racechanging: Buffalo Bill

Buffalo Bill

Set shortly after the battle of the Little Big Horn, this purports to be something of a biography of the legendary William ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody, from his days as an army scout to his later activities as owner of a Wild West show performing before Queen Victoria. Cody rescues a stagecoach carrying Louisa Frederici (Maureen O’Hara), the daughter of a United States senator. They are, of course, instantly attracted to one another – despite her wealth, immaculate makeup and sophisticated upbringing in the east, and his total lack of education, cleanliness and breeding.

Meanwhile Dawn Starlight (Linda Darnell), the young Native American school teacher at the nearby fort is in love with Bill, but he is totally oblivious of her feelings – asking her to help him write a letter to Louisa.

Dawn enters Louisa’s quarters at night to try on her clothes but is discovered, setting up one of the standard ‘red woman/white woman’ side-by-side shots. It’s noticeable that while Linda is significantly darker than Maureen she is also a lot lighter than other Cheyenne.

Later Dawn learns the cavalry are about to attack her village and returns to be with her people; after the battle her body lies forgotten and ignored until it is found by Buffalo Bill.

Studio publicists said that Linda was perfect for the role as she had ‘a few drops’ of Cherokee blood – one of her great-grandparents had been Cherokee.

The makeup

Guy Pearce was the makeup artist.