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The Plainsman

The Plainsman

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The Plainsman is a 1936
1936 in film
The year 1936 in film involved some significant events.-Events:*May 29 - Fritz Lang's first Hollywood film Fury, starring Spencer Tracy and Bruce Cabot, is released.*November 6 - first Porky Pig animated cartoon...

 American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 Western
Western (genre)
The Western is a genre of various visual arts, such as film, television, radio, literature, painting and others. Westerns are devoted to telling stories set primarily in the latter half of the 19th century in the American Old West, hence the name. Some Westerns are set as early as the Battle of...

 film directed by Cecil B. DeMille
Cecil B. DeMille
Cecil Blount DeMille was an American film director and Academy Award-winning film producer in both silent and sound films. He was renowned for the flamboyance and showmanship of his movies...

, and starring Gary Cooper
Gary Cooper
Frank James Cooper, known professionally as Gary Cooper, was an American film actor. He was renowned for his quiet, understated acting style and his stoic, but at times intense screen persona, which was particularly well suited to the many Westerns he made...

 and Jean Arthur
Jean Arthur
Jean Arthur was an American actress and a major film star of the 1930s and 1940s. She remains arguably the epitome of the female screwball comedy actress. As James Harvey wrote in his recounting of the era, "No one was more closely identified with the screwball comedy than Jean Arthur...

. The film presents a highly fictionalized account of the adventures and relationships between Wild Bill Hickok
Wild Bill Hickok
James Butler Hickok , better known as Wild Bill Hickok, was a folk hero of the American Old West. His skills as a gunfighter and scout, along with his reputation as a lawman, provided the basis for his fame, although some of his exploits are fictionalized.Hickok came to the West as a stagecoach...

, Calamity Jane
Calamity Jane
Martha Jane Cannary Burke , better known as Calamity Jane, was an American frontierswoman, and professional scout best known for her claim of being an acquaintance of Wild Bill Hickok, but also for having gained fame fighting Native Americans...

, Buffalo Bill Cody, and General George Custer
George Armstrong Custer
George Armstrong Custer was a United States Army officer and cavalry commander in the American Civil War and the Indian Wars. Raised in Michigan and Ohio, Custer was admitted to West Point in 1858, where he graduated last in his class...

, with a gun-runner named Lattimer (Charles Bickford
Charles Bickford
Charles Bickford was an American actor best known for his supporting roles. He was nominated three times for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, for The Song of Bernadette , The Farmer's Daughter , and Johnny Belinda...

) as the main villain. The film is notorious for mixing timelines and even has an opening scene with Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

 setting the stage for Hickock's adventures. Anthony Quinn
Anthony Quinn
Antonio Rodolfo Quinn-Oaxaca , more commonly known as Anthony Quinn, was a Mexican American actor, as well as a painter and writer...

 has a cameo as an Indian. A remake using the same title
The Plainsman (1966 film)
The Plainsman is a Technicolor remake of the 1936 Cecil B. DeMille film of the same name. It stars Don Murray as Wild Bill Hickock, Guy Stockwell as Buffalo Bill Cody and Abby Dalton as Calamity Jane-Cast:*Don Murray as Wild Bill Hickok...

 was released in 1966.

Plot


With the end of the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, military industrialists are left with an oversupply of weapons. Some of the more unscrupulous ones view the Indians
Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants and other ethnic groups who are identified with those peoples. Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, and in the United States as Native Americans...

 as possible new customers.

Wild Bill Hickok (Gary Cooper
Gary Cooper
Frank James Cooper, known professionally as Gary Cooper, was an American film actor. He was renowned for his quiet, understated acting style and his stoic, but at times intense screen persona, which was particularly well suited to the many Westerns he made...

) has just been discharged from the Union Army
Union Army
The Union Army was the land force that fought for the Union during the American Civil War. It was also known as the Federal Army, the U.S. Army, the Northern Army and the National Army...

 and is making his way back west. On a paddle steamer
Paddle steamer
A paddle steamer is a steamship or riverboat, powered by a steam engine, using paddle wheels to propel it through the water. In antiquity, Paddle wheelers followed the development of poles, oars and sails, where the first uses were wheelers driven by animals or humans...

