Yesterday I was dipping into a book about the mythical West* and read an interesting article about Buffalo Bill. This led to some web surfing, which led to today's Overlooked film.
Based on the title of a book by William F. ("Buffalo Bill") Cody and certainly not on the book itself, and then changing the title, Battling with Buffalo Bill was an early twelve episoder from Universal Studios.
Buffalo Bill is played by Tom Tyler, a stand-up western hero of the early cinema and one-time Captain Marvel.. Francis Ford (which also happens to be the name of my grandfather, but this surely is not him) plays Jim Rodney, the evil gambler who tries to take over a town to gain its newly-discovered gold. Ford was the brother of director John Ford and was, at one time, his mentor. Ford's acting credits (419 titles!) listed on IMDB go back to 1909; his directing credits (a mere 1976 titles) begin in 1912); and, yes, he was in a number of his brother's movies, including The Quiet Man and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.
In order to frighten off the townspeople, Rodney stirs up trouble with a local Indian tribe by murdering an Indian woman and stealing horses. (I'm sure which was worse in context.) The Indians attack the town but are defeated by Buffalo Bill and the U.S. cavalry. While continuing to incite the Indians, Rodney rigs an election and becomes the sheriff, defeating Buffalo Bill's friend Dave Archer (played by Rex Bell, who married the "It" girl, Clara Bell, the same year this serial was released and later became Lieutenant Governor of Nevada). It's up to Buffalo Bill to stop all this tomfoolery sometime during the next ten episodes. Bell's "It" girl in Battling with Buffalo Bill was Lucile Brown, who played Jane Mills. Brown was a 23-year-old model who later sometimes spelled her name "Lucille"; many of her film appearances -- such as the 'Skating Woman" in The Thin Man Goes Home -- were uncredited. Western star William Desmond played her father, John Mills. Assisting Rodney in his evil deeds were the Tampas (not Trampas -- that would have been just too much) brothers, played by Bud Osborne and Merrill McCormack. Also in the cast were muscleman (and rival of Chalres Atlas) Joe Bonomo, Grecian stage actor George Regas, and stuntman Yakima Canute.
Writing credits go to Cody (ha!) for the book, George H. Plympton for the adaptation, and Ella O'Neill for dialogue. Ray Taylor (Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe, The Adventures of Smilin' Jack, Junior G-Men of the Air, and over 150 others) directed.
So, gather up some popcorn and a glass of soda (no bigger than 12 ounces if you live in New York City, please), and maybe some Raisinets, sit back, and enjoy the West as it never was.
The first six episodes: http://archive.org/details/PublicDomainBattlingwithBuffaloBill
And the final six: http://archive.org/details/UniversalPicturesBattlingwithBuffaloBill
* The Wild West Show!, edited by Thomas W. Knowles and Joe R. Lansdale (Wings Books, 1994). The article was written by Loren D. Estleman. A great book, jam-packed with interesting odds an ends.
For links to today's Overlooked Films, stop by Sweet Freedom, where blogmaster Todd Mason will have lassoed 'em.