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

PG | 123 mins | Western | 1976

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HISTORY

The following written statement appears after "The Player" list in the opening credits: “Plus the Deadwood Stage, hundreds of brave Cowboys, fierce Indians, wild Buffalo, bucking Broncs, and Original Show Music played by Buffalo Bill’s Cowboy band, &c.!” "The Player" cast list in the end credits is followed by the statement: "Plus hundreds of Brave Cowboys and Fierce Indians Played by Fierce Indians and Brave Cowboys from the Stoney Indian Reserve and the Calgary Stampede." The end credits include the following acknowledgements: "Brigham Pluto Calcedona on loan from Raflyn Farms, Snohomish, Washington; Steam engines and other units on loan from Reynolds Museum, Wetaskiwin, Alberta, Canada; Filmed entirely on the Stoney Indian Reserve, Alberta, Canada."
       As noted in the 28 Jun 1976 WSJ review, dime novelist "Ned Buntline," who wrote Buffalo Bill, the King of the Border Men and later popularized William F. Cody's Wild West show, was the pseudonym of Edward Judson.
       Buffalo Bill and the Indians or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson was "suggested" by the play ^lIndians by Arthur Kopit which ran on Broadway from 13 Oct 1969 to 3 Jan 1970.
       According to the 25 Jun 1976 NYT review, director Robert Altman signed a three-picture contract with Italian producer Dino DeLaurentiis at the time Nashville (1975, see entry) was released, but the deal was "terminated" before Buffalo Bill opened.
       While a 30 Jun 1975 Box news item announced that the working title for the picture was Buffalo Bill and the Indians, a 2 Jul 1975 Var brief referred to the film by its release ... More Less

The following written statement appears after "The Player" list in the opening credits: “Plus the Deadwood Stage, hundreds of brave Cowboys, fierce Indians, wild Buffalo, bucking Broncs, and Original Show Music played by Buffalo Bill’s Cowboy band, &c.!” "The Player" cast list in the end credits is followed by the statement: "Plus hundreds of Brave Cowboys and Fierce Indians Played by Fierce Indians and Brave Cowboys from the Stoney Indian Reserve and the Calgary Stampede." The end credits include the following acknowledgements: "Brigham Pluto Calcedona on loan from Raflyn Farms, Snohomish, Washington; Steam engines and other units on loan from Reynolds Museum, Wetaskiwin, Alberta, Canada; Filmed entirely on the Stoney Indian Reserve, Alberta, Canada."
       As noted in the 28 Jun 1976 WSJ review, dime novelist "Ned Buntline," who wrote Buffalo Bill, the King of the Border Men and later popularized William F. Cody's Wild West show, was the pseudonym of Edward Judson.
       Buffalo Bill and the Indians or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson was "suggested" by the play ^lIndians by Arthur Kopit which ran on Broadway from 13 Oct 1969 to 3 Jan 1970.
       According to the 25 Jun 1976 NYT review, director Robert Altman signed a three-picture contract with Italian producer Dino DeLaurentiis at the time Nashville (1975, see entry) was released, but the deal was "terminated" before Buffalo Bill opened.
       While a 30 Jun 1975 Box news item announced that the working title for the picture was Buffalo Bill and the Indians, a 2 Jul 1975 Var brief referred to the film by its release title and reported that Burt Lancaster was added to the cast. Although Box stated that actor Wayne Robson was hired for a role, he was not credited in the film.
       William Cody was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor while serving as a civilian scout for 3rd Cavalry Regiment in the U.S. Army. However, the standards for receiving the medal changed in 1917 and Cody's honor was one of over 900 revoked. In Jun 1989, the U.S. Army Board of Correction of Records restored Cody's medal to full status.
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, the production designer Tony Masters completed the set on location at the Stoney Indian Reservation in Alberta Canada, two weeks before filming began.
       The scene that depicts Sitting Bull as he fires one of Cody’s guns into a teepee implies that buckshot was used to make it easier for the performers in the Wild West show to hit their targets. According to the National Annie Oakley Center at the Garst Museum in Greenville, OH, both Cody and Oakley used smooth-bore guns that fired ammunition which would maintain a width of one and one half inches for thirty feet before expanding. The expanded shot made it more difficult to shoot coins out of a person’s hands because it gave the shooter a smaller margin of error. Oakley reportedly used coins that measured just over one and one half inches in diameter, requiring her to hit the coin dead center to avoid injuring her partner. The shot was also used for the audience’s safety.
More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
30 Jun 1975.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jun 1976
p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
30 Jun 1976
p. 1.
New York Times
25 Jun 1976
p. 8.
Variety
2 Jul 1975.
---
Variety
30 Jun 1976
p. 20.
WSJ
28 Jun 1976.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
The David Susskind production of
Robert Altman's absolutely unique and heroic enterprise of inimitable lustre!
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit mgr
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Screen story and scr
Screen story and scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of cinema photog
Cam op
Cam op
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
Asst ed
Apprentice ed
Apprentice ed
SET DECORATORS
Scenic artist
Prop master & set dec
Asst prop master & set dec
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost asst
Buffalo Bill's gun belt by
MUSIC
Mus comp
Orig show mus played by
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Title des
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod exec
Scr supv
Head wrangler
Prod services by
Prod on the Broadway stage by
Prod on the Broadway stage by
Prod on the Broadway stage by
Prod on the Broadway stage by
Buffalo Bill's gun belt by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Suggested by the play Indians by Arthur Kopit (New York, 13 Oct 1969).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
1976
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 24 June 1976
Los Angeles opening: 30 June 1976
Copyright Claimant:
Dino DeLaurentiis Corporation
Copyright Date:
18 June 1976
Copyright Number:
LP46485
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Systems® noise reduction-stereo high fidelity
Color
Alpha Cine Lab
Widescreen/ratio
Filmed in Panavision
Prints
Deluxe-General
Duration(in mins):
123
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
24606
SYNOPSIS

