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Buffalo Bill (1944)

Approved | | Biography, Romance, Western | April 1944 (USA)
The story of William "Buffalo Bill" Cody, legendary westerner, from his days as an army scout to his later activities as owner of a Wild West show.



(screenplay) (as Aeneas MacKenzie), (screenplay) | 2 more credits »

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Complete credited cast:
Sgt. Chips McGraw
Sen. Frederici
Murdo Carvell
Mr. Schyler Vandervere
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A fictionalized account of the life of William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody. A hunter and Army Scout in the early part of his life, he rescues a US Senator and his beautiful daughter, Louisa Frederici. Cody is portrayed as someone who admires and respects the Indians and is a good friend of Yellow Hand who will eventually become Chief of the Cheyenne. Everyone else, including the military, politicians and businessmen on the other hand hate the Indians and are perfectly prepared to trample on their lands and destroy their buffalo hunting grounds. He's eventually forced to fight the Cheyenne however. He's also met a writer, Ned Buntline, who writes about Cody's exploits and he becomes a sensation when he travels East. His career is not assured however, particularly when he attacks those in positions of authority over their maltreatment of the Native American population. He eventually establishes his wild west show that becomes an international sensation. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


His adventure made him a hero.His showmanship made him a legend.


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

April 1944 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Aventuras de Buffalo Bill  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Much of Cody's life as depicted in the film was true: He did fight to the death with Chief Yellow Hand and he did receive the Congressional Medal of Honor (although it was rescinded in 1917 because he was not in the army); his son, Kit Carson Cody, did die (but of scarlet fever, not diphtheria); his wife (not the daughter of a senator) had three other children. See more »


After Kit Carson Cody dies (in 1876) the attending doctor describes diphtheria as being caused by "a germ in the water system and sewerage." However, the first recorded instance of this disease being linked to unclean drinking wells was first published in the British Medical Journal in 1880. In the 1870s, in the USA, the real cause of the disease was still unknown. See more »


Louisa Frederici Cody: What is she doing here all alone?
William F. 'Buffalo Bill' Cody: She's just old. When Indians get too old to travel, why they're left behind with a little food and fuel.
Louisa Frederici Cody: To die?
William F. 'Buffalo Bill' Cody: Yeah.
Louisa Frederici Cody: That's terrible! Can't we do something for her?
William F. 'Buffalo Bill' Cody: It's the way of the people. There's nothing we can do.
Louisa Frederici Cody: Here am I, going to bring a new life into the world, and leaving an old woman to die.
William F. 'Buffalo Bill' Cody: That's nature's way, Louisa. When anything becomes too old to be useful, it's just pushed aside.
Louisa Frederici Cody: But it shouldn't be! That's why we have civilization!
See more »


Featured in 100 Years of the Hollywood Western (1994) See more »


America, My Country Tis of Thee
(1832) (uncredited)
Music by Lowell Mason, based on the
Music by Henry Carey in "God Save the King" (1744)
Lyrics by Samuel Francis Smith (1832)
In the score when the U.S. Capitol Building is shown
Played also for a British royalty scene
See more »

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User Reviews

Amazingly, a pro-Native Western from 1944
16 December 2014 | by (Ohio/PA border) – See all my reviews

"Buffalo Bill" (1944) is a a fictionalized biopic of the life of "Buffalo Bill" Cody (Joel McCrea) who worked as a scout for the US Army and later traveled East, establishing his Wild West show and becoming an international sensation.

Director William Wellman and a writer worked for months on a script that told the true story of Buffalo Bill, including that he was a drunk, a charlatan and an unfaithful husband, but -- ultimately -- they said they couldn't destroy the legend, so they destroyed their screenplay and hired writers to write the myth.

This explains people's criticism of this classic Western, but if you can accept that it's more myth than fact it's quite entertaining, especially considering the time it came out. Several things surprised me about this movie. For one, it clearly takes a pro-Indian stance and this was a full two decades before it become "hip" to do so. Secondly, the depiction of the Indians is good and they used real Natives as peripheral characters. Although Anthony Quinn plays Yellow Hand, he looks convincing, probably because he had Native blood.

