Sitting Bull (1954)

105 mins | Western | October 1954

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HISTORY

An Apr 1953 DV news item noted that the film's title role was originally set for Boris Karloff, and that Dennis Morgan was to co-star. The majority of this picture was filmed in Mexico, with Mexicans playing many of the Indian roles. Although HR production charts include Bill Cannon in the cast, his participation in the completed film has not been determined.
       As depicted in the film, Sitting Bull became the leader of the Teton Sioux after they had agreed to reside on a large reservation in the Black Hills. Also known as a mystic, Sitting Bull refused government orders to gather on the reservation in response to tensions created by the influx of white prospectors, who flocked to the area after gold was discovered in 1874. In the spring of 1876, the U.S. Army sent troops to the area, and Sitting Bull rallied members of various Sioux tribes to resist their presence.
       During the Battle of the Little Big Horn, Sitting Bull stayed in camp, fasting and praying. Following the Army's retaliation for Col. George Armstrong Custer's overwhelming defeat, Sitting Bull retreated to Canada, but eventually was forced south and surrended on 19 Jul 1881. He was confined to the reservation, but in 1885, he toured briefly with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. With the emergence of the Ghost Dance in 1890, Indian agent James McLaughlin feared that Sitting Bull would re-emerge as a leader, and the Indian police were sent to arrest him. Sitting Bull was shot dead during the ensuing struggle.
       Letters contained in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library indicate that, just prior to the ... More Less

An Apr 1953 DV news item noted that the film's title role was originally set for Boris Karloff, and that Dennis Morgan was to co-star. The majority of this picture was filmed in Mexico, with Mexicans playing many of the Indian roles. Although HR production charts include Bill Cannon in the cast, his participation in the completed film has not been determined.
       As depicted in the film, Sitting Bull became the leader of the Teton Sioux after they had agreed to reside on a large reservation in the Black Hills. Also known as a mystic, Sitting Bull refused government orders to gather on the reservation in response to tensions created by the influx of white prospectors, who flocked to the area after gold was discovered in 1874. In the spring of 1876, the U.S. Army sent troops to the area, and Sitting Bull rallied members of various Sioux tribes to resist their presence.
       During the Battle of the Little Big Horn, Sitting Bull stayed in camp, fasting and praying. Following the Army's retaliation for Col. George Armstrong Custer's overwhelming defeat, Sitting Bull retreated to Canada, but eventually was forced south and surrended on 19 Jul 1881. He was confined to the reservation, but in 1885, he toured briefly with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. With the emergence of the Ghost Dance in 1890, Indian agent James McLaughlin feared that Sitting Bull would re-emerge as a leader, and the Indian police were sent to arrest him. Sitting Bull was shot dead during the ensuing struggle.
       Letters contained in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library indicate that, just prior to the start of production, an effort was made by representatives of the Sioux tribe to pressure W. R. Frank Productions into filming the picture in Sitting Bull's native land. One letter contained a formal resolution calling the decision to film the picture in Mexico an action "not befitting our great Sioux Chief," and pointed out that the Sioux people in the Dakotas "desire an opportunity to take part in making a picture of his life." According to news items and the Var review, Sitting Bull was the first independently produced picture to be filmed in CinemaScope. For more information about the life of George Armstrong Custer and the Battle of the Little Big Horn, See Entry for They Died with Their Boots On . More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
18 Sep 1954.
---
Daily Variety
6 Apr 1953.
---
Daily Variety
8 Sep 54
p. 6.
Film Daily
8 Sep 54
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Feb 54
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Mar 54
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Sep 54
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
11 Sep 54
p. 137.
New York Times
26 Nov 54
p. 24.
Variety
15 Sep 54
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Mexican dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Mexican photog
FILM EDITOR
Supv film ed
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Tech adv and Indian cost
Mexican prod mgr
SOURCES
SONGS
"Great Spirit," music and lyrics by Max Rich.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
October 1954
Production Date:
late February--late March 1954 at Estudios Churubusco, Mexico City
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Color
Eastman Color
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Duration(in mins):
105
Length(in feet):
8,697
Countries:
Mexico, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
17128
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In the Black Hills of the Dakotas, Sitting Bull, leader of a large Sioux Indian tribe, watches with anger as one wagon train after another brings in white prospectors looking for gold. The prospectors are cutting through Indian territory, despite attempts by the U.S. Cavalry to divert them to the east or south. After breaking up a skirmish between the Sioux and some prospectors, Major Bob Parrish returns to his fort, where he and Colonel George Armstrong Custer argue over the role of the Cavalry in the territory. Parrish's insistence on keeping the peace with the Indians by going after the trouble-making prospectors results in his reassignment by General Howell to the Red Rock Indian Agency. Howell's daughter and Parrish's fiancée Kathy, who wants a husband with a future in the Army, decides to break off the engagement when she learns of the reassignment. When Parrish arrives at Red Rock, he is appalled at the living conditions that have been forced on the Indians, and complains to Webber, the cruel civilian agency head. Though sent to the agency to police the camp, Parrish refuses to order his men to shoot the Indians when they break out of the stockade. Webber, frustrated by the Cavalry's inaction, shoots and kills the Indian Young Buffalo. Later, cavalrymen arrive with orders to arrest Parrish, who is being sent to Washington to be court-martialed for sympathizing with the Indians and allowing the prisoners at Red Rock to escape. In Washington, Parrish meets with President Ulysses S. Grant, who demotes him to captain but assigns him to arrange a meeting with Sitting Bull. Parrish returns to the Black Hills, only to discover that ... +


