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Explaining and Exploring "The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend"

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One of the more famous lines attributed to John Ford (1894-1973), the iconic film director who made many of the finest Westerns ever to come out of Hollywood, goes like this: "When the truth becomes legend, print the legend." That line is from "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," a movie from the early 1960s, but it just as clearly applies to "The Searchers," the classic Western from 1956, with John Wayne and Natalie Wood, which is commonly seen as a Ford masterpiece. For in "The Searchers" --- as a successful novel, and then, a few years later, as a hit movie --- we really do find an example of truth transitioning into legend. On our show today, we speak by phone with an authority on this transition. Our guest is Glenn Frankel, a former Washington Post correspondent and editor, now based in Austin, Texas, who's also the author of "The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend." This well-received book both explains and explores how a certain tragedy in Texas in 1836 --- the pivotal kidnapping of one Cynthia Ann Parker, at the age of nine, by Comanche Indians --- was converted from Old West history into American mythology. Frankel will be participating in a Book Smart Tulsa reading/lecture/Q&A event tonight at the Circle Cinema (near the corner of 1st and Lewis); the event begins at 7pm, and it will include a free screening of the classic John Ford film in question. (To learn more about this event, please see this link.)

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