, he bumps into his old army scout colleague, Buffalo Bill Cody (James Ellison) and his new bride. Later, Calamity Jane (Jean Arthur
Jean Arthur
Jean Arthur was an American actress and a major film star of the 1930s and 1940s. She remains arguably the epitome of the female screwball comedy actress. As James Harvey wrote in his recounting of the era, "No one was more closely identified with the screwball comedy than Jean Arthur...

) is the driver of their stagecoach to Hays, Kansas
Hays, Kansas
Hays is a city in and the county seat of Ellis County, Kansas, United States. The largest city in northwestern Kansas, it is the economic and cultural center of the region. It is also a college town, home to Fort Hays State University...

.

John Lattimer, an agent for the gun makers, has supplied the Cheyenne
Cheyenne
Cheyenne are a Native American people of the Great Plains, who are of the Algonquian language family. The Cheyenne Nation is composed of two united tribes, the Só'taeo'o and the Tsétsêhéstâhese .The Cheyenne are thought to have branched off other tribes of Algonquian stock inhabiting lands...

 Indians with repeating rifle
Repeating rifle
A repeating rifle is a single barreled rifle containing multiple rounds of ammunition. These rounds are loaded from a magazine by means of a manual or automatic mechanism, and the action that reloads the rifle also typically recocks the firing action...

s, which enable them to kill half of the troopers at a United States Cavalry outpost. Hickok discovers the rifles and reports it to General George Armstrong Custer (John Miljan
John Miljan
John Miljan was an American actor of Serbian origin. He appeared in 201 films between 1924 and 1958.He died from cancer.-Selected filmography:* The Lone Chance * Silent Sanderson...

). Custer sends out a resupply mule train to the fort with Cody as guide. Hickock tries to locate Yellow Hand (Paul Harvey
Paul Harvey
Paul Harvey Aurandt , better known as Paul Harvey, was an American radio broadcaster for the ABC Radio Networks. He broadcast News and Comment on weekday mornings and mid-days, and at noon on Saturdays, as well as his famous The Rest of the Story segments. His listening audience was estimated, at...

), the Cheyenne chieftain, to find out why the Indians have gone to war.

When Calamity Jane is captured by the Indians, Hickok tries to bargain for her release, but instead gets captured himself. Yellow Hand states that the Indians are fighting because the white man has starting settling land promised to the Indian and is killing off the buffalo
American Bison
The American bison , also commonly known as the American buffalo, is a North American species of bison that once roamed the grasslands of North America in massive herds...

. Yellow Hand promises to release his captives if they tell him the location of the resupply train. After much prodding from Jane, Hickok professes his love for her just before he is about to be tortured. Calamity Jane then discloses the route of the resupply train in order to save Hickok from being burned alive. Yellow Hand holds true to his word by releasing his two prisoners.

The Indians attack the resupply train. Hickok sends Jane to get reinforcements while he fights alongside the besieged soldiers. After a desperate six-day siege on a river bank, the survivors are saved when Custer arrives with the cavalry.

Back in town, Hickok catches up with Lattimer and tells him to get ready for a gun duel. Instead of going himself, Lattimer sends three cavalry deserters in his place. Hickok kills all three deserters in the gunfight, but this makes him a fugitive
Fugitive
A fugitive is a person who is fleeing from custody, whether it be from private slavery, a government arrest, government or non-government questioning, vigilante violence, or outraged private individuals...

 from the law. Hickok flees to the Dakota Territory
Dakota Territory
The Territory of Dakota was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from March 2, 1861, until November 2, 1889, when the final extent of the reduced territory was split and admitted to the Union as the states of North and South Dakota.The Dakota Territory consisted of...

. Calamity Jane leaves for Deadwood
Deadwood, South Dakota
Deadwood is a city in South Dakota, United States, and the county seat of Lawrence County. It is named for the dead trees found in its gulch. The population was 1,270 according to a 2010 census...

 separately when the townspeople find out that she was partly responsible for the attack on the supply train.

Custer sends Cody after Hickok. After meeting in the woods, the two friends capture an Indian and learn that Custer has been killed at the Battle of the Little Bighorn
Battle of the Little Bighorn
The Battle of the Little Bighorn, also known as Custer's Last Stand and, by the Indians involved, as the Battle of the Greasy Grass, was an armed engagement between combined forces of Lakota, Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho people against the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army...

 and that the Cheyenne are moving to join the Sioux
Sioux
The Sioux are Native American and First Nations people in North America. The term can refer to any ethnic group within the Great Sioux Nation or any of the nation's many language dialects...

