Young Bill Hickok (1940)
Director: Joseph Kane.
Starring: Roy Rogers ('Wild' Bill Hickok), George 'Gabby' Hayes ('Gabby' Whitaker), Julie Bishop (Louise Mason), John Miljan (Nicholas Tower), Sally Payne (Miss 'Calamity' Jane Canary), Archie Twitchell (Phillip), Monte Blue (Marshal Evans), Hal Taliaferro (Morrell).
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
Civil War period. San Francisco Harbor, September 1864. Foreigner Mr. Nicholas Tower arrives off a ship. Philip says tells Tower he has a customer. They walk to a saloon A man named Fred stays outside to watch for any trouble. Philip introduces Tower to Senator Tucker of the California state legislature. A scruffy looking fellow sitting at the table is Morell. Tower's government wants to pick up some of the pieces after the USA disintegrates. He is hiring men like Morell to cut off all communication between the west and the east.
Morell says they will operate out of Hayes City. The overland stage trail goes over the mountains. Morell will talk with Chief Redwood and they will stop the stage traffic. A notice in the newspaper offers $1,000 dollars reward for the capture dead or alive of any member of the Overland Raiders. It is signed Majors and Waddell Overland Stage Co., Hayes City.
Calamity Jane and Gabby Whittaker with a group of Indians travel along the trail. An Indian named Tea Kettle rides back to them to tell them that there is a big fight at the relay station. The attackers are not Indians, but ten white raiders. Gabby, Jane, Big Bear and Tea Kettle ride for the relay station to help the defenders. They start firing as they ride and the remainder of the raiders takes off. Young Bill Hickok has been wounded and he collapses on the porch. They take Hickok inside.
A stagecoach arrives. Gabby tells the newspaperman on the stage that Hickok drove off ten men by himself. The reporter says he will call the young man "Wild Bill" Hickok. The government sent Lt. Hickok to help deal with the problem of the Overland Raiders. Hickok is eligible to receive the reward money. Mr. Waddell personally presents the check to Hickok, whose head is all bandaged up.
Another stage pulls up. Hickok says he could have used the money earlier, because he was gonna get married and buy a house. But his intended Louise Mason dropped him. As he talks, in walks Louise. They had quarreled over the North and South. Calamity Jane watches what's going on from a hole in a wall.
Tower at the saloon asks Philip why haven't they heard from Morell lately? Morell and one of his men arrive. Philip tells them to come around back late at night. Morell returns at night and speaks with his two bosses. Tower says that the encounter with Hickok was rather costly. Morell shoots back that he isn't through with Mr. Hickok. Tower tells Morell to get going and hit those trail outfits hard. Morell and his gang do just that. Morell attacks a relay station and shoots the manager. He drives the horses away.
Waddell plays cards with Tower and some other men. The men think they can trust Tower, so they talk about the gold shipment worth more than $500,000 dollars. They want Hickok to help transport the gold. But Hickok is getting wed tomorrow. Calamity Jane is going to be the bride's maid.
Hickok serenades Louise. Against the wishes of Calamity Jane, Louise comes out onto the porch even though she is wearing her wedding dress. Majors, Waddell and Tower come riding out to see Hickok. They tell him that the northern government desperately needs gold supplies and they want Hickok to get it through. Hickok asks if that's an order and they say yes. He has to tell Louise that he has orders to get a shipment of gold through. This makes Louise mad because she says the gold will help the North kill her people in the South. She gets so angry that she cancels the wedding.
The next morning Louise apologizes to Hickok. She warns him about the Overland Raiders. Bill tells her that on this trip there are just decoys. He and the men move out with the stage. Tower, however, has a hunch that the gold isn't on the stage. He walks over to talk with Louise, who, in her worried state, says that Bill is just leading a decoy. Tower talks to one of his men and says that Gabby has the gold and is headed to California. They have to head him off quickly.
