You Know My Name (1999)




Director:     John Kent Harrison.

Starring:     Sam Elliott (Bill Tilghman), Arliss Howard (Wiley Lynn), Carolyn McCormick (Zoe Tilghman), James Gammon (Real Arkansas Tom), R. Lee Ermey (Marshal Nix), James Parks (Alibi Joe), Sheila McCarthy (Mrs. Lynn), Nataalia Rey (Rose), Jonathon Young (Hugh), Perla Batalla (Singer).

old lawman Bill Tilghman takes a job in Oklahoma during the time of the gangsters


Spoiler Warning: 

Bill Hickok comes riding through the high grass. 

Seminole County, Oklahoma, 1924.  Prohibition agents attack a moonshine still, blasting away at the moon shiners.  Prohibition agent, Wiley Lynn, arrests the main moon shiner, saying that he is in violation of the Volstead Act.   Wiley then kicks the moon shiner in the face. 

The agents take the moon shiner to a building used by the oil well drillers.  Wiley asks the moon shiner who he makes his deliveries to?   The deputy agent tells the moon shiner that he better tell the man who he delivers to.  The moon shiner says that Mr. Lynn already knows who he delivers to.  Wiley pulls out his gun and shoots the deputy agent.  The moon shiner then pushes the deputy agent down an oil well opening.  Wiley starts laughing and the moon shiner joins in on the laughing.  Then, suddenly, Wiley get very menacing saying that he did warn the moon shiner.  He then tells the law breaker that he better get out of Seminole County and never come back.  The moon shiner agrees to that and starts walking out of the building.  Wiley calls out to the man, who turns around, and Wiley shoot the fellow in the chest.  He then throws the body into the same oil well opening.  Wiley now bloodies his forehead by banging it against a pipe. 

Well-known law man, Bill Tilghman, co-wrote a movie script and now directs the making of the movie about bank robbers and other Oklahoma outlaws.  He is also the technical advisor on the movie, as many of the scenes are based on Tilghman's real-life adventures fighting the outlaws.  They start filming the big shout-out scene, but Bill soon stops it.  It's not realistic enough, and he knows, because he was there at the actual shoot-out.  He wants to shoot the scene over again, but his fellow retired lawman friend Evert tells him that they are finished filming the film.  

The film crew and actors have a party complete with a live band and dancing.  A reporter talks to Bill and his lawmen friends.  One of the old lawmen talks about the Dalton gang:  the Doolins, Star, Jennings.  The reporter says that the friend must have gotten fed-up with the Hollywood version of the outlaws and decided to make a film telling the real story.  Tilghman comes over and says:  "Mister, there's only one story young folks in this country should understand.  And that's jus how low and ornery and mean the life of an outlaw was then and still is today."

Bill's wife, Zoe, shows up for the party.  She wants to dance with her husband. 

Driving home, with their two boys sleeping in the back, Bill has to tell Zoe that none of the Los Angeles theaters will show Bill's film.  They told him to put actor Tom Mix in the movie and then they'll show it.  Bill tells his wife that Tom Mix is too damn pretty to be from Oklahoma. 

Bill tells his older son Tench a bed time story about one of his adventures. 

Flashback.  He heard that Bill Doolin, a member of the Wild Bunch, was hanging around the Eureka Hot Springs over in Arkansas.  So he dressed as a musician, complete with a violin case, and walked passed all the customers around the hot springs resort.  He walked up to the main room where the men were getting massages and he looked at all the men's faces until he found Doolin.  He pulled out a shot-gun from the violin case and said to Doolin:  "You know my name, Doolin."  Doolin started reaching for his pistol, but Tilghman came closer to the outlaw, and said:  "Don't make me kill you, Bill."

Back to the present.  Tilghman and his wife go to the premier of Bill's movie. The capture of Bill Doolin was put in Tilghman's movie.  Also in the move was Bill's involvement with the capture of two young ladies with the Wild Bunch gang, Cattle Annie and Little Britches.  Tilghman is called out of the movie to speak with a man, a store owner  named John Sirmans from Cromwell, Oklahoma.  John represents the Citizen's Committee for Law an Order.  He says things are out of control in Cromwell, in Seminole County, and they want Bill Tilghman as their first chief of police, because everybody knows the name of Bill Tilghman and his presence will show the outlaws that they mean business in Cromwell to stop the crime wave. 

