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HISTORY

This film is based on the life of William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody (1846-1917). Cody's legendary exploits as a Pony Express rider, Army scout, Indian fighter, buffalo hunter and showman were popularized in the dime novels of writer Ned Buntline. Although some of the incidents in the film, such as Cody's fight with Cheyenne leader Yellow Hand and his being awarded the Medal of Honor are true, others were not. His wife Louisa, for example, was not the daughter of a senator, and the couple had three other children besides Kit Carson Cody, who actually died of scarlet fever. Numerous films have been made featuring Cody as a character, including the 1926 Sunset Productions film Buffalo Bill on the U.P. Trail , starring Roy Stewart (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ; F2.0675); the 1936 Paramount film The Plainsman , featuring James Ellison as Cody (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.3472); and the 1976 picture Buffalo Bill and the Indians or Sitting Bull's History Lesson , starring Paul Newman. Cody himself appeared in a number of films, including the 1901 Biograph release Buffalo Bill's Wild West Parade (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1893-1910 ; A.01833) and the 1917 Essanay release The Adventures of Buffalo Bill (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ; F1.0024). The Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, located at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library, contains several letters from Cody's relatives, some of which protested that the picture was being made without their permission. Others complained after the film was released that ... More Less

This film is based on the life of William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody (1846-1917). Cody's legendary exploits as a Pony Express rider, Army scout, Indian fighter, buffalo hunter and showman were popularized in the dime novels of writer Ned Buntline. Although some of the incidents in the film, such as Cody's fight with Cheyenne leader Yellow Hand and his being awarded the Medal of Honor are true, others were not. His wife Louisa, for example, was not the daughter of a senator, and the couple had three other children besides Kit Carson Cody, who actually died of scarlet fever. Numerous films have been made featuring Cody as a character, including the 1926 Sunset Productions film Buffalo Bill on the U.P. Trail , starring Roy Stewart (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ; F2.0675); the 1936 Paramount film The Plainsman , featuring James Ellison as Cody (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.3472); and the 1976 picture Buffalo Bill and the Indians or Sitting Bull's History Lesson , starring Paul Newman. Cody himself appeared in a number of films, including the 1901 Biograph release Buffalo Bill's Wild West Parade (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1893-1910 ; A.01833) and the 1917 Essanay release The Adventures of Buffalo Bill (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ; F1.0024). The Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, located at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library, contains several letters from Cody's relatives, some of which protested that the picture was being made without their permission. Others complained after the film was released that the depiction of Cody was grossly inaccurate. No claims were filed, however, and the studio maintained that because Cody was dead, they did not have to obtain the rights to his life story from any of his surviving relatives.
       According to information in the legal records and the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection, also located at UCLA, the studio purchased the rights to Frank Winch's unpublished story, entitled "Pahaska," from producer Harry Sherman, who had originally intended to make the film at Paramount. Sherman assigned Harrison Jacobs to write the screenplay, and planned to shoot it in Wyoming, according to a Feb 1939 LAT news item. Fox's purchase of Sherman's rights to "Pahaska" included the rights to other works by Winch, upon some of which the screenplay may have been based. They include: The Thrilling Lives of Buffalo Bill, Col. William F. Cody, Last of the Great Scouts and Pawnee Bill, Major Gordon W. Lillie, White Chief of the Pawnees (1911); Buffalo Bill as I Knew Him (1928); and "Buffalo Bill--Frontiersman" ( Ace High Magazine , 3 Jan 1929--18 Sep 1929). According to a studio press release, "Americana expert" George Milburn was to collaborate with credited writer Aeneas McKenzie on the screenplay, but the extent of his contribution to the completed picture has not been confirmed. A 14 Jun 1943 HR news item noted that Sherman originally intended for Lesley Selander to act as the second unit director.
       A Jun 1943 version of the screenplay, contained in the scripts collection, includes the following foreword: "In recognition of the valor and devotion of those Indian warriors who are now in the armed forces of our nation, Twentieth Century-Fox Studios dedicates to a race that ever fought for freedom, this story of its greatest friend and foeman." In a 14 Jul 1943 story conference, however, studio production chief Darryl F. Zanuck objected to the dedication, saying "in this we are reminded of a situation which we would rather not have brought up: our ignoble treatment of the American Indian." The story conference also reveals that Vincent Price was originally scheduled to play "Murdo Carvell," but was replaced when the part was cut. HR production charts list Price in the cast, however, along with E. J. Ballantine, whose participation in the completed film has not been confirmed. According to several contemporary sources, the buffalo hunting sequence was filmed on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana, and many sequences were shot on location in Zion National Park and Kanab, Utah. The majority of the Indians in the film were played by Navajo Indians from Arizona. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
18 Mar 1944.
---
Collier's
18 Mar 44
pp. 18-19.
Daily Variety
15 Mar 44
pp. 3, 6
Film Daily
17 Mar 44
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jun 43
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jun 43
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jun 43
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jun 43
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Jul 43
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jul 43
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jul 43
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Sep 43
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Sep 43
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Sep 43
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Oct 43
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Mar 44
p. 19.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Apr 44
p. 12.
Life
10 Apr 44
pp. 109-112, 114, 117
Los Angeles Times
15 Feb 1939.
---
Motion Picture Daily
24 Mar 1944.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
18 Mar 44
p. 1801.
New York Times
12 Sep 1943.
---
New York Times
20 Apr 44
p. 22.
Variety
15 Mar 44
p. 32.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Fred Chapman
Don House
Edward Jauregui
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITERS
Based on a story by
Contr wrt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Assoc
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus dir
VISUAL EFFECTS
Special photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
Prod mgr
Loc mgr
Unit mgr
Asst to Harry Sherman
Constr supv
Archery expert
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor dir
DETAILS
Release Date:
April 1944
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 13 April 1944
New York opening: week of 19 April 1944
Production Date:
26 July--early October 1943
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
11 April 1944
Copyright Number:
LP12908
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
90
Length(in feet):
8,126
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
PCA No:
9533
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1877, William Frederick Cody, an army scout at a remote frontier post, and a longtime friend of the Cheyenne Indians, is riding one day when he sees a wagon being attacked by a group of Indians. After rescuing the endangered party, which consists of cavalry sergeant Chips McGraw, Senator Frederici and his daughter Louisa and businessman Murdo Carvell, Bill explains to the senator that the drunken Indians meant no real harm. Later, Louisa invites Bill to a dinner party at her home near the fort, much to the despair of Dawn Starlight, a Cheyenne schoolteacher who is in love with Bill. The dinner is interrupted by Chips, who has brought Yellow Hand, the son of Cheyenne chief Tall Bull, to discuss industrialist Schyler Vandevere's plan to build a railroad line through Cheyenne land. Despite Yellow Hand's warning that it will cause war, Vandevere insists he is going through with his project. Journalist Ned Buntline, another guest, is enthusiastic about covering an Indian war, but Bill fears a tragic result. Vandevere begins his construction, and the Cheyenne, led by Yellow Hand, the war chief, begin a campaign of destruction. Dawn Starlight, who is Yellow Hand's sister, sends him word that if he takes Frederici hostage, he can obtain greater peace terms. Frederici is captured, but Bill negotiates for his release, and soon after, a peace treaty is signed. Ned then returns to the East after telling Bill of his intentions to write about him. Louisa, who has fallen in love with Bill, coaxes the shy scout to propose to her, and they are married. Two years pass as Bill and Louisa ... +


