Plainsman [1966]

Genre: Western
Just maybe the most shamelessly enjoyable of Cecil B. DeMille's pseudo-historical epics, this rumbustious frontier saga offers a three-for-one Western legends combo--Wild Bill Hickok, Buffalo Bill Cody, and Calamity Jane, all cutting up in the 1870s, with George Armstrong Custer and Abraham Lincoln thrown in for good measure. (Wait a minute, Lincoln was assassinated in 1865--oh, never mind.) Truth to tell, Buffalo Bill doesn't really pull his weight, since (1) he is hopelessly distracted by virtue of having recently married and (2) he's played by James Ellison, an eternal juvenile normally relegated to second-banana duty in Paramount's Hopalong Cassidy series. However, Gary Cooper's Wild Bill and Jean Arthur's Calamity supply enough star power to light up the Dakotas and parts of Missouri. Every once in a while, DeMille and his small army of writers stumble upon an actual historical fact. Bill Cody did fight to the death with an Indian chief named Yellow Hand. George Custer and James Butler Hickok did both buy the farm in the summer of 1876. (Custer's Last Stand is handled imaginatively, if cheaply, as a vision narrated by a wandering Cheyenne warrior--none other than C.B.'s son-in-law Anthony Quinn in one of his earliest screen appearances.) Jack McCall (veteran weasel Porter Hall) did find himself in Deadwood, South Dakota, at the same time Wild Bill was drawing aces and eights in a poker game ... though McCall was not necessarily affiliated with DeMille's favorite villain, Charles Bickford, in the business of running guns to the Indians. --Richard T. Jameson

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