, plus unpublished interviews with the men who made High Noon---most especially Carl Foreman, who finished the screenplay while under subpoena to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Foreman, his business partner Stanley Kramer, and the legendary movie star Gary Cooper became the main characters of my story, which explores the cost of conscience for people like Carl, a former Communist who faced a terrible choice between cooperating with the committee by divulging the names of his former comrades or losing his job and his livelihood. The Red Scare era was a time of political backlash, high anxiety, vicious rhetoric and false allegations not unlike our own troubled era. My book ultimately poses the question that history often asks: if we had been in the same difficult position as Carl Foreman and others called to the witness stand, what would we have done? I loved working on this challenging project and I hope readers it as compelling as I did.

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