Cast & Crew
Boisterous Calamity Jane Canary, who dresses like a man, returns from her mail run to Deadwood, Dakota Territory. Then over a drink of sarsaparilla at her friend Henry "Milly" Miller's Golden Garter Saloon, she entertains the men with exaggerated tales of her triumphs over danger. Prospectors show up, claiming they have just escaped a Sioux Indian ambush, and admit that 2nd Lt. Danny Gilmartin, who was riding with them, was knocked off his horse during the attack and left for dead. Calam leaves abruptly to rescue Danny and, after finding him captive at an Indian camp, releases him and escapes with him on her horse. Later, at Milly's saloon, Calam wonders why the men are taking such an enthusiastic interest in the pictures inside their cigarette boxes, and is told by her best friend, gambler Wild Bill Hickok, that the pictures are of Adelaid Adams, a New York actress worshiped by red-blooded men everywhere.
Meanwhile, Francis Fryer, a passenger on the stagecoach, introduces himself to Milly as the performer he hired for his dance hall. Milly is shaken by the news, as he has advertised that the act opening that night is a woman, "Frances Fryer," and fears the wrath of his gun-happy, female-hungry patrons. At Milly's insistence, Francis reluctantly presents himself as "Frances" that evening, until his wig falls off and reveals his true sex. Calam stops the ensuing riot with gunfire and careless promises that Adelaid Adams will soon be performing there. Later that evening, Milly confides to Calam and Hickok that his troubles are merely postponed, as no high-class act like Adelaid will come near a town like Deadwood. Hickok dares the competitive Calam to bring Adelaid to Deadwood, promising to come to the show dressed as a Sioux squaw if she succeeds. Before Calam heads for Chicago, where Adelaid is performing, Hickok also suggests that she buy feminine things there, as he suspects that she is "passable pretty" under her deerskin. In Chicago, Calam attends Adelaid's closing night performance and visits her dressing room after the show. Unaware that the actress has already left, Calam mistakes Adelaid's maid, Katie Brown, for her employer and invites her to perform in Deadwood. Katie, seeing a chance to break into show business, agrees to return with Calam, silently hoping that she can keep her deception a secret in remote Deadwood.
After a harrowing trip for Katie, the women arrive in Deadwood, where Katie is highly received by all the men, including the infatuated Hickok and Danny. Although Francis, who recognizes her, keeps her secret, it becomes obvious during her performance that she is not Adelaid, and she finally breaks down and confesses. Another riot seems imminent, but Calam, with guns and a speech, persuades the crowd to give Katie a chance to perform as herself. The music starts again, and Katie wows them in her own style. Afterward, however, Hickok, dressed as a female Sioux, lassoes Calam at the waist and lets her swing from the rafters. The next day, Katie moves in with Calam, but finding that the rundown shack lacks a "woman's touch," helps fix it up and feminizes Calam, who admits that she has a hankering for Danny. When the two smitten suitors, Hickok and Danny, come calling to take Katie to the ball at the fort, Katie tries to sidestep Danny's advances. However, the men draw straws for her, and when Danny wins, Hickok gallantly asks Calam to accompany him.
At the ball, the new, dressed-up Calam that Katie has created is a beauty, and is seen, perhaps for the first time, as a woman. Calam's happiness ends when she sees Danny and Katie kiss. Reverting to her old ways, she shoots a cup of punch out of Katie's hand, then abruptly leaves the ball. Believing that Katie was conniving for Danny all along, she packs up Katie's things for Hickok to deliver. During Francis and Katie's next performance at the Golden Garter, deerskin-clad Calam shows up and orders Katie out of town. Holding her own, Katie borrows a gun and shakily aims at Calam's sarsaparilla. Although her shot goes awry, Hickok secretly shoots Calam's cup, and the crowd cheers for Katie. Hickok drags the defeated Calam away, and scolds her for trying to break up Katie and Danny. As she cools off, they talk about their own dreams of children and home, and Hickok admits that he loves Katie. Despite his declaration, they soon are kissing and realize that all along they have shared a secret love for each other. The next day in town, a transformed Calam wants to apologize to Katie, but learns from the heartbroken Danny and the angry townsmen that she took the stagecoach to Chicago. Abruptly, Calam rides off and brings Katie back for a double wedding.
