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"The Searchers" was the ninth of the 14 major films in which Ford directed John Wayne. The actor owed his career to Ford -- he plucked Wayne from B movie purgatory to star in "Stagecoach" (1939) when others wanted Gary Cooper -- and Ford never let Wayne forget it. Wayne took as much abuse as anyone from the bullying Ford. While making "The Searchers," Ford screamed at Hollywood's greatest cowboy, "When will you learn to ride a horse?"
Control freak that he was, Ford was surprisingly open to improvising. As Frankel relates, the famous closing shot of "The Searchers" -- framed in a ranch house doorway -- was just one instance in which Ford went with his gut instead of his script.
Frankel's excellent research and analysis and his fine writing raise the bar for the "making of" film book. His narrative details the life of a modern legend -- in this case, a historical event that sparked a novel that led to a film, each step revealing a different aspect of how we tell our stories and why.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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