Review: ‘The Plainsman’

The Plainsman is a big and a good western. It's cowboys and Indians on a broad, sweeping scale; not a Covered Wagon (1923) but majestic enough. Gary Cooper is Hickok, Jean Arthur is the historic Calamity Jane of his immediate associations, and James Ellison is a rather aggrandized Buffalo Bill. Opposite the latter is Helen Burgess as his bride. This perforce casts him as something of a musical comedy version of the plains scout whom history has pictured a much more grisly personality.

The Plainsman is a big and a good western. It’s cowboys and Indians on a broad, sweeping scale; not a Covered Wagon (1923) but majestic enough. Gary Cooper is Hickok, Jean Arthur is the historic Calamity Jane of his immediate associations, and James Ellison is a rather aggrandized Buffalo Bill. Opposite the latter is Helen Burgess as his bride. This perforce casts him as something of a musical comedy version of the plains scout whom history has pictured a much more grisly personality.

The spec appeal is in the redskin warfare. The sequence with the near burning-at-the-stake of Hickok in Yellow Hand’s camp is tingling and the soldiers’ holding out for several days against an almost overwhelming horde of Comanches, with some corking charging-through-the-water action, is another. Scripting [based on data from stories by Courtney Ryley Cooper and Frank J. Wilstack] and editing stand out favorably. Arthur is particularly endowed with some punch lines and pungent expletives as the hardy daughter.

The Plainsman

Production

Paramount. Director Cecil B. DeMille; Producer Cecil B. DeMille; Screenplay Waldemar Young, Lynn Riggs, Harold Lamb; Camera Victor Milner, George Robinson; Editor Anne Bauchens; Music George Anthei; Art Director Hans Dreier, Roland Anderson

Crew

(B&W) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1937. Running time: 112 MIN.

With

Gary Cooper Jean Arthur James Ellison Charles Bickford Helen Burgess Porter Hall
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