The Plainsman - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Plainsman Reviews

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November 15, 2016
gary cooper stars as Wild Bill Hickock and Jean Arthur as Calamity Jane
July 5, 2016
good historical western
February 12, 2015
The film starts soon after the Civil War with Lincoln conversing with his cabinet members. On his way out for the night he mentions he's going to the theatre. (lol) After he departs, some big-nose guy says he can make money by selling the excess guns from the war to the Injuns. Wild Bill Hickok on his way back West bumps into Buffalo Bill Cody and Calamity Jane. (A lot of jokes about Calamity Jane's slutiness.) Once out West the Natives have become restless with their new found firepower, and go on the warpath. They capture Calamity & Wild Bill and tell them they are mad because Whites are in their area (and want a race war). General George Custer saves them. They decide to seek out the source of the Indian's guns which takes them to Deadwood. There the story ends (as any student of history would expect, even with all the Hollywood liberties with the truth). A really good film through and through.
November 12, 2014
Cecil B. DeMille definitely knows how to make a fantastic and memorable film. The chemistry between Jean Arthur and Gary Cooper was astounding, and Charles Bickford proved an outstanding enemy for Cooper's Wild Bill Hickok. Definitely recommended--just don't worry about historical accuracy, make a tub of popcorn, put the feet back, and be in for a real treat!
½ February 20, 2013
Ridiculous in its attempt to tie multiple western legends together, the film is still highly entertaining.
½ January 17, 2013
Films of this era were always a little lopsided. The historical figures were always heroic. But still entertaining.
½ July 2, 2012
"the plainsman" is forgettable. nothing really to write home about here. not even the talent and chemistry of jean arthur and gary cooper saves this one.
½ June 13, 2012
A rousing bit of Americana with little historical accuracy, but the end, Wild Bill Hickock gets shot in a poker game. Jean Arthur is very endearing as Calamity Jane. A fine western from C.B. DeMille.
Super Reviewer
½ November 28, 2011
DeMille attempts his standard epic story. Like the opening text states, which scrolls by similarly to Star Wars' opening, the story plays loosely with history in order to condense events and characters that "conquered" the west. It is full of themes of Manifest Destiny, "wild" white men who decimate supposedly savage Native Americans to make the west safe for fragile homemaking women, or even the tom-boyish types like Calamity Jane. The stars Cooper as Wild Bill Hickok and Arthur as Calamity Jane are both likeable, but have had better roles elsewhere. Ellison as Buffalo Bill Cody (let me tell you, it is confusing with two characters named Bill!) was an unknown to me. He does an acceptable job standing eye to eye with the 6' 3" Cooper. Bickford as a John Latimer pulls off a somewhat menacing villain. I didn't like the racist portrayal of the Native Americans. I liked how both frontiersmen, both Bills, had the skills for tracking and killing because they were veterans of the Civil War and yet they were "long-hairs" who couldn't fit in in civilization. Yet, I don't think this movie explored those themes enough.
½ September 19, 2011
Portrays the Native Americans as babbling savages and has no sense of place or history. Gary Cooper is fantastic, but this film just went down hill.
July 28, 2011
I liked this more than I thought i would
June 18, 2011
On the eve of Lincoln's assasination, Lincoln ponders what to do with 100,000 newly unemployed soldiers, businessmen discuss what to do about the loss of demand for guns at the end of the Civil War...it's the opening of the frontier and we're off to the races.

Wild Bill Hickox, Buffalo Bill, Calamity Jane...
the age-old battle of the sexes...
cigareets, the latest fad from the East...
and Anthony Quinn's little debut, the famous Indian scene, in which during the filming he argued with DeMille, his future father-in-law.
September 16, 2009
Cecil B. DeMille tackles the wild west in his 1937 epic THE PLAINSMAN which plays loose and fast with historical facts...and except for some issues here and there - this could have been one heck of a western.

DeMille peoples this film with some of the better known names from western folklore. You have Wild Bill Hickok (Gary Cooper), the legendary scout and gunfighter. Cooper reciting dialogue in a DeMille film comes off as wooden as ever but I still think he's fun to watch as Hickok with his quick draw...especially if you like him in HIGH NOON.

Calamity Jane (Jean Arthur), the rough and tumble frontierswomen who has a love/hate relationship with Hickok. Arthur wears way too much make-up in certain scenes but I think she has some of the better lines in this.

Also here is Buffalo Bill Cody (James Ellison), the indian fighter/scout and future showman. He and Hickok are friends who share scouting duties for General George Custer (John Miljan). I wish DeMille had cast a bigger name here for the pivotal role of Buffalo Bill - just to balance out Cooper & Arthur. Ellison was just okay. This likely was his biggest role as he starred in mostly B westerns afterwards...but he just seemed too young and fresh looking to be the indian fighter and scout. I'm thinking someone like Clark Gable would have been perfect as Buffalo Bill here. Too bad.

The story takes place in the days after the Civil War. An unscrupulous arms merchant (Charles Bickford) has surplus rifles and hopes to secretly sell them (more like gouge) to Indians in exchange for animal furs. Since more and more settlers moving westward, arming the Indians living in the west not a good idea - just ask General Custer. The film at least is sympathetic to Indians as chief Yellow Hand (Paul Harvey) explains his mistrust of white men to Hickok in one memorable scene.

There is also a nicely staged battle scene between cavalry soldiers who are ambushed by Indians and have to endure a 9 day siege. Great for 1930's standards.

My main issue with this film is it's clunky pacing. When it seems the action is about to pick up...for some reason it feels that it actually slows down instead. There are also extended portions that go without a musical soundtrack which doesn't help the matter much. I do feel that the basic story is a good one, though. As I mentioned, this could have been a terrific western.

6.5 / 10
July 16, 2009
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½ March 4, 2009
Enjoyable mess despite the rating.
December 24, 2008
It just doesn't work, in spite of the stars.
½ October 28, 2008
Excellent lead,and i liked Calamity Jane, but i hated the ending!
March 14, 2008
ust 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
December 7, 2007
A Cecil B. DeMille spectacular. Gary Cooper's greatest movie role.
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