In the Black Hills of the Dakotas, Sitting Bull, leader of a large Sioux Indian tribe, watches with anger as one wagon train after another brings in white prospectors looking for gold. The prospectors are cutting through Indian territory, despite attempts by the U.S. Cavalry to divert them to the east or south. After breaking up a skirmish between the Sioux and some prospectors, Major Bob Parrish returns to his fort, where he and Colonel George Armstrong Custer argue over the role of the Cavalry in the territory. Parrish's insistence on keeping the peace with the Indians by going after the trouble-making prospectors results in his reassignment by General Howell to the Red Rock Indian Agency. Howell's daughter and Parrish's fiancée Kathy, who wants a husband with a future in the Army, decides to break off the engagement when she learns of the reassignment. When Parrish arrives at Red Rock, he is appalled at the living conditions that have been forced on the Indians, and complains to Webber, the cruel civilian agency head. Though sent to the agency to police the camp, Parrish refuses to order his men to shoot the Indians when they break out of the stockade. Webber, frustrated by the Cavalry's inaction, shoots and kills the Indian Young Buffalo. Later, cavalrymen arrive with orders to arrest Parrish, who is being sent to Washington to be court-martialed for sympathizing with the Indians and allowing the prisoners at Red Rock to escape. In Washington, Parrish meets with President Ulysses S. Grant, who demotes him to captain but assigns him to arrange a meeting with Sitting Bull. Parrish returns to the Black Hills, only to discover that Kathy is now engaged to Charles Wentworth, a war correspondent. With the help of Sam, a black runaway slave, Parrish is taken to Sitting Bull. The chief agrees to a temporary truce and a meeting with Grant, but he refuses to go to Washington, so Parrish asks the President to come to the Dakotas. Grant consents to the meeting, but before the peace treaty meeting can convene, Custer, ignoring Parrish's pleas to keep his distance, spoils the truce by provoking an Indian attack. The ensuing battle results in the death of Custer and the massacre of his regiment at Little Big Horn. Following the massacre, Parrish, determined to prevent further bloodshed, warns Sitting Bull that an Army unit is approaching, and guides the Sioux to a safe place. For his role in the evacuation, Parrish is later convicted of treason and ordered to die by firing squad. Kathy, who still loves Parrish and who has broken off her engagement to Wentworth, meets with Grant and tries unsuccessfully to prevent Parrish's execution. With only a short time to spare before Parrish's set execution, Kathy, realizing that the only testimony that can save her sweetheart is that of Sitting Bull, finds the chief and brings him to the execution site. After convincing Grant of Parrish's patriotism and preventing the captain's execution, Sitting Bull returns to his people, hopeful that now peace will prevail. +

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.