In 1877, William Frederick Cody, an army scout at a remote frontier post, and a longtime friend of the Cheyenne Indians, is riding one day when he sees a wagon being attacked by a group of Indians. After rescuing the endangered party, which consists of cavalry sergeant Chips McGraw, Senator Frederici and his daughter Louisa and businessman Murdo Carvell, Bill explains to the senator that the drunken Indians meant no real harm. Later, Louisa invites Bill to a dinner party at her home near the fort, much to the despair of Dawn Starlight, a Cheyenne schoolteacher who is in love with Bill. The dinner is interrupted by Chips, who has brought Yellow Hand, the son of Cheyenne chief Tall Bull, to discuss industrialist Schyler Vandevere's plan to build a railroad line through Cheyenne land. Despite Yellow Hand's warning that it will cause war, Vandevere insists he is going through with his project. Journalist Ned Buntline, another guest, is enthusiastic about covering an Indian war, but Bill fears a tragic result. Vandevere begins his construction, and the Cheyenne, led by Yellow Hand, the war chief, begin a campaign of destruction. Dawn Starlight, who is Yellow Hand's sister, sends him word that if he takes Frederici hostage, he can obtain greater peace terms. Frederici is captured, but Bill negotiates for his release, and soon after, a peace treaty is signed. Ned then returns to the East after telling Bill of his intentions to write about him. Louisa, who has fallen in love with Bill, coaxes the shy scout to propose to her, and they are married. Two years pass as Bill and Louisa enjoy a quiet life. One day, the senator brings news that he and Vandevere have started a company dealing in buffalo robes. Bill agrees to direct the operation but is sickened by the slaughter of the buffalo. Bill's anxiety is temporarily forgotten, however, when Louisa announces that she is pregnant. Meanwhile, Yellow Hand meets with Sioux war chief Crazy Horse, and they declare war on the white man for destroying the buffalo, which are their main food source. While the Indians attack in the North, where there are fewer soldiers, Louisa goes into labor as she and Bill are returning to the fort. Soon Bill is presented with a son, whom he names Kit Carson Cody. Upon their arrival at the fort, Bill and Louisa learn that the Sioux have beaten General George Custer's forces, and General Blazier urges Bill to join the Army. Louisa warns Bill that she will take Kit East if he leaves, but Bill feels compelled to accompany the Army. Bill subverts the general's orders, however, so that the leading group of cavalry meets Yellow Hand's forces at War Bonnet Gorge. There, Bill kills Yellow Hand in hand-to-hand combat, and when the Army reinforcements arrive, the Indians are beaten in a bloody battle, during which Dawn Starlight is killed. Despite his despair over the battle, Bill agrees to go to Washington, D.C., where he is to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic actions. During the journey, Bill is surprised to learn that Ned's publications about the exploits of "Buffalo Bill" have made him a celebrity. Once in Washington, however, Bill learns that Kit is seriously ill. Bill rushes to Louisa's house, but the child has already died from diphtheria. Grief-stricken, Bill lashes out at Vandevere and other industrialists, accusing them of persecuting the Indians for their own gain. Powerful political forces then align against Bill and ruin his reputation through slander. Penniless, Bill wanders the streets until his sharpshooting at an arcade catches the eye of Sherman, a sideshow owner. Sherman hires Bill as part of his show, and when Louisa finally decides to locate her husband, she finds Bill in the humiliating job. The couple reconcile, but Bill decides that he cannot go home because of the way he has treated the Indians. One afternoon, Ned overhears Bill telling some children that Indian children are just like them, and he convinces Bill to start a rodeo show during which he and his Indian friends can demonstrate their skills. Soon Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show has become a success, and as the years pass, Bill travels throughout the world, performing for royalty, heads of state and adoring youngsters. Years later, after his final performance, Bill thanks his fans and announces that he is retiring so that he and Louisa can return to the West. +

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

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.