Sitting Bull


1h 45m 1954
Sitting Bull

Brief Synopsis

After defeating Custer at the Little Big Horn, the famed chief tries to save an Indian sympathizer from court-martial.

Photos & Videos

Film Details

Genre
Historical
Western
Release Date
Oct 1954
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Tele-Voz, S. A.; W. R. Frank Productions
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
Mexico and United States
Location
Mexico City,Mexico; Mexico

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 45m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.55 : 1
Film Length
8,697ft

Synopsis

In the Black Hills of the Dakotas, Sitting Bull, leader of a large Sioux Indian tribe, watches with anger as one wagon train after another brings in white prospectors looking for gold. The prospectors are cutting through Indian territory, despite attempts by the U.S. Cavalry to divert them to the east or south. After breaking up a skirmish between the Sioux and some prospectors, Major Bob Parrish returns to his fort, where he and Colonel George Armstrong Custer argue over the role of the Cavalry in the territory. Parrish's insistence on keeping the peace with the Indians by going after the trouble-making prospectors results in his reassignment by General Howell to the Red Rock Indian Agency. Howell's daughter and Parrish's fiancée Kathy, who wants a husband with a future in the Army, decides to break off the engagement when she learns of the reassignment. When Parrish arrives at Red Rock, he is appalled at the living conditions that have been forced on the Indians, and complains to Webber, the cruel civilian agency head. Though sent to the agency to police the camp, Parrish refuses to order his men to shoot the Indians when they break out of the stockade. Webber, frustrated by the Cavalry's inaction, shoots and kills the Indian Young Buffalo. Later, cavalrymen arrive with orders to arrest Parrish, who is being sent to Washington to be court-martialed for sympathizing with the Indians and allowing the prisoners at Red Rock to escape. In Washington, Parrish meets with President Ulysses S. Grant, who demotes him to captain but assigns him to arrange a meeting with Sitting Bull. Parrish returns to the Black Hills, only to discover that Kathy is now engaged to Charles Wentworth, a war correspondent. With the help of Sam, a black runaway slave, Parrish is taken to Sitting Bull. The chief agrees to a temporary truce and a meeting with Grant, but he refuses to go to Washington, so Parrish asks the President to come to the Dakotas. Grant consents to the meeting, but before the peace treaty meeting can convene, Custer, ignoring Parrish's pleas to keep his distance, spoils the truce by provoking an Indian attack. The ensuing battle results in the death of Custer and the massacre of his regiment at Little Big Horn. Following the massacre, Parrish, determined to prevent further bloodshed, warns Sitting Bull that an Army unit is approaching, and guides the Sioux to a safe place. For his role in the evacuation, Parrish is later convicted of treason and ordered to die by firing squad. Kathy, who still loves Parrish and who has broken off her engagement to Wentworth, meets with Grant and tries unsuccessfully to prevent Parrish's execution. With only a short time to spare before Parrish's set execution, Kathy, realizing that the only testimony that can save her sweetheart is that of Sitting Bull, finds the chief and brings him to the execution site. After convincing Grant of Parrish's patriotism and preventing the captain's execution, Sitting Bull returns to his people, hopeful that now peace will prevail.

Film Details

Genre
Historical
Western
Release Date
Oct 1954
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Tele-Voz, S. A.; W. R. Frank Productions
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
Mexico and United States
Location
Mexico City,Mexico; Mexico

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 45m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.55 : 1
Film Length
8,697ft

Articles

Sitting Bull


Everyone knows that Hollywood's take on history is rarely accurate or truthful, especially when it comes to tales of how the West was won. Case in point, Sitting Bull: a 1954 Western scripted by Jack DeWitt (Bomba, the Jungle Boy, 1949) and Sidney Salkow (Prison Nurse, 1938). It contains some glaring historical inaccuracies such as a meeting between the chief and President Ulysses S. Grant that never took place. It is also framed in typical Hollywood fashion by a story of "white folks," including the requisite love triangle between an Army officer sympathetic to the Indians (Dale Robertson), a general's daughter (Mary Murphy), and a newspaperman (William Hopper, son of gossip columnist Hedda). But it is a well-intentioned effort to portray the great Sioux leader with some dignity and understanding and notable for featuring a black actor, Joel Fluellen, in an important and sympathetic role. But for those with an interest in the real Sitting Bull, here's a brief overview of the man.

