The Americans arrive in mysterious and dangerous Tehran

The trek with the Bakhtiari lasted 46 days. Halfway through the trip, Marguerite became severely ill with malaria, forcing the tribe to pause its journey for several days until she could recover well enough to mount her mule. After crossing a river on a goatskin raft and climbing a rugged snow-covered mountain, Marguerite was relieved …

Marguerite tends to ill Bakhtiari, amputating a finger, expelling a leech

The Bakhtiari men ruled harshly over the women, who did most of the work around the camp. While the men gossiped with their neighbors, the women milked the sheep and goats and prepared the meals. Cooper and Schoedsack joined the men, lounging around the tents. Marguerite didn’t work with the women, but she soon found herself busy …

Marguerite smokes opium while floating on a barge of goatskins

Merican Cooper, Ernest Schoedsack and Marguerite Harrison were thrilled with the prospect of reaching the Bakhtiari, but it was already mid-March, and they hadn’t much time because soon the tribe would be setting out on its journey.  A British political officer found the Americans a car to take them to Shushtar, where the Bakhtiari princes were camped. There, they met a young …

The Americans try to reach the Bakhtiari

British intelligence officers in Bagdad, including Gertrude Bell and Sir Arnold Wilson, advised Marguerite Harrison, Merian Cooper and Ernest Schoedsack to try filming the Bakhtiari, the same tribe Harry Dwight had suggested a year earlier. The Bakhtiari, who lived west of the Zagros Mountains, each spring undertook an arduous journey in search of grass for …

Turmoil in Turkey thwarts plan to film Kurds

At the time Marguerite Harrison, Merian Cooper and Ernest Schoedsack set out to film Grass, Western nations had keen interest in the Middle East. Inspired by the writings of British adventurers, including spies T. E. Lawrence and Gertrude Bell, tourism to the region thrived. In addition to the cultural fascination with the area, the American, …

An unusual team sets off for a mission and a movie

Marguerite Harrison, Merian Cooper and Ernest Schoedsack formed an unusual team as they set off on the Middle East mission worker under the cover of filmmakers. Marguerite, a former Baltimore socialite, knew nothing about film making. What she knew about movies was drawn mainly from her position on the Maryland movie censorship board, that her …

A mission and a mystery: Harrison in the Middle East

Marguerite Harrison, Merian Cooper, and Ernest Schoedsack kept the Middle East mission secret their entire lives. They wrote books and articles, and they gave lectures and interviews about the expedition. But they never revealed that while documenting the epic journey of a Persian tribe’s search for pasture, they were gathering intelligence for the U.S. Army. …