Calamity Jane (1953)

100-101 mins | Musical, Romantic comedy, Western | 14 November 1953

Director:

David Butler

Writer:

James O'Hanlon

Producer:

William Jacobs

Cinematographer:

Wilfrid M. Cline

Editor:

Irene Morra

Production Designer:

John Beckman

Production Company:

Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

The real-life "Calamity Jane," Martha Jane Canary Burke (ca. 1850--1903), was a hard-drinking, sharpshooting frontierswoman known for wearing men's clothing and telling exaggerated stories about her life. As depicted in the film, she reportedly was a scout for Gen. George Armstrong Custer and carried mail through dangerous terrain between the towns of Custer and Deadwood in Dakota Territory. She also claimed to have galloped into the midst of attacking Indians to save the life of a wounded and horseless Capt. Egan, lifting him onto her horse and riding away with him. James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok (1837--1876) was a gunfighter, Union Army scout and Kansas marshal, who was killed by Jack McCall in a Deadwood saloon. Reportedly, Hickok was shot during a poker game in which he held the so-called "Dead Man's Hand" of aces and eights. Both Calamity and Hickok appeared in Wild West shows in their later years. According to some sources, Calamity boasted that she and Hickok were married, but there is no evidence that the two were ever romantically involved. However, at her request they were buried next to each other in a Deadwood cemetery.
       According to publicity materials dated 1944 in the AMPAS Library file on the film, Warner Bros. assigned Jerry Wald to produce an Alan LeMay screenplay titled Calamity Jane , which was slated to star Ann Sheridan and Jack Carson. A Feb 1946 HR news item reported that Delmer Daves had been assigned to direct the film. Neither Sheridan nor Carson appeared in the viewed print, and the contributions of LeMay, Wald and Daves to the 1953 release, if any, have not been determined.
       Although their appearance in ... More Less

