The Plainsman


1h 53m 1937
The Plainsman

Brief Synopsis

Calamity Jane gets mixed up in an Indian War and the friendly rivalry between Wild Bill Hickok and Buffalo Bill.

Film Details

Genre
War
Western
Release Date
Jan 1, 1937
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Wyoming National Guard, Pole Mountain, Wyoming, USA; Paramount Ranch, Los Angeles, California, USA; Cheyenne Indian Reservation, Lame Deer, Montana, USA
Screenplay Information
Based on stories by Courtney Ryley Cooper and the novel Wild Bill Hickok, the Prince of the Pistoleers by Frank J. Wilstach (Garden City, NY, 1934).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 53m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
10,154ft (12 reels)

Synopsis

At the close of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln is assassinated in the East while General George Custer fights the Indians in the West. As John Lattimer arrives in Leavenworth, Missouri, to sell seven-shot rifles to the Indians, Buffalo Bill Cody and his new wife Louisa are reunited with Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. Following the massacre of half the garrison at Fort Piney by thousands of Sioux Indians, General Custer orders Cody to take ammunition to the fort, while Hickok goes after their chief, Yellow Hand. As Louisa confesses her pregnancy to Jane, Cheyenne Indians attack the Cody home and Jane is taken to the Cheyenne camp, where the Indians threaten to kill Hickok unless she tells them Cody's whereabouts. Jane, in love with Hickok, saves his life, but sacrifices Cody's men, who are ambushed by Cheyenne using Lattimer's rifles. As Hickok makes his way to the front, he sends Jane to alert Custer. Cody and Hickok, along with what is left of the men at Fort Piney, defend themselves against the Indians. As the fort's bugler dies, Custer's bugle is heard in the distance and the Indians retreat. Back in town, Hickok challenges John Lattimer to a draw, but is forced to kill three of Lattimer's men, former soldiers, instead. After Hickok follows Lattimer into the Black Hills, Custer orders Cody to bring him Hickok dead or alive for murdering soldiers. Weeks later, as Cody tracks Hickok, a lone Cheyenne Indian, carrying the U.S. 7th Cavalry's flag, tells of Custer's defeat. Meanwhile, Yellow Hand and Sitting Bull plot to extinguish the white man using Lattimer's rifles as Hickok and Cody meet in Deadwood to the stop Lattimer's shipment. There Hickok shoots Lattimer dead in self-defense and rounds up his co-conspirators in the Bella Union saloon, where they play poker. As Hickok plays his hand of black aces and eights, Jack McCall, who had earlier warned Lattimer about Hickok, shoots him in the back, killing him. McCall is then arrested by Merritt and Cody's troopers, and Merritt exonerates Cody. Calamity kisses Cody, saying, "That's one kiss you won't wipe off." Hickok and Custer and his troops later ride off to battle.

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

Yellow Hand

Victor Varconi

Painted Horse

John Miljan

General George A. Custer

Frank Mcglynn Sr.

