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Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson (1976)

A cynical Buffalo Bill hires Sitting Bull to exploit him and add his credibility to the distorted view of history presented in his Wild West Show.

Director:

Robert Altman

Writers:

Arthur Kopit (suggested by the play "Indians" by), Alan Rudolph (screen story) | 3 more credits »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Paul Newman ... The Star (William 'Buffalo Bill' Cody)
Joel Grey ... The Producer (Nate Salisbury)
Kevin McCarthy ... The Publicist (Maj. John Burke)
Harvey Keitel ... The Relative (Ed Goodman)
Allan F. Nicholls ... The Journalist (Prentiss Ingraham) (as Allan Nicholls)
Geraldine Chaplin ... The Sure Shot (Annie Oakley)
John Considine ... The Sure Shot's Manager (Frank Butler)
Robert DoQui ... The Wrangler (Oswald Dart) (as Robert Doqui)
Mike Kaplan ... The Treasurer (Jules Keen)
Bert Remsen ... The Bartender (Crutch)
Bonnie Leaders Bonnie Leaders ... The Mezzo-Contralto (Margaret)
Noelle Rogers Noelle Rogers ... The Lyric-Coloratura (Lucille DuCharme)
Evelyn Lear ... The Lyric-Soprano (Nina Cavallini)
Denver Pyle ... The Indian Agent (McLaughlin)
Frank Kaquitts Frank Kaquitts ... The Indian (Sitting Bull)
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Storyline

Buffalo Bill plans to put on his own Wild West sideshow, and Chief Sitting Bull has agreed to appear in it. However, Sitting Bull has his own hidden agenda, involving the President and General Custer. Written by Jonathan Broxton <j.w.broxton@sheffield.ac.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy | Western

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

24 June 1976 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Buffalo Bill and the Indians See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$6,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (1979) | (video)

Sound Mix:

4-Track Stereo

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This started out as a project re-teaming Paul Newman and Director George Roy Hill after Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969). Although Hill dropped out of the mix in the intervening years, Newman remained on-board. See more »

Goofs

There is a flag on the flagpole. All 3 flags have 48 stars on them. The flag with 48 stars didn't come about until 1912. See more »

Quotes

William F. 'Buffalo Bill' Cody: Where were ya?
William Halsey: It's the first of the moon.
Nate Salisbury: That's not what Buffalo Bill asked ya! Now where in the hell have you been?
William Halsey: During the first day of the first moon, Sitting Bull visits the sun in the mountains while his squaws move the teepees to the moon path.
Nate Salisbury: Damn it, Halsey! Stop sunning and mooning us! Now where the hell have you been?
See more »

Crazy Credits

Robert Altman's Absolutely Unique and Heroic Enterprise of Inimitable Lustrel See more »

Connections

Referenced in Sneak Previews: The Top Ten Films of 1976 (1977) See more »

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User Reviews

 
"I Was Not Always A Man Of Comfort"
23 February 2008 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

My title quote is something that Paul Newman remarks as Buffalo Bill when he decides he's going to camp out one night and forgo the pleasures of bed and the ladies who clamored to inhabit his. William F. Cody certainly had his share of what we'd now consider groupies, but on that night he felt a need to get back to his roots.

The reason why Buffalo Bill sustained an enduring popularity was because he really did have a background that was colorful and exciting. He was a kid raised in Nebraska frontier territory who ran away to escape hard times and was one of the young riders for the short lived and legendary pony express. He had real exploits in that, as a buffalo hunter (hence the name)and an army scout. He won the Congressional Medal of Honor and did kill Cheyenne Chief Yellow Hand in single combat.

But a lot of people in those days could have shown similar resumes. What set Cody apart was his discovery by Ned Buntline who wrote those dime novels who created all the mythology around him. Buntline was in need of a new hero, his previous literary Parsifal Wild Bill Hickok had fallen out with him. Buntline later wrote about Wyatt Earp, Jesse James, Billy the Kid, just about every colorful character our old west produced. His dime novels for better or worse created the characters.

The greatest weakness in the film is Burt Lancaster's portrayal of Buntline. Not taking anything away from Lancaster because I'm sure he was taking direction and working within the parameters of the script and the original Broadway play Indians upon which Buffalo Bill and the Indians is based. But Lancaster plays it like the elderly Robert Stroud. The real Buntline was more like Elmer Gantry.

Paul Newman as Cody however gives one of the best interpretations of Buffalo Bill seen on film. He's a man trapped in his own legend, but he's smart enough to know what's real and what's phony in his world, including himself. He knows behind all the ballyhoo and hoopla of his Wild West Show, there's a man who did not always know ease and comfort.

The original play Indians ran for 96 performances on Broadway and starred Stacy Keach as Cody. It was far more involved and had Hickok, Billy the Kid, and Jesse James as characters. Author Arthur Koppit trimmed it down so it had more coherency for the screen.

As we know from Annie Get Your Gun, Sitting Bull was briefly part of Cody's Wild West Show. But here the attention is focused on Frank Kaquitts who in his one and only film plays an impassive Sitting Bull, who's doing Cody's show to gain food and supply from the government for his people. In fact Cody now the total show business creation is more impressed with Will Sampson who's well over six feet tall and is better typecast as the savage Indian. There's nothing terribly savage about either of them now.

Look for good performances from Geraldine Chaplin as Annie Oakley who in real life as well as in Annie Get Your Gun befriended Sitting Bull and from Joel Grey as Nate Salisbury, Cody's business partner and Kevin McCarthy as John Burke, the publicist for the Wild West Show. They continued what Buntline started in creating the Buffalo Bill mythology.

Buffalo Bill and the Indians is not the best film of Robert Altman or Paul Newman. It's certainly a lot better than the science fiction film Quintet that they did later. It's a good study of how in America our western mythology got its start.


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