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.

Deadwood Passes Deadline

 DEADLINE:  the Un-Deadwood Movie

Olyphant Olyphant

The movie sequel to the three-season HBO series Deadwood is not dead as a doornail after all. It’s not even moribund.

HBO gunned it down ten years ago in a shootout shout-out, and it took as much time for writer/producer David Milch to resurrect it with nearly the entire original cast. (Powers Boothe left us a few years ago, and he is not noticed or mentioned here).

For two weeks we have heard the words “Shakespearean” applied again and again to this Western. Yes, they talk funny with Swearingen leading the way with swearing in iambic pentameter. Ian McShane is the scene-stealer emeritus.

An odd thing happens when a show tries to reset after the sunset: actors either look like they have aged twenty years, not ten, or others look like they had to step out of a time machine to reappear.

A few flashbacks remind us of how much the actors have changed in a decade.

We won’t spoil it by saying who looks ancient, and who held up. That may be the real suspense. Suffice it to say that boyish Timothy Olyphant has aged into Western star Sam Elliott, one of his old villains from Justified.

Others like William Sanderson and Jeffrey Jones have looked perennially old for 30 years. No news here.

As for the characters and characterizations, everyone is the same, just moreso. Perhaps that is the real secret of aging: you just get worse in your worst habits.

As for the script that has rankled some fans, you will have to understand that these kind of shows usually center upon birth, marriage, funerals, auctions, and deaths. Yup, we have them all in spades.

Deadwood’s statehood celebration is crashed by Gerald McRaney, the house villain, who returns as a California Senator Hearst who brings the 19th century Internet with him: yes, he is putting up telephone poles for profit.

Fear not. It is still the wilder West and shoot-outs are bound to occur near the local bordello.

Robin Weigert’s Calamity Jane looks like she is caked in dirt, but she was already an international celebrity by the time of this show (1889).

Many characters don’t have much to do—and do it for a few lines.

We wouldn’t have missed this reunion show for the world of kindling wood, nor dead heroes. It even beats having Marshall Dillon and Miss Kitty show up twenty years after their show Gunsmoke ended in a sequel movie.

The West never loses its allure.