Bill now has to tell Zoe that he's thinking of taking a lawman's job in Cromwell.  He gives Zoe a good horse trained by his friend Madsen and Zoe says he gave her the horse because he took the Cromwell job.  He says he's just going up to Cromwell to take a look.  He says:  "I never seen a town I couldn't handle."  Zoe gets really angry at Bill and says well isn't he just God almighty Himself.  "You rode with the Earps, partnered with Bat Masterson, captured Cattle Annie and Little Britches, brought in the Wild Bunch.  You're Bill Tilghman.  You can do anything."

A low-life character named Alibi Joe comes to talk with Prohibition agent Wiley Lynn.  A man takes him to the madam of the house, who, in turn, takes Joe to Wiley.  Joe tells Wiley that Tilghman will be here tomorrow morning.  Wiley gives him some money and sends him on his way. 

Tilghman takes a ride on his horse to Cromwell.  He doesn't take a ride in his car.  He passes by the big oil field.  None of the streets are paved in the town.  It's a regular mud city in Cromwell.  In the town itself Tilghman stops a man from continuously firing off his pistol in the middle of the street.  He then gets introduced to the towns people in a meeting.  The introducer, Mr. Crump, says that Tilghman rode all the over from Chandler, Oklahoma.  A certain businessman, Mr. Killian, speaks up against hiring the old man Tilghman, who represents only the old ways of doing things in the modern west where cars are more important than horses.  Killian wants to keep the current situation going on.   He even praises federal agent Wiley Lynn for almost giving his life to protect the people of this town.  (It seems Killian and Lynn are both corrupt and criminal.)

John Sirmans stands up and says it's 14 miles to the country seat and it just doesn't make a lick of sense to keep dragging Cromwell criminals over there.   He wants Cromwell to become incorporated and get their own chief of police.  Wiley speaks up and says they don't need their own chief of police, because nowadays people have federal agents to protect them. 

Tilghman goes back home to tell Zoe that they offered him six months.  Zoe walks away from her husband.  Bill goes in to talk with his boys.  He shows them some pictures of the dead Bill Doolin who was foolish enough to draw down on Heck Thomas.  Then he shows them a picture of two dead Dalton brothers.  Later, he tells Zoe that he will be home on weekends. 

A young man waits in the sheriff's office.  He tries to practice his fast draw, but is not very good at it.  When Tilghman comes into the office the fellow asks him if he could be Tilghman's deputy?.  Bill says no, but Hugh Sawyer is not going to give up without another appeal.  He says he wants to be a lawman.  Bill says he doesn't need a deputy, but he could use an assistant.  Hugh takes the job gladly. 

Bill finds out that the county sheriff down in Wewoka won't sign off on a local police commission for Tilghman.  Bill says there are ways around  that.

Alibi Joe keeps telephoning Wiley to update him about the movements of Tilghman.  The first time Bill saw Alibi Joe, he told Sawyer that the man is a crook.  He watches Alibi Joe on the phone, knowing that the young man is up to no good.  After Bill finishes his dinner in Ma Murphy's place, he arrests Alibi Joe.  He and Sawyer pretend that they are going to lynch him out of town with barbed wire instead of rope.  Joe becomes scared and says he will cooperate with the marshal. 

Joe must have told the marshal a lot about the moon shiners in the area because Bill and Hugh arrest a lot of men.  They then walk the men the 14 miles to the Wewoka jail.  Alibi Joe watches the men start walking.  He tells a prostitute that Tilghman was the first man who ever treated him square. 

Tilghman turns over his prisoners in Wewoka and then just walks into the office of the county sheriff, who is on the phone right now warning Wiley about what's going on.  Bill confronts the county sheriff over his refusal to sign the police commission papers.  He gets out of his seat and puts in a phonecall to speak with the governor.  When Tilghman leaves the country sheriff's office, he has his police commission.  On the other hand, he has to deal with Wiley who is just outside the sheriff's office in his convertible car.

Wiley says that he is the only man around these parts who has the authority to deal with bootleggers and that's a fact. He then insists that Tilghman is just trying to build up the name of Bill Tilghman, trying to prove that Bill Tilghman is still a big shot.  

Tilghman's lawmen friends tell him that Wiley is so mean because he's a half-breed, part Choctaw.  They tell them they know where Wiley's house is. 

Tilghman goes to talk with Mrs. Lynn.  He asks her if he could take a look around the place.  He assures the woman that he will not tell anyone that he visited the Lynn home.  So she gives him a tour.  In a shed, the whole place is filled with liquor bottles. 

Bill closes down a bordello.  Next he goes into Rose Lutke's place.  She is very suspicious of him, but actually, all he wants to do is advertise for a showing of his movie picture show.

There is a good turn-out for the showing of the picture.  After the picture show, former bad man Arkansas Tom speaks about his days with the Dalton gang.  Meanwhile, Killian and Lynn talk about taking care of Bill Tilghman.  Lynn says he will personally take care of the man, but Killian tells him:  "No you won't."  He says for Lynn to let his friends handle the marshal. 

