March 14, 2013
The Searchers: The Making of
An American Legend
In 1836, in East Texas, a war group of Comanche has kidnapped, a nine-year-old girl named Cynthia Ann Parker. The Indian tribe took her in and raised her as if she was a natural part of their tribe. She was welcomed by the tribe and eventually became the wife of a warrior. Ethan Edwards, (John Wayne) an embittered veteran, who returns home to Texas after the Civil War. Ethan is quickly informed that Comanche Indians have killed his family and kidnapped his remaining niece. Joined with Martin Pawley, Ethan sets out to find his remaining niece, Debbie. Just like the title suggests, the duo searches five years for the now young woman and depicts their struggle to rescue her now that the tribe has adopted her and she is married to Chief Scar. Although the story deviates from documented history: it portrays the triumph of the white civilization, fortified by the anxiety regarding fears of what the “savages” do to ruin white women when captured. What makes this film so powerful is that it displays the ambiguities that surround race, sexuality, and violence incurred when the West was settled. The Myth
It was twenty-four years after the kidnapping of Cynthia Ann before the U.S. Calvary along with the Texas Rangers reclaimed her and she was reunited with her white family. Since the Indians had raised her, reuniting her (after being soiled by the Indians) was not in her best interest. Cynthia died in misery, feeling inconspicuous and unknown, all alone because of the white people’s false beliefs and prejudices. The Searchers movie did a good job of showing racial discord.
The story of Cynthia Ann was told and retold over many generations, making it an American tail, or even a myth. In the 1950s, Alan LeMay turned her story into a novel, which was adapted into one of Hollywood’s most legendary films. The Searchers was directed by John Ford and...