Born around 1831 in what is now South Dakota, Sitting Bull was a chief and holy man who united all the Lakota tribes in their struggle for survival on the northern plains. Widely respected for his courage, leadership and insight, he brought together the Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho in opposition to the U.S. government in 1876. He also refused to settle onto reservations after an expedition led by George Armstrong Custer confirmed that gold had been found in the Black Hills. Inspired by Sitting Bull's vision of soldiers falling into his camp like grasshoppers falling from the sky, Oglala war chief Crazy Horse led thousands of Indians against Custer at Little Big Horn, destroying the army contingent. The U.S. sent legions of troops to the area, routing the various tribes one by one, but Sitting Bull took his people into Canada, refusing offers of a pardon in exchange for settling on a reservation. In 1881, however, finding it impossible to feed his people as the buffalo became extinct, the chief came south to surrender.

The Lakota settled on a reservation, and four years later Sitting Bull was allowed to leave to join Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, where he earned $50 a week to parade through the performance on a horse, plus whatever he could raise selling his autograph and photo. In 1890, fearing he would join an ancient ritual meant to rid the land of white people, authorities had 43 policemen - all Lakota who had adopted the white man's way of life - arrest Sitting Bull. In the ensuing struggle between police and Sitting Bull's followers, the great chief was shot in the head and died, defiant of the government to the end and refusing to give up his tribal ways and turn to Christianity.

In this version, Sitting Bull labors to keep the peace between his nation and the United States, while the "bad guys" are portrayed as loose cannons on both sides: George Armstrong Custer (Douglas Kennedy), who was, of course, famously wiped out at Little Big Horn, and the warrior Crazy Horse (Iron Eyes Cody, who also served as technical advisor and designer of the Indian costumes).

Perhaps Hollywood's most famous and enduring portrayer of Native Americans, Cody was, in fact, not Indian at all but the Louisiana-born son of Italian immigrants. Nevertheless, he married a Native American, adopted two Indian sons and worked as an Indian throughout his long career, which stretched from 1930 to 1987 (with a possible but unconfirmed role in 1919). He worked for many years to advance Native American causes and was honored by that community in 1995 for his efforts.

Sitting Bull is portrayed by J. Carrol Naish, a New York native of Northern European ancestry who ended up playing ethnic types throughout his long film career (1930-1971). He portrayed Japanese, Arabs, Russians, many Latins, even Chinese sleuth Charlie Chan. And he was an Indian (both Native American and Eastern) on many occasions. He played Sitting Bull once before, in Annie Get Your Gun (1950), a musical set in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.

Mary Murphy, who portrays the love interest here, made 35 movies in her 24-year career, but she will probably always be best known as the good girl who redeems bad-boy biker Marlon Brando in The Wild One (1953). A couple of years after this movie, she married co-star Dale Robertson, perhaps best known for his starring role in the 1960s TV western Tales of Wells Fargo.

Director: Sidney Salkow
Producer: W.R. Frank
Screenplay: Jack DeWitt, Sidney Salkow
Cinematography: Victor Herrera, Charles J. Van Enger
Original Music: Raoul Kraushaar, Max Rich
Cast: Dale Robertson (Major Bob Parrish), Mary Murphy (Kathy Howell), J. Carroll Naish (Sitting Bull), Joel Fluellen (Sam), Iron Eyes Cody (Crazy Horse).
C-105m.