Morell is just about to attack Hickok's stage coach, when a messenger arrives to tell him they have to go after Gabby Whittaker on the Willow Creek Trail. The bad guys catch up with Gabby and attack. Calamity Jane is with Gabby. She hits one of the raiders with a rifle shot. Gabby stops the wagon and he and his people take up defensive positions. Jane wounds another raider, this one named Red Burke. But the raiders get away with the wagon. The man Jane wounded is taken into custody.
Hickok gets suspicious that the raiders must have found out about the ruse. He stops the stage coach and takes most of the men with him to try to catch up with Gabby. They find the wagon and decide to head back to Hayes City. They arrive just after Gabby and his crew arrives. Hickok goes to find out who all knew about the change up, while the others question Red. Tower asks the questions and gets Red to accuse Hickok of planning the robbery. They are going to go after Hickok, but Gabby rides off first.
Hickok talks to Louise and she admits that she told Tower. Gabby arrives and tells Hickok that they got him framed. The posse arrives to get Hickok, but Hickok rides off. The men decide to chase after him. Hickok gets off his horse and goes up into the rocks. The men start climbing while Hickok completes a circle and gets to the horses He sets up a contrivance to slow the posse down. He ties ropes to the saddles of the posse. The posse finds Bill's horse. Hickok now fires a shot in the air. The men come rushing down to the horses and Bill gets on his horse and rides off. As the men take off on their horses their saddles just slide off carrying the men with them.
At a camp fire at night Gabby tells Bill that they found Red dead in his jail cell. They figure that Tower is behind all this. Bill says he's headed over to speak with Tower. Jane and Gabby go with him. Tower is busy playing cards as usual. Jane and Gabby will start a distraction to break up the poker game. Jane gets up on a table and sings a song to entertain the men in the bar. Tower and the men come out to listen to Jane sing.
Bill gets into Tower's office and goes through his papers. He finds a letter from John Wilkes Booth (later the assassin of President Lincoln) that says their common interests are rapidly approaching a climax in Washington. Hickok gets ready to get on his horse when the sheriff grabs him. Louise comes down to the sheriff's office. She tells the sheriff that she told Tower about the ruse. Louise charges that Tower is the leader of the Overland Raiders. But the sheriff doesn't buy it and Tower leaves the sheriff's office.
A stage coach driver rides up and shouts that the civil war is over. Lee just surrendered. This doesn't really affect Tower's plans. He will use the gold to buy an army and take over California. Philip asks about what Mr. Lincoln would do? Tower says he might do many things, if he had the time. The next day the news is of the assassination of Lincoln.
Tower takes off for California. Gabby and Jane tell Hickok. The also give the newspaper to Hickok. Bill reads about the news about the assassination and realizes that this John Wilkes Booth is the same one that wrote the letter to Tower. He tells his compatriots that Tower is involved in a nationwide plot to wreck the union. He has to get out of his jail cell. Gabby ties a rope around the axle of the stage coach and then to the bars of the jail cell. The wheel axel and wheels come off the stage coach when the stage pulls out, but the bars don't budge. So Gabby runs into the sheriff's office and frees Hickok. He gets away. His compatriots go with him.
The sheriff catches up with Hickok who tells the posse that Tower has the gold. The sheriff agrees to go after Tower and his men. Soon the two groups are shooting at each other. Bill catches up with the wagon and jumps onto it. Tower knocks Hickok off the coach, but he lands between the horses. He is able to get to the rear of the coach undetected and then gets the drop on Philip and Tower. They have to stop the coach. The bad guys are arrested.
Hickok serenades Louise again. Gabby and Calamity Jane rush over to him saying that he has to get out of there, because they are coming for him again. Hickok and Louise take off. Majors and Waddell come up to Gabby and ask where is Hickok. Gabby says he is long gone, done eloped. The two businessmen say that's a shame because they have another big reward check for Hickok. Gabby turns and starts yelling for Hickok to come back.
This story is totally fictional except for the famous names of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. If I had known earlier, I wouldn't even had bothered watching the movie. It's pleasant enough of a cowboy film, but when it's all just totally made up, I'm really not interested. Don't waste your time, historians.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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