Wildest Bill Hickok

DATELINE:  Madison, Olyphant, and Bridges

Somewhere between the TV series Deadwood version of Wild Bill Hickok (limned by Keith Carradine) and the TV series Wild Bill(limned by Guy Madison), you have the version from Walter Hill and played by Jeff Bridges as the wildest Hickok of all.

As a Western on the tale end of movie westerns, this one is a classic mostly undiscovered. Wild Bill has a wonderful cameo cast and is filled with comedic violence.

In this version, Keith Carradine is Buffalo Bill. Ten years later he would join Timothy Olyphant in the HBO series for a few episodes as Wild Bill.

Here, the rootin’ tootin’ Calamity Jane is Ellen Barkin, and one of Bill’s Brit friends is a biographer played by John Hurt.

The bad guys lining up to be dispatched in colorful fashion include such as Bruce Dern and David Arquette.

Wild Bill traipsed through the litany of Western venues from Abilene to Deadwood, making appearances as a ruthlessly violent marshal who’d shoot you in an instant if the matter called for breaking lawbreakers.

James Butler Hickok found himself trapped in celebrity and became Wild Bill as a profession, requiring certain behaviors and attitudes.

The film, utterly timeless depiction of a Western legend, provides us with a conspiracy theory behind the tale. It would seem that the sniveling coward Jack McCall was, perhaps, hinted at an illegitimate son of Hickok.

You may find that the Olyphant-McShane profanity laced TV series owes much to this film—and it’s done with a modicum of the bad language of bad guys.

A Movie of Quality? No Smiley Face Here



Denholm’s Smiley Face

When John le Carre develops his own best-selling novel for one of those prestigious TV movies done by the BBC or their stand-in, you have to be curious.

When it turns out to be a George Smiley story, you know you may have a treat to behold. Alec Guinness and Gary Oldman have played the pedestrian spy.  Back in 1991 Denholm Elliott came up with another dead-on portrait of the man so mundane that you’d think he was an accountant, but he is deadlier and smarter than James Bond ever was.

Those familiar with the two versions of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy know exactly what Smiley keeps under wraps.

Smiley is called out of retirement by friend (Glenda Jackson in one of her final acting roles). She sends him to a posh boys’ school where everyone knows faculty play power trip games and bolster their egos at the expense of adolescent boys.

Joss Ackland is one of those aging Byronesque faculty on the campus, and in an early role as a student is Christian Bale. As you might expect, the only difference in the earnest and focused performance of Bale then and now is that he is a teenager. Cast aside those American teenage actors; Bale is the real deal even at 16.

If you want to see the nescient actor, you won’t. Bale is fully developed from the get-go.

We must admit our fondness for non-glamorous, retired old characters that still burn with brains unused. Like the Poirot/Christie stories, LeCarre is able to give audiences a puzzle that requires thought and mature attitude for full appreciation.

This is a treat for those who deserve better.


Ossurworld’s William Russo has several movie review books that highlight the best films of all-time and of the present year. MOVIE MASHUP and ALFRED HITCHCOCK FRESHLY SHOWERED are available at Amazon.com in softcover.