Buffalo Bill on the Silver Screen
The Films of William F. Cody
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
240 Pages | 6 x 9 | 21 b&w illus.
In 1894 Thomas Edison invited Cody to bring some of the Wild West performers to the inventor’s kinetoscope studio. From then on, as Sagala reveals, Cody was frequently in the camera’s eye, eager to participate in the newest and most popular phenomenon of the era: the motion picture. In 1910, promoter Pliny Craft produced The Life of Buffalo Bill, a film in which Cody played his own persona. After his Wild West show disbanded, Cody fully embraced the film business, seeing the technology as a way to recoup his financial losses and as a new vehicle for preserving America’s history and his own legacy for future generations. Because he had participated as a scout in some of the battles and skirmishes between the U.S. Army and Plains Indians, Cody wanted to make a film that captured these historical events. Unfortunately for Cody, The Indian Wars (1913) was not a financial success, and only three minutes of footage have survived.
Long after his death, Cody’s legacy lives on through the many movies that have featured his character. Sagala provides a useful appendix listing all of these films, as well as those for which Cody himself took an active role as director, producer, or actor. Published on the eve of the centennial anniversary of The Indian Wars, this engaging book offers readers new insights into the legendary figure’s life and career and explores his lasting image in film.
“Building on her previous exploration of William F. ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody’s stage career, Sandra Sagala has now turned her attention to his cinematic interests. Her thorough and meticulously researched study offers the most complete treatment of the subject to date—one that will help establish Cody as not only a visionary showman but also a pioneer of early cinema. Buffalo Bill on the Silver Screen should be read by anyone interested in the history of popular culture.”—John D. Rumm, Senior Curator of Western American History, Buffalo Bill Historical Center