Recognizing that Maj. Robert Parrish (Dale Robertson) has a history of making peace with Native American tribes, President Ulysses S. Grant (John Hamilton) sends him to iron out a land dispute with Chief Sitting Bull (J. Carrol Naish). Though negotiations seem to be going well, Parrish can’t stop the deadly Battle of Little Big Horn. Many die, but when he helps Sitting Bull survive, Parrish is charged with crimes against the government, and he will be executed unless Grant steps in.
Initial release: October 6, 1954
Music by: Score: Raoul Kraushaar
Song Great Spirit: Max Rich
Major Robert Parrish (Dale Robertson) of the 7th Cavalry is considered by some to be his own worst enemy because he’s not a “team player“. Formerly one of the youngest Colonels in the Union Army during the American Civil War, he is now a company commander under Lt. Colonel (formerly Brevet Major General during the Civil War) George Armstrong Custer (Douglas Kennedy). His fiancée Kathy (Mary Murphy), daughter of Parrish’s commanding general, breaks off their engagement because he has not risen in rank.
Parrish gains no friends amongst the civilian community when he chastises them and threatens to “break heads” when they violate Sioux lands. Custer and Parrish’s exasperated General and once prospective father-in-law reassigns Parrish and his company to the Bureau of Indian Affairs where Parrish is outraged at the treatment of the Indians and refuses to carry out the orders of the Indian Agent to shoot his escaping charges. Parrish is court martialed and visits his former commanding general–now President of the United States–Ulysses S. Grant–who demotes him to Captain. Parrish convinces the President to come to the Western frontier to meet Sitting Bull and prevent a war.
Back in the West, now Captain Parrish meets Kathy who has announced her engagement with Charles Wentworth (William Hopper), a former major and now a war correspondent. Using captured Indians, including Sam, a former slave now a Sioux, Parrish meets with Sitting Bull (J. Carrol Naish) who agrees to meet the President in a secret meeting. Further conflicts with the Sioux lead Custer to lead his Regiment out assigning Parrish to guard supplies.
Following the Battle of the Little Bighorn that eliminates Custer, most of his men, and his romantic rival Wentworth, Parrish tries to befriend Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse (Iron Eyes Cody). As Parrish knows the US Army’s plan of attack, he leads the Sioux to safety in the North. Parrish is court-martialed again, stripped of his rank, and sentenced to death by firing squad for treason.
As the execution is about to take place, Sitting Bull comes to the fort to speak with President Grant. Parrish had told him “the Great Chief will understand,” believing he would show mercy to him because his only intention was to prevent more killing. Sitting Bull’s pleads with Grant to spare his life. Grant then commutes his sentence to being discharged from the service.
Sitting Bull is a 1954 Eastmancolor Western film directed by Sidney Salkow and René Cardona that was filmed in Mexico in CinemaScope. In a greatly fictionalised form, it depicts the war between Sitting Bull and the U.S. forces, leading up to the Battle of the Little Bighorn and Custer’s Last Stand. It was the first independent production to be filmed in the CinemaScope process. Featuring sympathetic portrayals of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, The New York Times called it a “Crazy Horse opera“.
|Directed by||Sidney Salkow|
|Produced by||W. R. Frank|
J. Carrol Naish
Iron Eyes Cody
Charles J. Van Enger
|Edited by||Richard L. Van Enger|
Song Great Spirit:
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Release date||October 6, 1954|
|Running time||105 min.|
Sitting Bull (Lakota: Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake [tˣaˈtˣə̃ka ˈi.jɔtakɛ]; c. 1831 – December 15, 1890) was a Hunkpapa Lakota leader who led his people during years of resistance against United States government policies. He was killed by Indian agency police on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation during an attempt to arrest him, at a time when authorities feared that he would join the Ghost Dance movement.
|Sitting Bull c. 1883|
|Hunkpapa Lakota holy man & leader|
|Born||Húŋkešni (Slow) or Ȟoká Psíče (Jumping Badger)|
Grand River, Dakota Territory
|Died||December 15, 1890|
Standing Rock Indian Reservation
Grand River, South Dakota
|Cause of death||Gunshot wound|
|Resting place||Mobridge, South Dakota|
|Spouse(s)||Light HairFour-Robes-WomanSnow-on-HerSeen-by-her-NationScarlet Woman|
|Relations||White Bull (nephew)One Bull (nephew)Flying Hawk (nephew)|
|Children||Crow Foot (son)Many Horses (daughter)Standing Holy (daughter)William Sitting Bull, a.k.a. Runs-away-from-him/Nakicipa (son)Walks Looking (adopted daughter)|
|Parents||Jumping Bull (father)Her-Holy-Door (mother)|
Before the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Sitting Bull had a vision in which he saw many soldiers, “as thick as grasshoppers,” falling upside down into the Lakota camp, which his people took as a foreshadowing of a major victory in which many soldiers would be killed. About three weeks later, the confederated Lakota tribes with the Northern Cheyenne defeated the 7th Cavalry under Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer on June 25, 1876, annihilating Custer’s battalion and seeming to bear out Sitting Bull’s prophetic vision. Sitting Bull’s leadership inspired his people to a major victory. In response, the U.S. government sent thousands more soldiers to the area, forcing many of the Lakota to surrender over the next year. Sitting Bull refused to surrender, and in May 1877, he led his band north to Wood Mountain, North-Western Territory (now Saskatchewan). He remained there until 1881, at which time he and most of his band returned to U.S. territory and surrendered to U.S. forces.
After working as a performer with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, Sitting Bull returned to the Standing Rock Agency in South Dakota. Due to fears that he would use his influence to support the Ghost Dance movement, Indian Service agent James McLaughlin at Fort Yates ordered his arrest. During an ensuing struggle between Sitting Bull’s followers and the agency police, Sitting Bull was shot in the side and head by Standing Rock policemen Lieutenant Bull Head (Tatankapah, Lakota: Tȟatȟáŋka Pȟá) and Red Tomahawk (Marcelus Chankpidutah, Lakota: Čhaŋȟpí Dúta), after the police were fired upon by Sitting Bull’s supporters. His body was taken to nearby Fort Yates for burial. In 1953, his Lakota family exhumed what were believed to be his remains, reburying them near Mobridge, South Dakota, near his birthplace.