MovieChat Forums > The Plainsman (1936) Discussion > Accurate ? No ! Fun ? Yes !

Accurate ? No ! Fun ? Yes !

A historical disaster ! Wrong characters in wrong places,weapons are especially "out of era" etc,etc
But a rousing fun film !
Cooper and Arthur are wonderful !
Forget "the facts" and enjoy !



I loved it as well and could care less about historical accuracy. DeMille knows how to make a film. A lot of directors these days could really learn a thing or two from him. It's definitely an 8/10.


Western film of all it.No sex,no cast and a sea of extras....made in USA for you youngsters.


I remember watching it with my father years ago and my father commented on it not being historic to have Wild Bill Hickock and Buffalo Bill meet General Custer.

I didn't say anything but I knew that Hickock and Buffalo Bill did scout for Custer for a time in the 1860s. The bit of inaccurate name dropping that stuck out to me during that viewing was naming Colonel Carrington as the commander of the fort that urgently needed ammunition.

The film The Plainsman (1936) combines events that happened over 11 years & 5 months into a story that happens in 2 to 3 months of story time.

Warning! Plot Spoilers below!

The movie opens when Abraham Lincoln goes to Ford's Theater and is shot - on April 14, 1865 in history. At the same time John Lattimer is sent west with a shipment of repeating rifles to sell to "friendly" Indians.

Buffalo Bill Cody has recently married Louisa. Buffalo Bill actually married Louisa Frederici in 1866.

The reported slaughter of half the garrison of Fort Piney is based on the December 21, 1866, Fetterman Massacre near Fort Phil Kearney, commanded by Colonel Carrington, on Piney Creek in Wyoming.

The siege of Company B, 7th Cavalry at an island in a river is based on the Battle of Beecher Island 17-19 September 1868.

Hickok's shootout with three 7th cavalry troopers is based on a shootout between Hickok and two 7th cavalry troopers on July 17, 1870.

Custer's Last Stand happened on June 25, 1876.

Wild Bill Hickok was shot by Jack McCall at Deadwood in the Black Hills of South Dakota on August 2, 1876.

The 5th Cavalry did ride to reinforce General Crook's army, but they didn't arrive in Deadwood until Crook's army reached Deadwood in September, not when Hickok was shot[/spoiler]


So The Plainsman does combine events which happened over a span of 11 years and 5 months into 2 to 3 months of fictional time. Spoilers follow.

[spoiler]After the opening it should take John Lattimer just a few days to reach St. Louis, unless this is a possible later trip to St. Louis. At St. Louis, Hickok and Buffalo Bill Cody have both been discharged from the Union army which make the year 1865 or 1866 at the latest.

The riverboat trip to Leavenworth should take a few days at most, and the stagecoach ride to Hays City is said to be a 3 day trip. Buffalo Bill leaves to guide a troop of cavalry that night. After three or four days travel, they are ambushed at a ford on the Republican River. As the attack begins, Wild Bill sends Calamity Jane to inform General Custer. Custer arrives with the relief force on the 7th or 8th day, indicating that the one way trip lasts 3 or 4 days.

On apparently the day they return to Hays City Wild Bill gets in a shoot out and leaves to track John Lattimer, while Buffalo Bill is given a mission by Custer. Six weeks, or about 39 to 45 days, later Wild Bill and Buffalo Bill learn of Custer's Last Stand. Wild Bill heads for Deadwood and the rest of the movie probably takes less than 7 fictional days.

So I calculate about 15 to 19 days plus 39 to 45 days, or about 54 to 64 days. Plus probably less than 7 days for John Lattimer to get from Washington DC to Leavenworth at the beginning of the movie and probably less than 7 days for Wild Bill to reach Deadwood at the end, for a total of about 54 to 78 days fictional time.[/spoiler]

And the opening credits in fact say that many lives and many years are condensed into the story of the Plainsman. Which means that even in the fictional universe of The Plainsman (1936) many of the events would have "really" happened to other persons!

See my post here