Tilghman and his family have a picnic together with friends and their families.  Bill goes down by the river by himself.  He sees a vision of Bill Hickok coming towards him.  He just stares and stares at the image of Hickok.  Then when the image comes close to Bill, he finally realizes that it's just his own two boys coming towards him.  His boys asks him if he is okay, because he was just staring out into the distance.  Dad says he was just remembering back to when he was a youngster.  William B. Hickock came riding up to him and his sisters.  He was chasing a mule thief and wondered if the children had seen the man.  They told Hickock that they had seen him, and the told him which way the man went. 

At night a man comes sneaking around Bill's house.  Bill grabs his pistol and grabs the man, but it is only Alibi Joe. Joe tells Bill that a big liquor shipment is coming in.  Bill is happy to get the news, but he tells Joe that from now on, stop being a spy or else he'll end up dead one day.  Joe says well that's his own worry. 

On his way to work ,three men in a car start chasing after Bill on his horse.  Bill starts trying to get away from them on his horse.  Two of the gangsters open up on Bill with their Tommy guns.  Bill tries to hide in the high brush, but the car just keeps on barreling over and through the bushes.  The only thing that saves Bill is that he moves over to the side of the big hill and the car driver, who can't see where he's going, goes over the side of the hill to all their deaths.  Bill watches the car going down to its crashing place and then just rides away on his horse. 

Bill plots out the ambush site for the liquor trucks on a map with the help of Hugh, the judge and the grocery store owner.  He tells the judge that he is going to need some deputies tonight and he asks the two civilians to get some for him.  The civilians go to find some help.  Hugh wants to go with the marshal on the ambush.  Bill's first reaction is to ignore Hugh, but he thinks about it a bit and then gives Hugh a deputy's badge. 

At night, Alibi Joe rides with Wiley in his car.  Wiley senses that Joe is acting a little weirdly.  Hugh and Bill keep an eye on them with a pair of binoculars.  A shipment is dropped by parachute from an airplane.  Two other henchmen arrive and tell Wiley that Bill is out there somewhere in the dark.  He knows about the drop. And, now, Wiley knows that Alibi Joe is the snitch.  And soon Bill knows that Wiley is on to them, because the bad guys soon leave.  Bill goes and checks out the oil storage facility.  He must have seen something in the storage tank, because Bill gets a court order to dump all the oil out of the storage tank. 

Bill spills the oil onto the ground and Killian is just furious with the sheriff.  He says he's going to take Bill's badge from him.  Bill is not too worried about it.  He goes up the ladder and down another ladder into the storage tank.  Three bodies are in the tank: the moon shiner, the deputy Prohibition agent and Alibi Joe. 

Killian does try to get Bill fired by saying that Bill actually messed up an investigation already underway by a Federal agency.   Furthermore, Bill is nothing but a fame-seeking gunslinger.  Hugh is in the audience and he rushes out of the room and over to see the sheriff to tell him about what Killian is up to.  Again, Bill doesn't seem too concerned, but his friend Nix tells Bill:  "You gotta get outta this, Bill.  Now, I've smelled stinkers in my time, and this one is higher than a mad dog's privates."  Bill tells Nix that a man has to stick up for who he's been.

Bill does, however, go over to see what the fuss is about.  The sheriff tells the people that he is not going to let people tear down what's been built up.  He says the people of the town must decide for themselves about what kind of country they want their children to grow up in.  He then tells Killian that he's done in this town and better leave it soon.  Meanwhile, Bill says he's going over to Ma Murphy's place for a steak dinner and he wants an answer from the towns people about what kind of country they do want. 

Meanwhile, Wiley with his girl Rose drives into town looking to kill Bill.  The town spokesmen go to Ma Murphy's place to give Bill the good news of the people's overwhelming support for the marshal.  A little later, Hugh tells Bill that Wiley just pulled up in front of Killian. 

Wiley is very drunk and shoots into the muddy street.  He slowly approaches the restaurant.  Bill and others go onto the porch and Bill tells Wiley to give him his gun.  Wiley pulls out his pistol in his left hand and the marshal grabs his gun hand.  While Bill grapples with the left hand, Wiley pulls out a smaller pistol from his right jacket pocket.  He says to Bill:  "You're a fool."  He then puts the smaller pistol up to Bill's mid-section and fires the pistol twice into the lawman.  As Bill falls onto the porch, Wiley takes off.  The assassin jumps into his car and takes off. 