The Cheyenne and Sioux are portrayed in a noble manner as people protecting their way of life from the Europeans who don't keep their word and slaughter the buffalo en masse for no logical reason. There's a stunning scene when the Natives confront the cavalry and Yellow Hand stands up to Buffalo Bill. After the battle, Bill holds the body of an Indian woman he knew (Linda Darnell) and someone asks, "A friend of yours?" Bill sadly responds, "They were all my friends."

Interestingly, a black boy is shown in one of the carnival scenes and even has a line, which is notable considering this was a full two decades before the Civil Rights movement.

Some facts: The character of Yellow Hand was taken from the real-life Cheyenne chief Yellow Hair whom Cody shot, stabbed and scalped after Little Big Horn. As already noted, the movie is a whitewash and omits the fact that Cody sued his wife, Louisa Frederici (Maureen O'Hara), for divorce in 1905. They had four kids, but two died when they were young.

Some criticize the way Bill stands at attention while prince Yellow Hand walks in half-naked wherein Bill lifts his hand and says "How." My Response: Didn't the Europeans (sometimes) talk with half-naked Natives when they met, which was fitting since it was the heat of the summer? So what's the problem with depicting this in the film? And wasn't "Howgh" an actual greeting with some tribes? It was. "Hau" was a greeting of the Lakota/Dakota Sioux, which is one of the two tribes depicted in the film; in fact, this greeting is still used by Sioux people today. Other tribes had similar words for greetings. As such, what's wrong with depicting this in the film, particularly since the actors pulled it off? Besides, at that time in the early 40s it hadn't become the stereotypical cliché that it later became.

Bottom Line: Yes, there's some roll-your-eyes myth-making in "Buffalo Bill" (like the kid with crutches at the end), but the story maintains your attention and there's a lot of rollicking entertainment, especially the exciting Cavalry vs. Indians segments. Beyond that, McCrea and Quinn are great, the locations are spectacular, the women are beautiful and the Natives are presented in a respectable and believable way, particularly considering the picture was made in the early 40s.

The film runs 89 minutes and was shot in Utah, Arizona and Montana.


ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY: "Buffalo Bill" was one of the first pro-Native Westerns, which came into vogue by the 60s/70s. This is a good thing because it's important to see the other side of the Indian Wars, but let's not whitewash history. The Black Hills were first inhabited by the Arikara tribe followed by the Cheyenne, Kiowa, Pawnee and Crow. These tribes were defeated by the Sioux, who migrated out of the Minnesota woods (actually chased out by their enemies, the Ojibwa and Chippewa). The Sioux then used their superior numbers to take the Black Hills from the other tribes that resided in the area.

I point this out because Native Americans were guilty of the very thing we accuse European settlers/soldiers/prospectors of doing -- invading lands that weren't theirs.

Furthermore, applying modern thinking is a dishonest tool when inspecting the relations between Native and settler/soldier/prospector.

We always hear of the injustices committed by the US Army or settlers and get a handful of examples: Wounded Knee, Bear River and Sand Creek. Yet we never hear the other side of what caused these events nor do we hear of the atrocities of Natives committed against New Americans. For instance, we never hear of the Dakota "War" of 1862 (Santee Sioux went on the war path and murdered between 600-800 white settlers, which constituted the largest death toll inflicted upon American civilians by an enemy force until 9/11), The Ward Massacre, The Nez Perce uprising which killed dozens of settlers in Idaho and Wyoming, and the Massacre at Fort Mims. We never hear of the countless innocent settlers who were murdered by roaming bands of young "warriors": While a chief was signing a peace treaty on the tribe's behalf they were out robbing, raping and murdering.

I'm just saying that it's easy to be pro-Native sitting on the comfort of your sofa, but not so much when you and your loved ones are threatened with slaughter.

The Europeans wanted the Native's land and resources while the Indians wanted the technology of the Europeans. Both sides used treaties to make peace while still trying to get what they wanted when war was too expensive. Both sides made war when they felt no other option.

I love Native American culture, but the whitewashing of Native atrocities and this revisionist history stuff is dishonest and unbalanced.

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