AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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With Sitting Bull at the Spirit Lake Massacre
Alternate Title: Sitting Bull at the Spirit Lake Massacre
Director: Robert North Bradbury (Dir)
Release Date:   15 Jun 1927
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 29 Jul 1927
Duration (in feet):   5,192
Duration (in reels):   6
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Cast:   Bryant Washburn (Donald Keefe)  
    Chief Yowlache (Sitting Bull)  
    Anne Schaefer (Mame Mulcain)  
    Jay Morley (Pat Mulcain)  
    Shirley Palmer (Celia Moore)  
    James O'Neil (Little Bear)  
    Bob Bradbury Jr. (Bob Keefe)  
    Fred Warren (Happy Hartz)  
    Leon Kent (John Mulcain)  
    Lucille Balart (Mary Moore)  
    Tom Lingham (Parson Rogers)  

Summary: In the Midwest, in the 1860s or 1870s, settlements of whites are growing. Although the Sioux Indians have professed their friendliness to one such settlement near Spirit Lake, Iowa, Chief Sitting Bull, whose mere name evokes terror among the whites, surveys the settlement at Spirit Lake from afar and vows to retake the land that belonged to his fathers. He informs a companion that the Great Spirit told him that if he retakes the land, the Great Spirit will send many buffalo and he, Sitting Bull, will be chief of a happy people. Donald Keefe, a resident of the Spirit Lake settlement, rides into town with his brother Bob and meets sisters Celia and Mary Moore. Seeing this, Parson Rogers predicts that there soon will be a double wedding. Meanwhile, the Mulcain family, consisting of Pat, the most disliked man in the settlement, his brother John and Mame, who is known to the Indians as the "White Witch" because of her prophesies, visit Sitting Bull, as Pat wants to trade liquor for pelts. After the trade, Sitting Bull speaks alone to Mame and offers her many pelts and his protection if she will prophesy to his chiefs that they should retake their lands. Some time later, after an attack, Parson Rogers brings Celia to the Mulcain cabin and asks if they will care for her while he goes for help. Mame agrees only after the parson pays her. Meanwhile, the Indians have captured Mary, but Sitting Bull instructs his underling not to let anything happen to her, as he may need a new squaw. At the Mulcain cabin, Pat kisses Celia, who struggles against him before Mame pulls Pat away. The parson notifies Donald, and they ride back with Bob and their pal, Happy Hartz. They find Celia and Mary's father lying dead outside his house and Mary gone. Donald believes it would be suicide to go to the Indian camp that night, so they return to the settlement. The next day, Donald leads a meeting at the settlement, then goes with a few men to Sitting Bull's camp to find Mary. When Sitting Bull and three other Indians come to the Mulcain cabin for the "White Witch" to read their prophesy, the Indian leader tells Donald to come to the camp that afternoon for proof that they do not have Mary. He then assures Mame that she will be safe in his camp during the subsequent attack on the settlement. He gives her more pelts, then she reads her cards for the others and tells them that the Great Spirit wants Sitting Bull to lead the Indians against the white man. Pat and John Mulcain find Celia eavesdropping at the door and capture her. At the Indian camp, while the Indians do an ominous ghost dance, Donald rescues Mary and other white girls who have been captured, but Pat and his brother see them. Donald and Bob knock out the Mulcains, and Happy sends the girls to warn the settlers that the Indians are on the warpath. After the Indians capture Happy, Donald and Bob rescue him. As Sitting Bull and many braves ride off to fight, Donald sends Bob to bring back soldiers. Meanwhile, after the girls spread the word that the Indians are coming to attack, the settlers fire on the Indians as they ride through town. Bob relays the message at an army post. Sitting Bull and his braves are victorious, but when Pat asks for his share of the plunder, Sitting Bull submits him to the "vengeance of the squaws," who surround and begin to kick him. Sitting Bull's victory is short-lived, as the soldiers win the battle against him. He is shorn of his eagle feathers and put on the reservation, where he continues to dream of power. Finally, Parson Rogers' prophesy of a double wedding comes true. 

Production Company: Sunset Productions  
Director: Robert North Bradbury (Dir)
Producer: Anthony J. Xydias (Pres)
Writer: Ben Allah (Adpt for the screen)
Photography: James S. Brown Jr. (Dir of photog)
Film Editor: Della M. King (Ed)
Country: United States
Language: English

Music:
Songs:
Source Text:

Physical Properties: Si:
  b&w:

 
Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Historical
 
Subjects (Major): Dakota Indians
  Deception
  Indians of North America
  Prophets
  Raids
  Settlers
  Sitting Bull
  Spirit Lake (IA)
 
Subjects (Minor): Brothers
  Eavesdropping
  Kidnapping
  Oaths
  Parsons
  Romance
  Sisters

Note: This film was also known as Sitting Bull at the "Spirit Lake Massacre" and was reviewed in Var under the title Spirit Lake Maccacre . In the opening credits, the phrase "A Thrilling Epic of Frontier Days" follows the title. One reel of six was missing from the print viewed. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Variety   3 Aug 1927   p. 19.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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