AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Custer's Last Stand
Director: Elmer Clifton (Dir)
Release Date:   2 Apr 1936
Production Date:   recorded at International Film Studios
Duration (in mins):   94
Duration (in reels):   9
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Cast:   Rex Lease (Kit Cardigan)  
    Lona Andre (Belle Meade)  
    William Farnum (Fitzpatrick, Indian agent)  
    Ruth Mix (Mrs. Elizabeth Custer)  
    Jack Mulhall (Lieutenant Cook)  
    Nancy Caswell (Barbara Trent)  
    George Chesboro (Lieutenant Roberts)  
    Dorothy Gulliver (Red Fawn)  
    Frank McGlynn Jr. (Gen. George A. Custer)  
    Helen Gibson (Calamity Jane)  
    Josef Swickard (Major [Henry] Trent)  
    Chief Thundercloud (Young Wolf)  
    Reed Howes (Tom "Keen" Blade)  
    Bobbie Nelson (Bobby [Nelson])  
    Robert Walker (Henchman Pete)  
    Marty Joyce (Buzz)  
    Milburn Moranti (Buckskin)  
    George Morrell (Sergeant Flannigan)  
    Creighton Hale (Hank)  
    Ted Adams (Buffalo Bill[/Barney])  
    Carl Mathews (Curley[/True Eagle])  
    Allan Greer (Wild Bill Hickok)  
    High Eagle (Crazy Horse)  
    Howling Wolf (Sitting Bull)  
    Big Tree (Medicine man)  
    Iron Eyes (Brown Fox)  
    Chick Davis (Rain-in-the-Face)  
    Bill Desmond (Wagon master)  
    Walter James (Judge Hooker)  
    James Sheridan (Jim)  
    Ken Cooper (Spike)  
    Budd Buster (Major Ware)  
    Carter Wayne (Striker Martin)  
    Cactus Mack (Lieut. Weir)  
    Barney Fury (Sergeant Peters)  
    Lafe McKee (Captain Benteen)  
    Franklyn Farnum (Major Reno)  
    Ed Withrow (Blue Crow)  
    Artie Ortego (Quirk)  
    Patter Poe (Crow Scout)  
    Mabel Strickland (Mabel)  
    "Sunday" (Sunday)  
    Lone Star (Renegade)  
    Humming Bird (Renegade)  
    I. R. Swift Eagle (Renegade)  
    Tall Tree (Renegade)  
    Little Eagle (Renegade)  
    Lone Pine (Renegade)  
    Herb Jackson (Renegade)  
    J. Spencer (Renegade)  

Summary: When Indians raid a group of white settlers, the Indians' medicine man is killed, and Major Henry Trent collects the man's arrow, which bears directions to a cave in the Black Hills filled with gold. In Black Pool, casino owner Tom "Keen" Blade, who secretly sells liquor to the Indians, befriends Young Wolf, who needs the magic arrow for its healing powers. Blade then kills three of the four white survivors of the skirmish, including John Cardigan, who was in search of the arrow. A year later, Trent, his daughter Barbara, and grandson Bobby come to Fort Henry just as General George A. Custer arrives and restores sobriety to the 7th U.S. Cavalry headquarters. Meanwhile, Sioux and Cheyenne Indian chiefs plan their attack on the white man to stop the gold prospectors and settlers who are encroaching on their sacred grounds. At the powwow, Crazy Horse, leader of the Cheyenne, marks Little Big Horn as the communal village which will serve as their fortress. The Trents are then ambushed by Young Wolf's men, but they survive, and the arrow remains intact. While Custer and Chief Brown Fox have a powwow concerning three braves captured at Black Pool for trading "fire-water" for pelts, Blade kills the Indian who is about to reveal Blade's guilt, and Indians raid the fort. The Indians eventually retreat, but the incident propels the Sioux and Cheyenne to Little Big Horn. Next, Blade schemes with the crooked Judge Hooker to arrest the Trents for inciting a riot with the Indians, and a jury sentences them to die in an hour. Ex-lieutenant Roberts, who testified against the Trents, has a change of heart, however, and rescues them. Custer's head scout, Kit Cardigan, then kills Hooker in a duel, and Roberts acknowledges Blade's guilt in Kit's father's murder. After Bobby finds the arrow, Young Wolf attacks him, but Kit saves him and gives the arrow to his Indian friend, Red Fawn. He then proposes to Barbara as the war begins. At Little Big Horn, the Indians massacre Custer and his men, including Roberts, and the American flag falls. After finally killing Blade in a duel, Kit gets his discharge from the army and unites with Barbara. 

