With the end of the North American Civil War, the manufacturers of repeating rifles find a profitable means of making money selling the weapons to the North American Indians, using the front man John Lattimer to sell the rifles to the Cheyenne. While traveling in a stagecoach with Calamity Jane and William "Buffalo Bill" Cody and his young wife Louisa Cody that want to settle down in Hays City managing a hotel, Wild Bill Hickok finds the guide Breezy wounded by arrows and telling that the Indians are attacking a fort using repeating rifles. Hickok meets Gen. George A. Custer that assigns Buffalo Bill to guide a troop with ammunition to help the fort. Meanwhile the Cheyenne kidnap Calamity Jane, forcing Hickok to expose himself to rescue her. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
2,000 Indian actors were used as extras for the Custer massacre sequence. See more »
On the evening of Lincoln's assassination Van Ellyn and his associates are discussing the supposedly then current John Soule editorial, "Go West, Young Man." Lincoln was murdered in 1865. Soule wrote that famous line in 1851. See more »
After the failure of "The Crusades" at the box office, Cecil B. DeMille stopped doing films about non-American history. His films for the next thirteen years were about our history from Jean Lafitte to World War II (Dr. Wassell). The first in order of production was this film, starring Gary Cooper as Wild Bill Hickok, with Jean Arthur as Calamity Jane. James Ellison was Buffalo Bill, John Miljan (not a villain as usual) was General George A. Custer, and Anthony Quinn was one of the Indians who fought at Little Big Horn. The villains were led by Charles Bickford (selling arms to the Indians) and Porter Hall as Jack McCall (who killed Wild Bill Hickok).
Basically the film takes up the history of the U.S. after the Civil War. Lincoln is shown at the start talking about what is the next step now that Lee has surrendered. Lincoln talks about the need to secure the west (more about this point later). Then he announces he has to go to the theater. That April 14th must have been very busy for Abe - in "Virginia City" he grants a pardon to Errol Flynn at the request of Miriam Hopkins on the same date.
Actually, while Lincoln was concerned about the West, his immediate thoughts on the last day of his Presidency were about reunifying the former Confederate states and it's citizens into the Union as soon as possible. It was Reconstruction that occupied his attention, not the west (except for the problems of Maximillian and his French controlled forces in Mexico against Juarez). But he had been involved in actual problems with the West. In 1862 he sent disgraced General John Pope, the loser at Second Manassas, to Minnesota to put down a serious Indian war by the Sioux (the subject of McKinley Kantor's novel, "Sprit Lake". Pope, incompetent against Lee and Jackson, turned out to be quite effective here, and the revolt was smashed.
However, with all Lincoln's actual attention to western problems, it is doubtful that he says (as Cooper repeats at least once), "The frontier should be secure." There is nothing to say he could not have said it, but it is hardly a profound pronouncement by a leading statesman. Like saying, Teddy Roosevelt said, "Eat a good breakfast every morning for your health." It is not a profound statement of policy. It is, at best, a statement of recognizable fact. Cooper turning it into a minor mantra, like Lincoln's version of the Monroe Doctrine, is ridiculous...typical of the way DeMille's scripts have really bad errors of common sense in them.
However, this is not a ruinous mistake. "The Plainsman" is an adventure film, and as such it has the full benefit of DeMille the film creator of spectacle. As such it is well worth watching. But not as a textbook on Lincoln's political ideas or his quotable legacy.
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