by Rob Nixon
Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull

Everyone knows that Hollywood's take on history is rarely accurate or truthful, especially when it comes to tales of how the West was won. Case in point, Sitting Bull: a 1954 Western scripted by Jack DeWitt (Bomba, the Jungle Boy, 1949) and Sidney Salkow (Prison Nurse, 1938). It contains some glaring historical inaccuracies such as a meeting between the chief and President Ulysses S. Grant that never took place. It is also framed in typical Hollywood fashion by a story of "white folks," including the requisite love triangle between an Army officer sympathetic to the Indians (Dale Robertson), a general's daughter (Mary Murphy), and a newspaperman (William Hopper, son of gossip columnist Hedda). But it is a well-intentioned effort to portray the great Sioux leader with some dignity and understanding and notable for featuring a black actor, Joel Fluellen, in an important and sympathetic role. But for those with an interest in the real Sitting Bull, here's a brief overview of the man. Born around 1831 in what is now South Dakota, Sitting Bull was a chief and holy man who united all the Lakota tribes in their struggle for survival on the northern plains. Widely respected for his courage, leadership and insight, he brought together the Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho in opposition to the U.S. government in 1876. He also refused to settle onto reservations after an expedition led by George Armstrong Custer confirmed that gold had been found in the Black Hills. Inspired by Sitting Bull's vision of soldiers falling into his camp like grasshoppers falling from the sky, Oglala war chief Crazy Horse led thousands of Indians against Custer at Little Big Horn, destroying the army contingent. The U.S. sent legions of troops to the area, routing the various tribes one by one, but Sitting Bull took his people into Canada, refusing offers of a pardon in exchange for settling on a reservation. In 1881, however, finding it impossible to feed his people as the buffalo became extinct, the chief came south to surrender. The Lakota settled on a reservation, and four years later Sitting Bull was allowed to leave to join Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, where he earned $50 a week to parade through the performance on a horse, plus whatever he could raise selling his autograph and photo. In 1890, fearing he would join an ancient ritual meant to rid the land of white people, authorities had 43 policemen - all Lakota who had adopted the white man's way of life - arrest Sitting Bull. In the ensuing struggle between police and Sitting Bull's followers, the great chief was shot in the head and died, defiant of the government to the end and refusing to give up his tribal ways and turn to Christianity. In this version, Sitting Bull labors to keep the peace between his nation and the United States, while the "bad guys" are portrayed as loose cannons on both sides: George Armstrong Custer (Douglas Kennedy), who was, of course, famously wiped out at Little Big Horn, and the warrior Crazy Horse (Iron Eyes Cody, who also served as technical advisor and designer of the Indian costumes). Perhaps Hollywood's most famous and enduring portrayer of Native Americans, Cody was, in fact, not Indian at all but the Louisiana-born son of Italian immigrants. Nevertheless, he married a Native American, adopted two Indian sons and worked as an Indian throughout his long career, which stretched from 1930 to 1987 (with a possible but unconfirmed role in 1919). He worked for many years to advance Native American causes and was honored by that community in 1995 for his efforts. Sitting Bull is portrayed by J. Carrol Naish, a New York native of Northern European ancestry who ended up playing ethnic types throughout his long film career (1930-1971). He portrayed Japanese, Arabs, Russians, many Latins, even Chinese sleuth Charlie Chan. And he was an Indian (both Native American and Eastern) on many occasions. He played Sitting Bull once before, in Annie Get Your Gun (1950), a musical set in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. Mary Murphy, who portrays the love interest here, made 35 movies in her 24-year career, but she will probably always be best known as the good girl who redeems bad-boy biker Marlon Brando in The Wild One (1953). A couple of years after this movie, she married co-star Dale Robertson, perhaps best known for his starring role in the 1960s TV western Tales of Wells Fargo. Director: Sidney Salkow Producer: W.R. Frank Screenplay: Jack DeWitt, Sidney Salkow Cinematography: Victor Herrera, Charles J. Van Enger Original Music: Raoul Kraushaar, Max Rich Cast: Dale Robertson (Major Bob Parrish), Mary Murphy (Kathy Howell), J. Carroll Naish (Sitting Bull), Joel Fluellen (Sam), Iron Eyes Cody (Crazy Horse). C-105m. by Rob Nixon

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

An April 1953 Daily Variety news item noted that the film's title role was originally set for Boris Karloff, and that Dennis Morgan was to co-star. The majority of this picture was filmed in Mexico, with Mexicans playing many of the Indian roles. Although Hollywood Reporter production charts include Bill Cannon in the cast, his participation in the completed film has not been determined.
       As depicted in the film, Sitting Bull became the leader of the Teton Sioux after they had agreed to reside on a large reservation in the Black Hills. Also known as a mystic, Sitting Bull refused government orders to gather on the reservation in response to tensions created by the influx of white prospectors, who flocked to the area after gold was discovered in 1874. In the spring of 1876, the U.S. Army sent troops to the area, and Sitting Bull rallied members of various Sioux tribes to resist their presence.
       During the Battle of the Little Big Horn, Sitting Bull stayed in camp, fasting and praying. Following the Army's retaliation for Col. George Armstrong Custer's overwhelming defeat, Sitting Bull retreated to Canada, but eventually was forced south and surrended on July 19, 1881. He was confined to the reservation, but in 1885, he toured briefly with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. With the emergence of the Ghost Dance in 1890, Indian agent James McLaughlin feared that Sitting Bull would re-emerge as a leader, and the Indian police were sent to arrest him. Sitting Bull was shot dead during the ensuing struggle.
       Letters contained in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library indicate that, just prior to the start of production, an effort was made by representatives of the Sioux tribe to pressure W. R. Frank Productions into filming the picture in Sitting Bull's native land. One letter contained a formal resolution calling the decision to film the picture in Mexico an action "not befitting our great Sioux Chief," and pointed out that the Sioux people in the Dakotas "desire an opportunity to take part in making a picture of his life." According to news items and the Variety review, Sitting Bull was the first independently produced picture to be filmed in CinemaScope. For more information about the life of George Armstrong Custer and the Battle of the Little Big Horn, for They Died with Their Boots On.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Fall September 1954

CinemaScope

Released in United States Fall September 1954