Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Plainsman (1936)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Plainsman (1936)

In Cecil B. DeMille's epic western about the post-Civil War period, known for compressing the time line of the life of Wild Bill Hickok and other plainsmen:

  • the opening title card: "Among the men who thrust forward America's frontier were Wild Bill Hickok and Buffalo Bill Cody. The story that follows compresses many years, many lives, and widely separated events into one narrative -- in an attempt to do justice to the courage of the plainsman of the West", and the film's title-card epilogue: "It shall be as it was in the past... Not with dreams, but with strength and with courage... Shall a nation be molded to last."; the film portrayed historical characters and events, although compressed into one timeline
  • the opening scene of Abraham Lincoln (Frank McGlynn, Sr.) exultant that the Civil War was over, and explaining how he hoped that settlers and war veterans could now move to the Western frontier - that would be protected and safe for settlement and the plow: ("I hope to attract our disbanded soldiers to the hidden wealth of our mountain ranges and to the wealth that lies in the soil itself..."), before he was scolded by wife Mary (Leila McIntyre) for being late, and fatefully left that evening to attend Ford's Theater, where he was assassinated
Wild Bill Hickok
(Gary Cooper)
Buffalo Bill Cody
(James Ellison)
Calamity Jane
(Jane Arthur)
  • the friendship between Indian scout Buffalo Bill Cody (James Ellison) and his new wife Louisa (Helen Burgess), with Wild Bill Hickok (Gary Cooper) and his romantic interest - bull-whip snapping stagecoach driver Calamity Jane (Jane Arthur); when she greeted Hickok for the first time in the film in Leavenworth, Kansas, she called out: "You mangy old coyote!"; she kissed him, and then noted: "Aw, you four-flushin' mule. You ain't wipin' it off. You're rubbin' it in"; when she asked why he didn't write her letters, he accused her of being promiscuous: "A woman who has a fella at every stage station, and a beau in every cavalry troop west of the Missouri - that woman doesn't need any letters from me"
  • the quick comment of Wild Bill to Louisa as she boarded Calamity's stagecoach ("prairie clipper") - warning about lawlessness on the frontier: "There's no Sunday west of Junction City, no law west of Hays City and no God west of Carson City"
  • the ongoing consequences of profiteer, unscrupulous, gun-running John Lattimer's (Charles Bickford) sale of seven-shot repeating rifles (in large wooden crates marked as farming tools) to the Cheyenne Indians, led by Chief Yellow Hand (Paul Harvey), thereby threatening Lincoln's dream of a safe country
  • the abduction and capture of both Jane and Wild Bill Hickok (who unsuccessfully tried to negotiate for Jane's release); the two were taken to the Cheyenne camp where Hickok spoke to Chief Yellow Hand and learned why the Indian chief and all the tribes were on the "warpath": ("Where sun rise, white man's land. Where sun set, Indian land. White man come, take our land. Kill buffalo, our food. White man promise us food. White man lie. Now Cheyenne buy white man's thunder stick. Soon war drums sound in all Indian land. All tribes ride with Yellow Hand. We drive white man, like buffalo, away, back to rising sun. Yellow Hand has spoken")
Captured Hickok with Chief Yellow Hand
One of Lattimer's Crates of Rifles, Sold to the Cheyenne
To Save Hickok, Jane Forced to Reveal Location of Reinforcement Supply Train
  • while captured, Jane (lovesick about Hickok) was forced to tell the Indians the direction and location ("deep Valley through the upper ford") of a mule supply train (with 10,000 rounds of ammunition as reinforcements) bound for Fort Piney, to save his life from being burned alive (over a fire pit), but she thereby sacrificed some of Cody's 48 men with the supply train who were ambushed by the Cheyenne using Lattimer's purchased rifles ("thundersticks"); they suffered a six-day long siege - one of the best action segments in the film - (and were saved by the arrival of Gen. Custer's forces)
  • the subsequent pursuit of Hickok after Lattimer's gang and Lattimer himself, and the killing of three of Lattimer's gang members, although he was wounded in the arm; then Hickok continued his personal chase after Lattimer into the Black Hills
  • the recreation of Gen. George A. Custer's (John Miljan) massacre at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, while described by a young Indian (DeMille's then son-in-law Anthony Quinn)
  • in Deadwood, Dakota Territory, Hickok defended himself with his two-gun killing of John Lattimer and one of his men; this was followed by the famous barroom death scene in the Bella Union saloon in Deadwood, Dakota Territory (in 1876); Wild Bill Hickok was playing poker (with a famous 'dead man's hand' of black aces and eights, losing to three queens) against some of Lattimer's cohorts as he was awaiting the arrival of military authorities to take them away; at the end of his losing game when he mentioned casually: "A man's bound to lose, sooner or later," Wild Bill was fatally shot in the back by cowardly Lattimer supporter Jack McCall (Porter Hall)
Death of Hickok While Playing Poker, in Calamity's Arms
  • as the film ended, Wild Bill was cradled on the saloon floor by a heartbroken and teary-eyed Calamity Jane; Cody arrived and said he would always remember Bill's legacy: ("All of us will. All of us"); Calamity kissed Bill's cold lips and told him: "That's one kiss you won't wipe off"

Bookend Title Cards

Abraham Lincoln (Frank McGlynn, Sr.) with Mary (Leila McIntyre)

War Profiteer John Lattimer (Charles Bickford)

Calamity to Hickok About Her Kiss: "You ain't wipin' it off. You're rubbin' it in"

Wild Bill to Louisa About Lawlessness

Gen. George A. Custer (John Miljan)

Both Hickok and Jane Captured by Cheyenne

Hickok Threatened to be Burned Alive

Indians on Warpath - Ambush of Supply Train

Death of Gen. Custer at Custer's Last Stand

Hickok Confronting and Killing Lattimer


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