Sunday, Sep 2020
Director: Cecil B De Mille
Screenwriters: Waldemar Young, Harold Lamb, JeanieMacpherson, & Lynn Riggs from Frank Wilstach's story "Wild Bill Hickok".
Length: 113 mins.
Released: 1936 B & W

the plainsman posterCecil B. De Mille rekindled interest in the Western with three movies produced in the late 1930's; The Plainsman, Union Pacific, and Northwest Mounted Police.

The Plainsman cobbles many legends of the American West together. The movie begins with with Abe Lincoln on his way to Ford's theater and ends with Wild Bill Hickok (Gary Cooper) being shot in the Old #10 saloon in Deadwood while holding "aces and eights". Along the way, the Hickok's pal, Buffalo Bill and his new bride move in and out of the movie. And other giants of Western lore manage to find their way into the script. Even General George Custer is portrayed. The need to stack the movie with familiar personalities distracts from what is essentially a love story about Calamity Jane and Wild Bill.

The Plainsman does showcase fine horsemanship and many spectacular tumbles but several scenes are clearly pasted onto a studio set. Anthony Quinn is as close as the cast comes to an Indian. A role he reprised in several other westerns. The portrayal of Indians in this movie is quite rough. They are a grunting bunch of savages not much different than cavemen. The Indian dialog is also quite primitive. Indian want "thunder sticks" (guns). How many North American Indians called rifles thunder sticks in the late 1860's? They owned rifles, they wanted new models of repeating rifles...

The love between Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok is unrequited. The chemistry between the two works and holds the movie together as the good guys try to stop the bad guys from selling the new rifles to the Indians. Considering its date, the film probably should be placed on the Good View page. But its treatment of Indians necessitates confining it to the Rough Rider Reservation.

Cast:

  • Gary Cooper.... Wild Bill Hickok
  • Jean Arthur.... Calamity Jane
  • James Ellison.... Buffalo Bill Cody
  • Charles Bickford.... John Lattimer
  • Helen Burgess.... Louisa Cody
  • Porter Hall.... Jack McCall
  • Paul Harvey .... Chief Yellow Hand
  • Victor Varconi.... Painted Horse
  • John Miljan.... General George Armstrong Custer
  • Frank McGlynn Sr..... Abraham Lincoln
  • Granville Bates.... Van Ellyn
  • Frank Albertson.... Young Trooper of the Seventh Cavalry
  • Purnell Pratt.... Captain Wood
  • Fred Kohler.... Jake, a teamster
  • Pat Moriarity.... Sergeant McGinnis
Back To Top