The real-life "Calamity Jane," Martha Jane Canary Burke (ca. 1850--1903), was a hard-drinking, sharpshooting frontierswoman known for wearing men's clothing and telling exaggerated stories about her life. As depicted in the film, she reportedly was a scout for Gen. George Armstrong Custer and carried mail through dangerous terrain between the towns of Custer and Deadwood in Dakota Territory. She also claimed to have galloped into the midst of attacking Indians to save the life of a wounded and horseless Capt. Egan, lifting him onto her horse and riding away with him. James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok (1837--1876) was a gunfighter, Union Army scout and Kansas marshal, who was killed by Jack McCall in a Deadwood saloon. Reportedly, Hickok was shot during a poker game in which he held the so-called "Dead Man's Hand" of aces and eights. Both Calamity and Hickok appeared in Wild West shows in their later years. According to some sources, Calamity boasted that she and Hickok were married, but there is no evidence that the two were ever romantically involved. However, at her request they were buried next to each other in a Deadwood cemetery.
       According to publicity materials dated 1944 in the AMPAS Library file on the film, Warner Bros. assigned Jerry Wald to produce an Alan LeMay screenplay titled Calamity Jane , which was slated to star Ann Sheridan and Jack Carson. A Feb 1946 HR news item reported that Delmer Daves had been assigned to direct the film. Neither Sheridan nor Carson appeared in the viewed print, and the contributions of LeMay, Wald and Daves to the 1953 release, if any, have not been determined.
       Although their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed, the following cast members were listed in HR news items: Brad Osborne, Post Park and James Gonzales . The LAT review noted that Warner Bros. borrowed "unblushingly" from the stage musical Oklahoma! and the 1950 M-G-M film Annie Get Your Gun , which was directed by George Sidney and starred Betty Hutton and Howard Keel (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-1950 ). Both Annie Get Your Gun and Calamity Jane have a sharpshooting tomboy heroine and both co-star Keel as the romantic lead. The DV review noted that the song, "I Can Do Without You," which is sung by competitors Calamity and Hickok during a battle of the sexes, is reminiscent of the song "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better" from Annie Get Your Gun .
       According to an Oct 1953 LADN news item, Sigurd Anderson, governor of South Dakota, declined an invitation to the premiere of Calamity Jane , claiming that the heroine was not the kind of woman South Dakota should honor, and pointing out that the film inaccurately portrays Calamity as a sarsaparilla drinker, when in fact, she drank whiskey. However, an Oct 1953 HR news item reported that after the Twin Cities premiere, the mayors and Chambers of Commerce of Rapid City, Lead and Deadwood, SD, in cooperation with Warner Bros., held a gala for a Black Hills opening and proclaimed a "Calamity Jane Week."
       Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster received an Academy Award for their song "Secret Love." The song also became a pop hit single for Doris Day. Although Ray Heindorf was nominated for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture, he lost to Alfred Newman's Call Me Madam . The Warner Bros. Sound Department, headed by William A. Mueller, was nominated for Best Sound Recording, but lost to Columbia's From Here to Eternity . Calamity Jane marked the final collaboration of director David Butler and producer William Jacobs; Jacobs died 30 Sep 1953. A modern source adds Jack Perrin to the cast.
       Other films featuring both Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok are the M-G-M/U-I 1995 release Wild Bill , starring Jeff Bridges and Ellen Barkin, which was directed by Walter Hill, and the 1984 CBS network television production Calamity Jane , which was directed by James Goldstone and starred Jane Alexander and Frederic Forrest. For other films featuring Calamity Jane, see the entry for The Paleface in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 . Among the many screen depictions of Hickok was the 1923 silent Paramount production, Wild Bill Hickok , which starred William S. Hart and was directed by Cecil B. DeMille (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ). Guy Madison portrayed Hickok in The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok , which aired on the Mutual radio network from 1951—1956, and on ABC and CBS television networks from 1951--1958. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
31 Oct 1953.
---
Daily Variety
28 Oct 53
p. 3.
Film Daily
29 Oct 53
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Feb 1946.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 Nov 52
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Dec 52
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Dec 52
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Jan 53
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jan 53
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Feb 53
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Mar 53
p. 19.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Oct 53
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Oct 53
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Oct 53
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Oct 1954.
---
Los Angeles Daily News
31 Oct 1953.
---
Los Angeles Times
19 Nov 1953.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
31 Oct 53
p. 2045.
New York Times
5 Nov 53
p. 40.
Variety
21 Oct 53
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Warner Bros.--First National Picture
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Tech
Asst tech
Stills
Gaffer
Best boy
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Props
Asst props
Dance unit props
COSTUMES
Men's ward
Men's set ward
Women's ward
Women's set ward
MUSIC
Mus dir
Vocal arr
DANCE
Mus numbers staged and dir
Asst dance dir
Dance unit asst dir
Dance unit asst
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Makeup
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Dial dir
Script supv
Cable boy
Coach
STAND INS
Dance stand-in for Doris Day
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
SONGS
"The Deadwood Stage (Whip, Crack, Away!)," "Hive Full of Honey," "I Can Do Without You," "'Tis Harry I'm Plannin' to Marry," "Just Blew in from the Windy City," "Keep It Under Your Hat," "Higher Than a Hawk (Deeper Than a Well)," "A Woman's Touch," "The Black Hills of Dakota" and "Secret Love," music by Sammy Fain, lyrics by Paul Francis Webster.
DETAILS
Release Date:
14 November 1953
Premiere Information:
Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN premiere: 28 October 1953
New York opening: 4 November 1953
Production Date:
late December 1952--late March 1953
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
23 November 1954
Copyright Number:
LP4193
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
100-101
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
15445
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Boisterous Calamity Jane Canary, who dresses like a man, returns from her mail run to Deadwood, Dakota Territory. Then over a drink of sarsaparilla at her friend Henry "Milly" Miller's Golden Garter Saloon, she entertains the men with exaggerated tales of her triumphs over danger. Prospectors show up, claiming they have just escaped a Sioux Indian ambush, and admit that 2nd Lt. Danny Gilmartin, who was riding with them, was knocked off his horse during the attack and left for dead. Calam leaves abruptly to rescue Danny and, after finding him captive at an Indian camp, releases him and escapes with him on her horse. Later, at Milly's saloon, Calam wonders why the men are taking such an enthusiastic interest in the pictures inside their cigarette boxes, and is told by her best friend, gambler Wild Bill Hickok, that the pictures are of Adelaid Adams, a New York actress worshiped by red-blooded men everywhere. Meanwhile, Francis Fryer, a passenger on the stagecoach, introduces himself to Milly as the performer he hired for his dance hall. Milly is shaken by the news, as he has advertised that the act opening that night is a woman, "Frances Fryer," and fears the wrath of his gun-happy, female-hungry patrons. At Milly's insistence, Francis reluctantly presents himself as "Frances" that evening, until his wig falls off and reveals his true sex. Calam stops the ensuing riot with gunfire and careless promises that Adelaid Adams will soon be performing there. Later that evening, Milly confides to Calam and Hickok that his troubles are merely postponed, as no high-class act like Adelaid will come near a town like Deadwood. Hickok dares the competitive Calam to bring ... +