 Indians in the Black Hills
Black Hills
The Black Hills are a small, isolated mountain range rising from the Great Plains of North America in western South Dakota and extending into Wyoming, USA. Set off from the main body of the Rocky Mountains, the region is something of a geological anomaly—accurately described as an "island of...

. They also learn that Lattimer is sending more rifle
Rifle
A rifle is a firearm designed to be fired from the shoulder, with a barrel that has a helical groove or pattern of grooves cut into the barrel walls. The raised areas of the rifling are called "lands," which make contact with the projectile , imparting spin around an axis corresponding to the...

s to the Indians, to be picked up in Deadwood. Instead of arresting his friend, Cody rides off to warn the cavalry, while Hickok goes to Deadwood to deal with Lattimer. Hickok kills Lattimer and detains Lattimer's henchmen
Henchman
Henchman referred originally to one who attended on a horse for his employer, that is, a horse groom. Hence, like constable and marshal, also originally stable staff, henchman became the title of a subordinate official in a royal court or noble household...

 for arrest by the cavalry. Hickok is shot in the back by Lattimer's informant while he is playing cards with the henchmen. The film ends with a heart-broken Calamity Jane cradling Hickok's body.

Cast

  • Gary Cooper
    Gary Cooper
    Frank James Cooper, known professionally as Gary Cooper, was an American film actor. He was renowned for his quiet, understated acting style and his stoic, but at times intense screen persona, which was particularly well suited to the many Westerns he made...

     as Wild Bill Hickok
  • Jean Arthur
    Jean Arthur
    Jean Arthur was an American actress and a major film star of the 1930s and 1940s. She remains arguably the epitome of the female screwball comedy actress. As James Harvey wrote in his recounting of the era, "No one was more closely identified with the screwball comedy than Jean Arthur...

     as Calamity Jane
  • James Ellison as William "Buffalo Bill" Cody
  • Charles Bickford
    Charles Bickford
    Charles Bickford was an American actor best known for his supporting roles. He was nominated three times for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, for The Song of Bernadette , The Farmer's Daughter , and Johnny Belinda...

     as John Lattimer
  • Helen Burgess as Louisa Cody
  • Porter Hall
    Porter Hall
    Porter Hall was an American character actor known for appearing in a number of films in the 1930s and 1940s...

     as Jack McCall
  • Paul Harvey
    Paul Harvey
    Paul Harvey Aurandt , better known as Paul Harvey, was an American radio broadcaster for the ABC Radio Networks. He broadcast News and Comment on weekday mornings and mid-days, and at noon on Saturdays, as well as his famous The Rest of the Story segments. His listening audience was estimated, at...

     as Yellow Hand
  • Victor Varconi
    Victor Varconi
    Victor Varconi was a highly successful silent film star in Hungary. Born Mihály Várkonyi in Kisvárda, Austria-Hungary, he was the first Hungarian actor to make a film in the United States....

     as Painted Horse
  • John Miljan
    John Miljan
    John Miljan was an American actor of Serbian origin. He appeared in 201 films between 1924 and 1958.He died from cancer.-Selected filmography:* The Lone Chance * Silent Sanderson...

     as Gen. George A. Custer
  • Frank McGlynn, Sr. as Abraham Lincoln
  • Granville Bates as Van Ellyn
  • Frank Albertson
    Frank Albertson
    Frank Albertson was an American character actor who made his debut in a minor part in Hollywood at age 13....

     as Young trooper
  • Purnell Pratt
    Purnell Pratt
    Purnell Pratt was an American film actor. He appeared in 114 films between 1914 and 1941.He was born in Bethel, Illinois and died in Hollywood, California.-Selected filmography:* On with the Show...

     as Capt. Wood
  • Fred Kohler
    Fred Kohler
    Fred Kohler was an American actor known for his "heavy" style of character.-Career:Fred Kohler was born in Kansas City, Missouri. As a teen, he began to pursue a career in vaudeville, but worked other jobs to support himself. He lost part of his right hand in a mining accident during this time...

    as Jake (teamster)
  • Pat Moriarity as Sgt. McGinnis