Abraham Lincoln

Granville Bates

Van Ellyn

Frank Albertson

A young trooper

Purnell Pratt

Captain Wood

Fred Kohler

Jake, a teamster

Pat Moriarty

Sergeant McGinnis

Charles Judels

Tony, the barber

Harry Woods

Quartermaster sergeant

Anthony Quinn

A Cheyenne indian

Francis Mcdonald

A river gambler

George Ernest

A boy

George Macquarrie

General Merritt

George Hayes

Breezy

Fuzzy Knight

Dave

Irene Bennett

Girl

Louise Stuart

Girl

Gail Sheridan

Girl

George Sparks

Boy

Curtis Nero

Roustabout

Billy Mcclain

Old servant

Arthur Singley

First man

Bud Flanagan

Second man

Ralph Malone

Third man

E. W. Borman

Bartender

Walter Mcgrail

First gambler

Wilbur Mack

Second gambler

Max Davidson

Third gambler/Banker

Buck Connors

Old timer

Oscar Rudolph

Younger man

Philo Mccullough

Stagecoach guard

Jack Clifford

Orderly

Frank Layton

Adjutant

Noble Johnson

First Indian with painted horse

Sonny Chorre

Second Indian

Richard Robles

Third Indian

Greg Whitespear

Fourth Indian

Chief Thundercloud

Fifth Indian

Clay Deroy

Sixth Indian

Wesley Giraud

Young bugler

Chuck Hamilton

Trooper

Hank Bell

Trooper

Lane Chandler

Trooper

Myron Geiger

Trooper

Bob Burns

Trooper

Duke Lee

Trooper

Jack Walters

Trooper

Frank Watson

Trooper

Kenneth Gibson

Trooper

Ben F. Hendricks

Trooper

James Baker

Trooper

Kenny Cooper

Trooper

Cecil Kellogg

Trooper

Whitey Severn

Trooper

Ervey Collins

Trooper

Frank Cordell

Trooper

John Eckert

Trooper

Lloyd Saunders

Trooper

Al Burk

Trooper

Slim Hightower

Trooper

Jimmy Phillips

Trooper

Captain William H. Royal

Corporal Brannigan

Ted Oliver

First teamster

Richard Alexander

Third teamster

David Clyde

Second miner

Hooper Atchley

Captain

Robert Wilber

First cavalry private

Bud Osborne

Second cavalry private

Francis Sayles

Man on Deadwood Street

Franklyn Farnum

Man on Deadwood Street

Don Rowan

Man on Deadwood Street

Earl Askam

Tim

Stanley Andrews

Sherwood Bailey

Edgar Deering

Edwin Maxwell

Bruce Warren

Mark Strong

P. E. "tiny" Newland

Sidney D'albrook

Ed Schaefer

Bob Ellsworth

Nelson Mcdowell

Marty Joyce

Blackjack Ward

Jess Caven

Jane Keckley

Cora Shumway

Everett Brown

Louis Natheaux

Colin Chase

Jack Fife

Bud Fine

Blue Washington

Videos

Movie Clip

Plainsman, The (1936) - Ain't Another Corpse Maker Like Him! Famous and relatively gritty scene from producer-director C.B. DeMille, Wild Bill Hickock (Gary Cooper) intervenes in a riverboat poker game in which his newly married and ingenuous friend Buffalo Bill Cody (James Ellison) is being had by a fancy gambler (Francis McDonald), in The Plainsman, 1936.
Plainsman, The (1936) - Has She Tamed You Yet? We haven’t learned the name yet of Gary Cooper, in St. Louis with a kid (George Ernest), whom he’s shown his watch-case photo of Jean Arthur, and told tales about Buffalo Bill (James Ellison), whom we soon learn is his pal, with his new wife (Helen Burgess), and we meet McCall (Porter Hall), C.B. DeMille at the helm, early in The Plainsman, 1936.
Plainsman, The (1936) - That's Just What I Told Custer Buffalo Bill Cody (James Ellison) and wife (Helen Burgess), who plan to open a hotel, in Kansas with new friend Calamity Jane (Jean Arthur) when her erstwhile boyfriend Wild Bill Hickock (Gary Cooper) appears, making a case on behalf of General Custer, and planning his own risky mission, in C.B. DeMille’s The Plainsman, 1936.
Plainsman, The (1936) - I Didn't Know You Could Read Director C.B. DeMille reveals that Calamity Jane (Jean Arthur) has a pretty spiky thing with boyfriend Wild Bill Hickock (Gary Cooper) as the riverboat carrying him, pal Buffalo Bill (James Ellison) and his new wife, along with gun-runner Lattimer (Charles Bickford), arrives Leavenworth, KS, in The Plainsman, 1936.
Plainsman, The (1936) - We Can't Sell Rifles To The Indians! Producer-director C.B. DeMille having his way with history, in Washington D.C., 1865, President Lincoln (Frank McGlynn) is off to the theater and unprincipled potentates, led by Granville Bates as Van Ellyn and Charles Bickford as Lattimer, make a grave mistake against the great man’s presumed will, opening The Plainsman, 1936.

Film Details

Genre
War
Western
Release Date
Jan 1, 1937
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Wyoming National Guard, Pole Mountain, Wyoming, USA; Paramount Ranch, Los Angeles, California, USA; Cheyenne Indian Reservation, Lame Deer, Montana, USA
Screenplay Information
Based on stories by Courtney Ryley Cooper and the novel Wild Bill Hickok, the Prince of the Pistoleers by Frank J. Wilstach (Garden City, NY, 1934).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 53m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
10,154ft (12 reels)