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show rehearses for an upcoming performance. Meanwhile, in a nearby saloon, an aged writer named Ned Buntline tells the legend of how he discovered buffalo scout William F. Cody, nicknamed him “Buffalo Bill,” and made him the hero of his dime novels. Outside, sharpshooter Annie Oakley and her manager-husband, Frank Butler, rehearse as Major John Burke, the show’s publicist, and Ingraham Prentiss, the journalist, ride into camp. Dropping Prentiss off at the saloon, Burke instructs him to write a “fable” with the headline “Enemies in ’76, friends in ’85” about a mysterious new addition to the troupe. Prentiss reports the headline to Buntline, who speculates that the show’s producer, Nate Salsbury, has hired the illustrious Native American Chief Sitting Bull. Sometime later, Bill is displeased to learn that Buntline has returned to camp and demands that Salsbury evict the writer; however, Buntline refuses to leave unless Bill gives him the word. When Burke returns to the encampment with Sitting Bull, Bill makes a grand entry but confuses the chief for his interpreter, William Halsey. Covering for his error, Bill declares that Sitting Bull is joining a cast of show business professionals and will never again be mistaken for one of his minions. Later, Bill and his companions are shocked to discover that the Indians have traversed a treacherous river to make a separate camp. Adding to the confusion, the Indians return to meet with Bill completely dry. Halsey speaks in symbolic language, baffling Bill and his cohorts, and conveys Sitting Bull’s demands: blankets for his tribespeople, an advance on his salary, and rights ... +


Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show rehearses for an upcoming performance. Meanwhile, in a nearby saloon, an aged writer named Ned Buntline tells the legend of how he discovered buffalo scout William F. Cody, nicknamed him “Buffalo Bill,” and made him the hero of his dime novels. Outside, sharpshooter Annie Oakley and her manager-husband, Frank Butler, rehearse as Major John Burke, the show’s publicist, and Ingraham Prentiss, the journalist, ride into camp. Dropping Prentiss off at the saloon, Burke instructs him to write a “fable” with the headline “Enemies in ’76, friends in ’85” about a mysterious new addition to the troupe. Prentiss reports the headline to Buntline, who speculates that the show’s producer, Nate Salsbury, has hired the illustrious Native American Chief Sitting Bull. Sometime later, Bill is displeased to learn that Buntline has returned to camp and demands that Salsbury evict the writer; however, Buntline refuses to leave unless Bill gives him the word. When Burke returns to the encampment with Sitting Bull, Bill makes a grand entry but confuses the chief for his interpreter, William Halsey. Covering for his error, Bill declares that Sitting Bull is joining a cast of show business professionals and will never again be mistaken for one of his minions. Later, Bill and his companions are shocked to discover that the Indians have traversed a treacherous river to make a separate camp. Adding to the confusion, the Indians return to meet with Bill completely dry. Halsey speaks in symbolic language, baffling Bill and his cohorts, and conveys Sitting Bull’s demands: blankets for his tribespeople, an advance on his salary, and rights over his photographs. Although Bill refuses and storms away, Salsbury offers Sitting Bull a six-month contract in lieu of an advance. However, Halsey declines, reporting that the chief does not make agreements he cannot honor. When Halsey explains that Sitting Bull had a dream that he would soon see “the Great Father,” which would end his involvement in the show, Salsbury interprets “the Great Father” as President Grover Cleveland. Assuming that the President will never come to the show and Sitting Bull will be waiting indefinitely, Salsbury agrees to the cash advance. Sometime later, the chief joins Bill for a rehearsal. The scene requires Sitting Bull to trick General George Custer, played by Bill, into fighting a duel to the death and then kill him with an ambush, but the chief opposes the historical inaccuracy of the performance. Early the next morning, Bill is awakened by Halsey, who calls him to a meeting with Sitting Bull. When the showmen convene, Halsey reports that the chief will perform under the condition that the show portrays the innocent slaughter of unarmed Sioux Indians by the U.S. Calvary. Insulted, Bill demands that Sitting Bull leave, but Annie Oakley threatens to quit in protest and Bill backs down. At the next show, Bill warns Halsey that Sitting Bull will be humiliated by the crowd and will come to embrace the original Custer act, but Sitting Bull wins over the audience. Defeated and hung over the following morning, Bill sees Sitting Bull leave and forms a posse to chase him; however, they return downtrodden and empty-handed. When gunshots sound from Bill’s room, the troupe fears he has committed suicide, but Bill is aiming at his mistress’s canary. Storming into the office, Bill finds Sitting Bull and Halsey, who explains that they went to the mountains to pray. Sitting Bull has resolved to perform in the show because he wants people to see “the big grey horse dance.” Sometime later, the troupe receives a wire that President Cleveland is coming to a show on his honeymoon. At the Wild West’s first evening performance, Bill pulls out all the stops for the President. However, when Sitting Bull takes the stage, he speaks in Sioux and slowly lifts a revolver. Although the audience fears an assassination, Sitting Bull fires the gun into the air with a smile, prompting his grey horse to dance and provoking nervous laughter in the crowd. At a reception following the show, Sitting Bill arrives uninvited with a “simple request” for the President, but Cleveland dismisses the chief, referring him to a local government agent. Bill praises the President’s resolve, reflecting that the difference between a chief and a President is that a President knows to “retaliate before it’s his turn.” Offering the Clevelands his bed, Bill claims that he is going to sleep on the prairie but instead he heads to the camp saloon. There, Buntline toasts Bill for becoming the legend that he created, then rides off into the night. Years later, as the troupe makes a return performance, news arrives that Sitting Bull was killed when he tried to escape Standing Rock reservation; the chief’s horse danced as the shots were fired. Salsbury keeps the news from Bill, but that night Bill sees Sitting Bull the office, wearing war regalia. Intoxicated, Bill rants that Halsey masterminded the chief’s authority and argues that the Native Americans’ involvement in the show was a farce. Bill complains about the responsibility of being a role model, laments that his father did not live to see him become a legend, and accuses Buntline of being a “deserter.” At the next Wild West show, there’s a new act. Sitting Bull, performed by Halsey, challenges Buffalo Bill to a fight to the death. After a few passes jousting, the men dismount their horses. In the choreographed battle, Halsey goes after Bill with a knife, but Bill wrestles him to the ground barehanded. Triumphant, Bill raises the chief’s headdress into the air and revels in the crowd’s cheers. +

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

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