Production Company: Exploitation Pictures, Inc.  
  Weiss Productions, Inc.  
Production Text: A Weiss-Mintz Exploitation Serial
Distribution Company: State Rights  
  Stage and Screen Productions, Inc.  
Director: Elmer Clifton (Dir)
  Adrian Weiss (Asst dir)
Producer: George M. Merrick (Pres)
  Louis Weiss (Supv)
Writer: George Arthur Durlam (Orig scr)
  Eddy Graneman (Orig scr)
  Bob Lively (Orig scr)
Photography: Bert Longenecker (Photog)
Film Editor: Holbrook Todd (Film ed)
  George M. Merrick (Film ed)
Music: Hal Chasnoff (Mus dir)
Sound: T. T. Triplett (Sd eng)
Production Misc: George M. Merrick (Prod mgr)
  Bill Salzman ([Prod] Assistant)
Country: United States

Physical Properties: Sd:
  b&w:

 
Genre: Western
Sub-Genre: Historical
 
Subjects (Major): Black Hills (SD and WY)
  Cheyenne Indians
  Chief Crazy Horse
  General George Armstrong Custer
  Dakota Indians
  Duplicity
  Indians of North America
  Little Big Horn, Battle of the, 1876
  Moral reformation
  Murder
  Prospectors
  Religious articles
  Scouts (Frontier)
  Settlers
  Sitting Bull
  United States. Army. Cavalry
 
Subjects (Minor): Casino owners
  Drunkenness
  Duels
  False arrests
  Fathers and daughters
  Grandsons
  Liquor
  Magic
  Medicine men
  Proposals (Marital)
  Raids
  Rescues
  Saloons

Note: Prior to the feature release, Stage and Screen Productions released a serial version of Custer's Last Stand through state rights exchanges starting 2 Jan 1936; the first episode was five reels and was followed by fourteen two-reel episodes. HR announced on 23 Jan 1936 that the serial was to be distributed by RKO in India, and was set for release in fourteen countries. This film was compiled from the first of three Weiss-Mintz serials. The second serial, The Clutching Hand , was also released as a feature, but the third, The Black Coin was released only as a serial. In Mar 1936, HR stated that Lloyds of London was involved in a lawsuit filed by Western Costume Company over props and scenery that were stolen while the production was on location at Vasquez Rocks in the Angeles National Forest. No reviews were found for the feature, although MPH reviewed the first three chapters of the serial on 30 Nov 1935. Modern sources list the following additional cast members for the serial, although some of the actors may not have appeared in the feature: Whitey Sovern, Buddy Fisher, Charles Hunter, William Hunt, White Feather, Walter Gable, Bill Thompson, William Bartlett and Red Star Cody.
       Other films based on General Custer include the 1909 Selig Polyscope film On the Little Big Horn or Custer's Last Fight , starring Paul McCormick, Jr.; the 1916 Vitagraph film Britton of the Seventh directed by Lionel Belmore and starring Darwin Karr and Charles Kent (see above); Custer's Last Fight , a 1925 re-issue of a Thomas Ince film, and the 1926 Universal film The Flaming Frontier , directed by Edward Sedgwick and starring Hoot Gibson and Anne Cornwall (see below) and the 1941 Warner Bros. film They Died with Their Boots On , directed by Raoul Walsh and starring Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland (see below). There was also a the 1968 U.S.--Spanish co-production Custer of the West , directed by Robert Siodmak and starring Robert Shaw, Mary Ure and Robert Ryan; and the 1991 ABC Television film Son of the Morning Star , directed by Mike Robe and starring Gary Cole, Rosanna Arquette and Dean Stockwell. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Hollywood Reporter   23 Jan 36   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Mar 36   p. 4.
Motion Picture Herald   30 Nov 35   p. 66.

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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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