Articles

The Plainsman (1936) - THE PLAINSMAN


While President Abraham Lincoln is pledging to make the West safe for settlers, unscrupulous businessmen are plotting behind his back to sell repeating rifles to the Indians, enlisting the help of John Lattimer. Meanwhile Wild Bill Hickok, who has just returned from the Civil War, meets up with his old flame Calamity Jane, his pal Buffalo Bill Cody and Cody's new wife Louisa in Leavenworth, Missouri. Cody's plans to settle down with his wife are disrupted when Fort Piney is attacked by Indians and General Custer orders him to lead a party carrying fresh ammunition to the fort. Hickok offers to help by locating his old nemesis Yellow Hand and gathering intelligence. Calamity Jane and Louisa are besieged by Indians at Cody's cabin; thanks to Calamity Jane's quick thinking Louisa manages to escape, but she herself is captured. Hickok spots her on the trail with the band of Indians and tries to rescue her but ends up captured as well. The two are brought to Yellow Hand, who tortures Hickok in order to force Calamity Jane to reveal the route of Cody's party. Calamity Jane caves in, leaving Cody's men vulnerable to ambush. Hickok, once he is free and discovers the source of the repeating rifles that the Indians are using, vows to track down Lattimer. Eventually everyone meets up again in the South Dakota town of Deadwood City, and the rest is the stuff of legend.

With its grandly entertaining mix of patriotic sentiment, aw-shucks romance and rousing battle scenes, the Western epic, The Plainsman (1937), bears producer/director Cecil B. DeMille's signature as clearly as Rio Bravo (1959) belongs to Howard Hawks and The Searchers (1956) to John Ford. DeMille's association with the Western genre dates back to his debut feature, The Squaw Man (1914), which he remade in 1918 and 1931. Other DeMille Westerns include Rose of the Rancho (1914), A Romance of the Redwoods (1917), Union Pacific (1939), and North West Mounted Police (1940), set in Canada. While few would place DeMille in Hawks' and Ford's lofty company, during his career of some 50 years he displayed a consistent knack for turning a profit and made a number of very fine films along the way. The Cheat (1915), for instance, is considered a groundbreaking work in the development of film editing.

DeMille's impressive production for The Plainsman boasts, among other things, a three-acre set for Deadwood City and a recreation of the battle of Little Big Horn which was filmed on location in the Cheyenne Indian Reservation at Lame Deer, Montana, employing some two thousand Native Americans as extras. In order to maintain control over the second unit shoot, DeMille kept a model of the second unit location along with detailed plans for shot setups, which he conveyed to second unit director Art Rosson over the telephone.

One of the key assets of The Plainsman, however, is its cast. The reviewer in The Motion Picture Herald wrote that the film was "[p]layed with spirit and intelligent understanding by principals and entire supporting cast, with class individual performances sticking out all over [...]" Gary Cooper, who plays Wild Bill Hickok, became one of DeMille's favorite leading men, appearing subsequently in North West Mounted Police, The Story of Dr. Wassell (1944) and Unconquered (1947). Frank S. Nugent of the New York Times noted that Jean Arthur bears only a passing resemblance to the traditional image of Calamity Jane: "She doesn't chaw tobacco any more. She doesn't cuss. She doesn't run around with the boys. She just talks low and husky, is cute when she is being tomboyish, and she loves Wild Bill so much she almost faints when the Indians start torturing him to make him tell which way the ammunition convoy is heading." For her role Jean Arthur did, however, learn to use a bullwhip, which she handles impressively. Look for a young Anthony Quinn as the lone Cheyenne who tells Cody and Hickok of Custer's defeat at Little Bighorn. Quinn, incidentally, later married DeMille's daughter Katherine.

DeMille may have taken clear liberties with the story but the Paramount executives, he claims, wanted even more. DeMille recalls in his 1959 autobiography: "As every historian of the Old West knows, Jack McCall killed Wild Bill Hickok by shooting him in the back. It was worrisome enough to the Paramount executives that we were making a picture in which the hero, Gary Cooper at that, was to be killed in the last reel instead of riding off into the sunset with Jean Arthur in the happy ending which audiences are always expected to demand. First the executives asked me not to kill Wild Bill; I told them I could not remake history to that extent. 'Well then,' Adolf Zukor said finally, 'if he has to be killed, don't let him be killed by that little rat, McCall. At least let Charles Bickford kill him!'" Fortunately, DeMille stood firm. While accuracy was obviously never DeMille's strong point--just compare the episode of the golden calf in The Ten Commandments (1956) with the corresponding passage in the Old Testament--his storytelling instincts were formidable and the scene of Hickok's death remains effective to this day.

Producer and Director: Cecil B. DeMille.
Screenplay: Waldemar Young, Harold Lamb and Lynn Riggs, inspired by stories by Courtney Ryley Cooper and Frank J. Wilstach's book Wild Bill Hickok, the Prince of Pistoleers (1926).
Photography: Victor Milner and George Robinson.
Art Direction: Hans Dreier and Roland Anderson.
Editor: Anne Bauchens.
Music: George Antheil.
Principal 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 (Yellow Hand), Victor Varconi (Painted Horse), John Miljan (General George A. Custer), Frank McGlynn, Sr. (Abraham Lincoln).
BW-113m. Closed captioning.

