December 14, 2010

McMurtry to malign Comanches again?

'Brokeback' Duo Larry McMurtry And Diana Ossana Script Pair of Period Westerns

By Mike FlemingFirst, they will complete The Color of Lightning, an adaptation the Paulette Jiles book that was published by Harper Collins. Britt Johnson is a freed slave who moves his wife and three children to Texas with dreams of starting a freight business. When he's away, a raiding party of Comanche and Kiowa kill his oldest son and take his family captive. Johnson spends a winter plotting revenge. The story is loosely based on a factual tale said to be an inspiration for the classic Western The Searchers.

The S.C. Gwynne book Empire of the Summer Moon is certainly more sympathetic to the Comanches. The book is a Braveheart-style epic about the great Comanche warrior Quanah, who held the westward expansion of settlers at bay for 40 years, and led to the formation of the Texas Rangers to fight against them.

Published last summer by Scribner, Empire of the Summer Moon focuses on the warrior skills of Quanah, considered the greatest chief the tribe ever had. A big part of the story is the chief's mother, Cynthia Ann Parker, a blue-eyed honey-haired child who was kidnapped by the Comanches when she was 9 and incorporated into the tribe. Her son steeled the Comanches to become ferocious warriors, and the primary impediment to Western expansion.
Comment:  White man plots revenge against murderous Indians...yeah, that's really a story that needs to be told. Which must be why Hollywood told it a few dozen times already in the 1940s and 1950s. But there may be a few Americans who don't think Indians are savage killers, so let's tell it again.

McMurtry seems to write a lot about the Comanches. I hope these scripts won't be hatchet jobs like Comanche Moon was. But I suspect something is going on here. Does McMurtry like to make the Comanches look bad so his fellow white men (the Texas Rangers and other anti-Indian interlopers) look good? Is he prejudiced against Indians, as I've suggested before?

For more on McMurtry's writing, see Larry McMurty's Crazy Horse and Indians in Lonesome Dove. For another movie about the devilish Comanches, see Debating Unbound Captives.

Below:  Indians go wild in McMurtry's Comanche Moon.

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