Two men drive over to tell Zoe about what happened.  She seems to sense what she is going to hear.  The news spreads quickly through the town and the town's people start pouring onto the main street of town.  And are they ever mad.  One of the first actions is to chase Killian out of town. 

Zoe and the two boys arrive to see Bill.  She asks Nix how badly in her husband shot?  From his face, she can read that the wound is a fatal one.  Zoe and the boys at least get to say a few words to Bill before he dies.  Bill tells the boys to take care of their mother.  He tells his wife to cover over him before he actually dies. He adds:  "Remember me alive."   Zoe does so.  Soon afterwards, Bill dies. 

Wild Bill Hickock pulls the young boy Bill Tilghman up and onto the back of his horse and then takes off riding with Bill. 

"On the night of November 2, 1924 the citizens of Cromwell cleaned up their town and closed their dance halls in respect for Marshal Tilghman.  In May, 1925, Wiley Lynn was tried for the murder of William Matthew Tilghman.  He was acquitted on a technicality, but discharged from Federal Service.  On July 17, 1932, after committing numerous felonies, Lynn was gunned down by Agent Crockett Long of the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation."


Marshal Bill Tilghman was an honest and good man, and a heck of a sheriff.  He caught many a bad man in his long career as a lawman.  But Bill's last job as a lawman was when he was 70 years old.  He was an old man with old tactics of catching the bad guys.  The world around him had changed considerably.  Cars became the dominant form of transportation, but Bill use a horse to get around.  Bill had a six-shooter, while the gangsters had Tommy guns.  Bill was used to serving with honest lawmen, but in Cromwell, Oklahoma even the Feds were corrupt and murderous.  Nevertheless, Bill continued to stand up for what is right, even if he was flirting with certain death at the hands of the gangsters.   He was a very honorable man, but he was just too surrounded by very wicked men.  I love that Sam Elliott as an actor.  Also good were Arliss Howard and Carolyn McCormick.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:


1854  --  Bill Tilghman is born in Fort Dodge, Iowa.

1869  --  at the age of 14, Bill becomes a buffalo hunter.    He may have known Wild Bill Hickok, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and Mysterious Dave Mather, who hunted buffalo during this time. 

mid-1870s  -- Bill''s older brother is killed when the buffalo hunting team is attacked by an Indian war party.

1875  --  Bill runs a saloon in Dodge City, Kansas. 

1878  --  he leaves Dodge City.   He serves as a scout for the U.S. Cavalry during a surge of Cheyenne raids on settlements.  He  becomes a deputy sheriff under Bat Masterson. 

1883  --  he returned briefly to Dodge City when Wyatt Earp, Luke Short, Bat Masterson, and others were engaged in the bloodless Dodge City War (April 28 and June 7, 1883).

1884  --  Bill leaves the deputy sheriff job and works at various law enforcement jobs.

1889  --   he becomes a deputy marshal in Guthrie, Oklahoma Territory during the time of the land rush. Tilghman participates in the Battle of Cimarron, a famous gunfight during the Gray County War, and is wounded in the fight. Bill Tilghman, along with Heck Thomas and Chris Madsen, comprising the trio known as the Three Guardsmen, help bring law and order to the area.  The group eliminates the notorious Wild Bunch (consisting of  William "Tulsa Jack" Blake, Dan "Dynamite Dick" Clifton, Roy Daugherty (a.k.a. "Arkansas Tom Jones"), William Marion "Bill" Dalton, Bill Doolin, George "Bittercreek" Newcomb (aka "Slaughter Kid"), Charley Pierce, William F. "Little Bill" Raidler, George "Red Buck" Waightman, Richard "Little Dick" West, and Oliver "Ol" Yantis, along with two teenaged girls known as Little Britches and Cattle Annie).

1895  --  Bill  single handedly captures Bill Doolin of the Wild Bunch in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.  He also wounds Doolin gang member "Little Bill" Raidler.  Later he brings in Little Britches.

1910  --  Tilghman retires as a U.S. marshal.  He is elected to the Oklahoma State Senate.

1911  --  Tilghman becomes the police chief of Oklahoma City.

1915  --  Bill directs and stars in the movie The Passing of the Oklahoma Outlaws.

1924  --  at the age of seventy, Tilghman becomes the marshal of Cromwell in Seminole County, Oklahoma.  He is warned that the gangsters of the town could kill him while he is on the job.  On November 12, he dies from two shots fired by Wiley Lynn, a corrupt Prohibition agent.  One month after Tilghman's murder, the town of Cromwell is torched, with every brothel, bar, flophouse, and pool hall being burned to the ground.


Return To Main Page

Return to Home Page (Vernon Johns Society)