By James Steffen
The Plainsman (1936) - The Plainsman

The Plainsman (1936) - THE PLAINSMAN

While President Abraham Lincoln is pledging to make the West safe for settlers, unscrupulous businessmen are plotting behind his back to sell repeating rifles to the Indians, enlisting the help of John Lattimer. Meanwhile Wild Bill Hickok, who has just returned from the Civil War, meets up with his old flame Calamity Jane, his pal Buffalo Bill Cody and Cody's new wife Louisa in Leavenworth, Missouri. Cody's plans to settle down with his wife are disrupted when Fort Piney is attacked by Indians and General Custer orders him to lead a party carrying fresh ammunition to the fort. Hickok offers to help by locating his old nemesis Yellow Hand and gathering intelligence. Calamity Jane and Louisa are besieged by Indians at Cody's cabin; thanks to Calamity Jane's quick thinking Louisa manages to escape, but she herself is captured. Hickok spots her on the trail with the band of Indians and tries to rescue her but ends up captured as well. The two are brought to Yellow Hand, who tortures Hickok in order to force Calamity Jane to reveal the route of Cody's party. Calamity Jane caves in, leaving Cody's men vulnerable to ambush. Hickok, once he is free and discovers the source of the repeating rifles that the Indians are using, vows to track down Lattimer. Eventually everyone meets up again in the South Dakota town of Deadwood City, and the rest is the stuff of legend. With its grandly entertaining mix of patriotic sentiment, aw-shucks romance and rousing battle scenes, the Western epic, The Plainsman (1937), bears producer/director Cecil B. DeMille's signature as clearly as Rio Bravo (1959) belongs to Howard Hawks and The Searchers (1956) to John Ford. DeMille's association with the Western genre dates back to his debut feature, The Squaw Man (1914), which he remade in 1918 and 1931. Other DeMille Westerns include Rose of the Rancho (1914), A Romance of the Redwoods (1917), Union Pacific (1939), and North West Mounted Police (1940), set in Canada. While few would place DeMille in Hawks' and Ford's lofty company, during his career of some 50 years he displayed a consistent knack for turning a profit and made a number of very fine films along the way. The Cheat (1915), for instance, is considered a groundbreaking work in the development of film editing. DeMille's impressive production for The Plainsman boasts, among other things, a three-acre set for Deadwood City and a recreation of the battle of Little Big Horn which was filmed on location in the Cheyenne Indian Reservation at Lame Deer, Montana, employing some two thousand Native Americans as extras. In order to maintain control over the second unit shoot, DeMille kept a model of the second unit location along with detailed plans for shot setups, which he conveyed to second unit director Art Rosson over the telephone. One of the key assets of The Plainsman, however, is its cast. The reviewer in The Motion Picture Herald wrote that the film was "[p]layed with spirit and intelligent understanding by principals and entire supporting cast, with class individual performances sticking out all over [...]" Gary Cooper, who plays Wild Bill Hickok, became one of DeMille's favorite leading men, appearing subsequently in North West Mounted Police, The Story of Dr. Wassell (1944) and Unconquered (1947). Frank S. Nugent of the New York Times noted that Jean Arthur bears only a passing resemblance to the traditional image of Calamity Jane: "She doesn't chaw tobacco any more. She doesn't cuss. She doesn't run around with the boys. She just talks low and husky, is cute when she is being tomboyish, and she loves Wild Bill so much she almost faints when the Indians start torturing him to make him tell which way the ammunition convoy is heading." For her role Jean Arthur did, however, learn to use a bullwhip, which she handles impressively. Look for a young Anthony Quinn as the lone Cheyenne who tells Cody and Hickok of Custer's defeat at Little Bighorn. Quinn, incidentally, later married DeMille's daughter Katherine. DeMille may have taken clear liberties with the story but the Paramount executives, he claims, wanted even more. DeMille recalls in his 1959 autobiography: "As every historian of the Old West knows, Jack McCall killed Wild Bill Hickok by shooting him in the back. It was worrisome enough to the Paramount executives that we were making a picture in which the hero, Gary Cooper at that, was to be killed in the last reel instead of riding off into the sunset with Jean Arthur in the happy ending which audiences are always expected to demand. First the executives asked me not to kill Wild Bill; I told them I could not remake history to that extent. 'Well then,' Adolf Zukor said finally, 'if he has to be killed, don't let him be killed by that little rat, McCall. At least let Charles Bickford kill him!'" Fortunately, DeMille stood firm. While accuracy was obviously never DeMille's strong point--just compare the episode of the golden calf in The Ten Commandments (1956) with the corresponding passage in the Old Testament--his storytelling instincts were formidable and the scene of Hickok's death remains effective to this day. Producer and Director: Cecil B. DeMille. Screenplay: Waldemar Young, Harold Lamb and Lynn Riggs, inspired by stories by Courtney Ryley Cooper and Frank J. Wilstach's book Wild Bill Hickok, the Prince of Pistoleers (1926). Photography: Victor Milner and George Robinson. Art Direction: Hans Dreier and Roland Anderson. Editor: Anne Bauchens. Music: George Antheil. Principal 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 (Yellow Hand), Victor Varconi (Painted Horse), John Miljan (General George A. Custer), Frank McGlynn, Sr. (Abraham Lincoln). BW-113m. Closed captioning. By James Steffen

