Buffalo Bill and the Indians (1976)
Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson is a 1976 revisionist Western directed by Robert Altman and based on the play Indians by Arthur Kopit. It stars Paul Newman as William F. Cody, alias Buffalo Bill, along with Geraldine Chaplin, Will Sampson, Joel Grey, Harvey Keitel and Burt Lancaster as Bill's biographer, Ned Buntline. The film was poorly received at the time of its release, when the country was celebrating its bicentennial. As in MASH, Altman skewers an American historical myth of heroism, in this case the notion that noble white men fighting bloodthirsty savages won the West. The story begins in 1885 with the arrival of an important new guest star in Buffalo Bill Cody’s grand illusion, Chief Sitting Bull of Little Big Horn fame. Much to Cody's annoyance, Sitting Bull proves to be not a murdering savage but a genuine embodiment of what the whites believe about their own history out west. He is quietly heroic and morally pure. Sitting Bull also refuses to portray Custer's Last Stand as a cowardly sneak attack. Instead, he asks Cody to act out the massacre of a peaceful Sioux village by marauding bluecoats.