Cast & Crew
In the plains town of Tri City at the end of the Civil War, horse dealer Henry Longtree's efforts to supply nearby Ft. El Reno are hindered by attorney Jim Bailey, who fails to deliver wild horses as promised. A rash of Indian attacks, secretly masterminded by Bailey and the corrupt sheriff, Wild Bill Hickok, has rendered the Cavalry ill-equipped to protect the area. When Henry learns that a wagon train has been wiped out because the Cavalry could not help, he contracts with newcomer Johnny Rebel to round up horses. Johnny, who lost his wife and home during the war, has come West with his daughter Kate and other displaced Southerners to work with his friend, Ring Pardo, and start a new life. When they herd forty head of horses into the town's corral for Henry, Bailey, who wants to jack up prices by creating a scarcity, reminds Henry of their "exclusive" contract, but honest Henry refuses, as he cares for the well-being of the people. After forcing Henry to renege on his agreement with Johnny, Bailey picks a fight with Pardo and Johnny in the corral. Then Hickok orders Pardo out of town, but is reluctant to confront Johnny. Meanwhile, Ann James returns to Tri City from college to manage the ranch she recently inherited from her father, in partnership with Bailey. On her way home, she encounters Doc Reid, the local physician and veterinarian, who avoids her, as her father's death was caused when Hickok and Bailey got the alcoholic Doc liquored up and he misprescribed medicine. Meanwhile, Hickok secretly meets Bailey and tells him that Johnny is really Johnny Savage, a legendary Confederate soldier, who single-handedly held off a unit of Union soldiers when they attacked his home. His concern that Johnny will catch on to their schemes and take over their government horse contract is dismissed by Bailey, who tells him that gunfighter Arizona Kid, who is in the area, will kill for hire. While touring her ranch, Bailey tells Ann false stories of hard times, hoping to scare her into selling, then forces Doc to falsify records stating that her animals are diseased and must be destroyed. Bailey then has the newspaper report a blackleg epidemic, which scares one rancher into selling out to him cheaply. Bailey also instructs Nato, an Indian ranchhand in his employ, to free Johnny's forty horses from the corral. Believing that Bailey and Hickok are in cahoots to drive Johnny away, Henry's sister Belle rides out to his horse camp to tell him about the missing horses and suggests that he deliver directly to the fort. When Kate becomes ill, Belle gets Doc, who diagnoses an inflamed appendix, then confesses to Belle what he knows about Bailey and Hickok. After telling Johnny what Doc said, Belle urges him to fight, but Johnny, tired of fighting, considers negotiating with Bailey. Meanwhile, Bailey orders The Kid to kill Doc, Henry and Johnny. After sending Nato to have his Indian cohorts attack El Reno, Hickok tells Bailey his plans to blame Nato for the deaths. However, when Johnny's men come across several murdered settlers, they kill the Indians and report to Hickok, who then arrests them for murder. At Johnny's camp, The Kid shows up for a gunfight and is killed by Johnny. When Henry and Ann find that Doc has been killed, Henry remembers Doc's instruction to check his sugar barrel if anything happens to him. After finding a letter of confession about Bailey and Hickok, Henry and Ann plan to give it to the circuit judge, Parker, who is due the next day. In town, Bailey learns that The Kid is dead and sends his thugs to attack the camp. In the ensuing gunfight, Kate is killed. Nato, who has been watching all that has happened, turns on Hickok and frees Johnny's men, then unites with Johnny, who rides in to avenge Kate's death. When Johnny's men return to camp, Ann, who led the wild horses to El Reno, reports that the fort has been burned down. Meanwhile, in town, as Nato, Johnny, Bell and the Longtrees prepare to attack, Hickok, fearing Johnny, cowers in his office while Bailey posts his men on the street. From a rooftop perch, Nato kills several of them with his bow and arrow, and a gunfight commences. Bailey, Nato and Henry are killed, and the arriving Parker wounded, but Johnny single-handedly downs the other men. Finally Hickok comes out to face Johnny and, at Belle's urging, Johnny kills him in a shootout. Seeing her dead brother, Belle now understands that "there's a time for fighting and a time for peace." Planning a future together, they walk away, as Ann and Johnny's men ride into town.
Frank "red" Carpenter
R. J. Thomas
Senator George Bahr
Maurice E. Wright
All cast and crew credits appear at the end of the story. Following opening title cards that read: "The Wheeler Company presents An Edgar Franklin Production I Killed Wild Bill Hickok," voice-over narration by actor John Forbes as his character, "Johnny Rebel," is heard. Forbes's narration is heard intermittently throughout the film. Forbes was a pseudonym for John Carpenter, who also produced and wrote the picture. Actor Stan Jolley's surname was misspelled onscreen as "Jolly." Although the print bears a 1954 copyright date, the film was not registered with the Copyright Office.
Despite the appearance of the character "Wild Bill Hickok," the film does not accurately portray the death of the real Bill Hickok, who was shot by Jack McCall in 1873 in Deadwood, SD. For information about the real Hickok, please see the entry for The Plainsman in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40. According to its press kit, I Killed Wild Bill Hickok was shot at the Iverson Ranch in Chatsworth, CA.