Quotes

Trivia

The cavalry sequences were shot with members of the Wyoming National Guard. Two guardsmen were badly hurt during filming of a charge scene.

2,000 Indian actors were used as extras for the Custer massacre sequence.

Paramount executives wanted Wild Bill Hickok to survive the card-game shootout, but director DeMille resisted and got his way.

Anthony Quinn told Cecil B. DeMille that he spoke fluent Cheyenne. Quinn's description of the Custer Battle is gibberish, but DeMille was impressed.

Notes

The ending of the film following the poker game was missing from the viewed print. The conclusion of the plot summary was taken from the release dialogue script found in the Paramount Script Collection at the AMPAS Library. The film's opening narration states, "Among the men who thrust forward America's frontier were Wild Bill Hickok and Buffalo Bill Cody. The story that follows compresses many years, many lives, and widely separated events into one narrative-in an attempt to do justice to the courage of the plainsman of the West." The closing narration states: "It shall be as it was in the past.../Not with dreams,/but with strength and with courage/Shall a nation be molded to last." Wild Bill Hickok's well-deserved reputation as a gunfighter was established in an interview with Colonel George Ward Nichols published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine in 1867. Hickok was a good shot and probably killed at least seven men. He was a scout in the Union Army during the Civil War and after the war, he became a marshal in Hays City, KS, and then in Abilene, KS. He appeared in a play with Buffalo Bill Cody in 1873, and in 1876, Hickok was shot in the back by Jack McCall during a poker game in Deadwood, Dakota Territory. For more biographical information about Buffalo Bill Cody, please see then entry above for Buffalo Bill, and for additional information on General George Armstrong Custer, please consult the entry below for They Died With Their Boots On.
       As reported in Daily Variety and Hollywood Reporter, shooting on a three-acre set of Deadwood City in 1865 built by Paramount began on July 21, 1936. While DeMille directed interiors, he gave instructions to second unit director Arthur Rosson, who was on location, via telephone. DeMille had with him a ten-foot model of Rosson's location scenes, as well as charts marked with every camera set-up. The cavalry sequences were shot with the Wyoming National Guard at Pole Mountain, Wyoming, twenty-one miles east of Laramie. On July 17, 1936, Hollywood Reporter reported that two guardsmen has been badly hurt the previous day while Rosson was shooting a charge scene. The scene of Custer's massacre was shot on the Cheyenne Indian Reservation at Lame Deer, Montana, where two thousand Indian actors were used as extras. Additional scenes were also shot in Birney, Montana. While location work continued in Montana, one production unit went on location at the Paramount ranch outside Los Angeles on July 24, 1936. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item on July 16, 1936, DeMille engaged actor Edwin Maxwell to serve temporarily as dialogue director. According to modern sources, Paramount studio executives wanted "Wild Bill" to survive the card game shoot-out at the end of the film, but DeMille resisted. Modern sources list the following character names: Edgar Dearing (A courier from Custer), Edwin Maxwell (Stanton, Secretary of War) and Bruce Warren (Purser of the "Lizzie Gill"). Modern sources also add the following names to the cast: Francis Ford, Irving Bacon, John Hyams, Charles Stevens, Arthur Aylesworth, Douglas Wood, George Cleveland, Lona Andre, Leila McIntyre, Harry Stubbs, Davison Clark, Charles W. Hertzinger, William Humphries, Sidney Jarvis, Wadsworth Harris, Tex Driscoll, and Stanhope Wheatcroft.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1937

Released in USA on video.

Released in United States 1937