Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson (1976)



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Movie Info

"Truth is whatever gets the loudest applause." Debunking western myths even more than he did in McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971), Robert Altman's Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson (1976) sardonically explores the gap between western history and legend in show biz-obsessed America. Megalomaniac "Buffalo Bill" Cody (Paul Newman) assumes the legend created for him by writer Ned Buntline (Burt Lancaster), aided and abetted by his producer (Joel Grey) and his publicist (Kevin McCarthy), perpetuating myths of white triumph over savage "Injuns" in his Wild West show, as audiences cheer him on and buy his merchandise. But when Sitting Bull (Frank Kaquitts) joins the troupe with his interpreter (Will Sampson), his request for authenticity threatens to throw a wrench into the proceedings. Regardless of how Bill may feel about the facts, he must bow to the preferences of the paying public. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi

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Paul Newman
as The Star (William 'Buffalo Bill' Cody)
Joel Grey
as The Producer (Nate Salisbury)
Kevin McCarthy
as The Publicist (Maj. John Burke)
Burt Lancaster
as The Legend Maker (Ned Buntline)
Allan F. Nicholls
as Prentiss Ingraham
Harvey Keitel
as The Relative (Ed Goodman)
Mike E. Kaplan
as The Treasurer (Jules Keen)
Bert Remsen
as The Bartender (Crutch)
Geraldine Chaplin
as Annie Oakley
John Considine
as Frank Butler
Frank Kaquitts
as Sitting Bull
Will Sampson
as William Halsey
Robert DoQui
as Wrangler
Denver Pyle
as McLaughlin
Pat McCormick
as Grover Cleveland
Shelley Duvall
as Mrs. Cleveland
Fred Larsen
as Cowboy King
Michael J. Kaplan
as The Treasurer
Joy Duce
as Trick Rider
Jerri Duce
as Trick Rider
Alex Green
as Whip & Fast Draw Act
Humphrey Gratz
as Old Soldier
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Critic Reviews for Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson

All Critics (12) | Top Critics (2)

It's a sometimes self-indulgent, confused, ambitious movie that is often very funny and always fascinating.

May 9, 2005 | Rating: 3.5/5

Aspires to a cynical Brechtian snappiness, but the drama is too thinly imagined, the meanings too familiar and heavily stated, for this 1976 film to gather any real interest.

Jul 24, 2001 | Full Review…

The movie is full of intelligence and invention.

Aug 15, 2018 | Full Review…

While not one of Altman's strongest films, this cynical tale merits a look as a meditation on American history, mythmaking, and showbusiness

Jul 15, 2012 | Rating: B- | Full Review…

Scabrous revues of myopic mythology

Nov 15, 2009 | Full Review…

Altman and crew have done the necessary reorganizing and reediting on Buffalo Bill and have created a terrific movie out of the troubled dust of what was. The first time I saw the movie in New York, it was explicit, contrived, and needed a lot of help.

Apr 7, 2009 | Rating: 5.0/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson


A simple, minor, funny and entretaining piece of art.

Lucas Martins
Lucas Martins

Super Reviewer

Though a minor work, Newman is hilarious in the role and Altman paints another vivid picture.

Graham Jones
Graham Jones

Super Reviewer


In the same off-beat comedy style as Robert Altman's M*A*S*H*.

Sean Gillespie
Sean Gillespie

Super Reviewer


[font=Century Gothic]"Buffalo Bill and the Indians" is about the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show in 1885. Buffalo Bill Cody(Paul Newman) has just signed the legendary Indian Chief Sitting Bull to appear in his show. Buffalo BIll, here, is pictured as being a buffoon, a drunkard and having a fetish for opera singers. Since this movie is directed by Robert Altman, it contains some of his normal flourishes - Shelly Duvall, socio-politcal statement, overlapping dialogue, and a large capable cast including Newman, Harvey Keitel, Joel Grey, Kevin McCarthy, Geraldine Chaplin and Burt Lancaster who in a small role nearly steals the movie.[/font] [font=Century Gothic][/font] [font=Century Gothic]"Buffalo Bill and the Indians" is a disappointing movie. It is certainly well-staged but none of the characters truly come to life, despite the cast. I get the feeling that Altman was trying to make a statement about the nature of entertainment vs. reality but it backfires especially because this movie is not as good as "Annie Get Your Gun"(1950) which was immensely entertaining despite its antideluvian gender politics. [/font]

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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