Boisterous Calamity Jane Canary, who dresses like a man, returns from her mail run to Deadwood, Dakota Territory. Then over a drink of sarsaparilla at her friend Henry "Milly" Miller's Golden Garter Saloon, she entertains the men with exaggerated tales of her triumphs over danger. Prospectors show up, claiming they have just escaped a Sioux Indian ambush, and admit that 2nd Lt. Danny Gilmartin, who was riding with them, was knocked off his horse during the attack and left for dead. Calam leaves abruptly to rescue Danny and, after finding him captive at an Indian camp, releases him and escapes with him on her horse. Later, at Milly's saloon, Calam wonders why the men are taking such an enthusiastic interest in the pictures inside their cigarette boxes, and is told by her best friend, gambler Wild Bill Hickok, that the pictures are of Adelaid Adams, a New York actress worshiped by red-blooded men everywhere. Meanwhile, Francis Fryer, a passenger on the stagecoach, introduces himself to Milly as the performer he hired for his dance hall. Milly is shaken by the news, as he has advertised that the act opening that night is a woman, "Frances Fryer," and fears the wrath of his gun-happy, female-hungry patrons. At Milly's insistence, Francis reluctantly presents himself as "Frances" that evening, until his wig falls off and reveals his true sex. Calam stops the ensuing riot with gunfire and careless promises that Adelaid Adams will soon be performing there. Later that evening, Milly confides to Calam and Hickok that his troubles are merely postponed, as no high-class act like Adelaid will come near a town like Deadwood. Hickok dares the competitive Calam to bring Adelaid to Deadwood, promising to come to the show dressed as a Sioux squaw if she succeeds. Before Calam heads for Chicago, where Adelaid is performing, Hickok also suggests that she buy feminine things there, as he suspects that she is "passable pretty" under her deerskin. In Chicago, Calam attends Adelaid's closing night performance and visits her dressing room after the show. Unaware that the actress has already left, Calam mistakes Adelaid's maid, Katie Brown, for her employer and invites her to perform in Deadwood. Katie, seeing a chance to break into show business, agrees to return with Calam, silently hoping that she can keep her deception a secret in remote Deadwood. After a harrowing trip for Katie, the women arrive in Deadwood, where Katie is highly received by all the men, including the infatuated Hickok and Danny. Although Francis, who recognizes her, keeps her secret, it becomes obvious during her performance that she is not Adelaid, and she finally breaks down and confesses. Another riot seems imminent, but Calam, with guns and a speech, persuades the crowd to give Katie a chance to perform as herself. The music starts again, and Katie wows them in her own style. Afterward, however, Hickok, dressed as a female Sioux, lassoes Calam at the waist and lets her swing from the rafters. The next day, Katie moves in with Calam, but finding that the rundown shack lacks a "woman's touch," helps fix it up and feminizes Calam, who admits that she has a hankering for Danny. When the two smitten suitors, Hickok and Danny, come calling to take Katie to the ball at the fort, Katie tries to sidestep Danny's advances. However, the men draw straws for her, and when Danny wins, Hickok gallantly asks Calam to accompany him. At the ball, the new, dressed-up Calam that Katie has created is a beauty, and is seen, perhaps for the first time, as a woman. Calam's happiness ends when she sees Danny and Katie kiss. Reverting to her old ways, she shoots a cup of punch out of Katie's hand, then abruptly leaves the ball. Believing that Katie was conniving for Danny all along, she packs up Katie's things for Hickok to deliver. During Francis and Katie's next performance at the Golden Garter, deerskin-clad Calam shows up and orders Katie out of town. Holding her own, Katie borrows a gun and shakily aims at Calam's sarsaparilla. Although her shot goes awry, Hickok secretly shoots Calam's cup, and the crowd cheers for Katie. Hickok drags the defeated Calam away, and scolds her for trying to break up Katie and Danny. As she cools off, they talk about their own dreams of children and home, and Hickok admits that he loves Katie. Despite his declaration, they soon are kissing and realize that all along they have shared a secret love for each other. The next day in town, a transformed Calam wants to apologize to Katie, but learns from the heartbroken Danny and the angry townsmen that she took the stagecoach to Chicago. Abruptly, Calam rides off and brings Katie back for a double wedding. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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