A. D. Sewall
Eddie Leon Albert
G. W. Berntsen
Wilfred M. Cline
Mitchell G. Kovaleski
William A. Mueller
Irva Mae Ross
Paul Francis Webster
Best Sound Editing
Many saw Calamity Jane as a consolation prize of sorts for Day because she hadn't been able to play another role that had seemed a natural for her, Annie Oakley in Annie Get Your Gun (1950). That screen musical, based on Irving Berlin's stage smash, also concerns a feisty, masculine-acting woman of the Wild West who discovers her feminine side after falling in love with a famous, handsome marksman (played by Howard Keel in both movies). Jack Warner had tried to secure the rights to Annie Get Your Gun as a vehicle for Day after it had run its course on Broadway with Ethel Merman and on tour with Mary Martin, but was outbid by MGM's Louis B. Mayer, who bought the property for Judy Garland. Day's hopes of playing Annie reportedly rose again after Garland was dismissed from the MGM film, but Warner would not approve a loan-out and Betty Hutton landed the plum part. In 1962 Day demonstrated to the world some of what it had missed by recording an album of the complete Annie score, with Robert Goulet singing Keel's role of Frank Butler. Keel later wrote in his memoir that, "In hindsight, after working with Doris Day, I thought Doris would have been a much better Annie [than Betty Hutton]."
Press reports of the day indicate that Calamity Jane actually had been in the works at Warner Bros. as a project for Day even before the possibility had arisen of her replacing Garland in Annie. As early as June 1948 Dorothy Manners reported in the Chicago Herald American that Warners director Michael Curtiz (who discovered Day for films and directed her in her first movie, 1948's Romance on the High Seas) was planning a musical about Calamity Jane and predicted that, for both director and star, the project would be "first up" on their schedules for 1949. When the movie finally was made four years after that, it was David Butler (helming his sixth and final film with Day), who directed.
The screenplay by James O'Hanlon (1946's The Harvey Girls) is loosely based on the adventures of the real-life frontierswoman famous for her exploits as a scout, Indian fighter and (possibly) lover of Wild Bill Hickok. Day, of course, looks nothing like the real Calamity, Martha Jane Cannery (1852-1903), who was large, dark-haired and homely in her photographs and further described as tough, weathered and soaked in alcohol. But Day threw herself into the spirit of the role wholeheartedly and with an almost reckless physicality, leaping, sliding, riding horseback and cracking a whip. In her memoir she tells of a traumatic episode while filming a sequence where she was lassoed and hoisted aloft, and almost lost consciousness because the rope was so tight she couldn't breathe. In 1953 she suffered a physical collapse that may have been caused in part by her exhaustion from making the film. Still, she always considered this tour-de-force role her favorite; in 1986 she told this writer, "That was the real me - just blasting off at everybody!"
The plot of Calamity Jane kicks off in Deadwood, South Dakota, where the rambunctious Calamity spars vigorously with Hickok (Keel) and promises the local citizenry that she'll head to "Chicagee" and enlist singing star Adelaide Adams (Gale Robbins) to perform at Deadwood's saloon, the Golden Garter. In a case of mistaken identity she returns instead with Adelaide's maid, Katie (Allyn Ann McLerie), who nonetheless becomes a hit as the saloon's new entertainer. As Calamity becomes more feminine with Katie's help, she discovers that the object of her affections, a soldier named Danny (Philip Carey), has fallen for her new friend. The romantic mix-up is straightened out happily after "Calam" realizes that her "secret love" is Wild Bill (no real surprise there).
The movie toys with the idea of gender and sexual identity in ways that seems daring for the 1950s. Muscular character actor Dick Wesson performs as a woman in the saloon-keeper's misguided attempt to give the locals some feminine pulchritude, and Day's Calamity is initially mistaken for a man by Adelaide. Calam find this uproariously funny at first but then realizes that, "Come to think of it, that ain't so funny!" When the two women move in together, Calam tells Katie, "We'll batch it here as cozy as two bugs in a blanket!" Some later analysts of the film have even seen a gay subtext in the lyric "Once I had a secret love..."
In addition to Day, all the principals are perfectly cast, and the supporting cast includes a number of character faces familiar from other Westerns. Joel McCrea, a Doris Day fan, broke his own rule of never allowing anyone else to ride his horse Dollar by turning over his trusty steed for her use in the film. "Secret Love" is of course the highlight of the score, but all the songs are memorable. "The Deadwood Stage" is as exuberant as "The Black Hills of Dakota" is lovely and quiet, and Keel's rich baritone soars on his romantic solo, "Higher Than a Hawk." Day and McLerie form a captivating pair as they celebrate "A Woman's Touch." Two other standout songs in the score seem influenced by tunes from other musicals. Day's "I Just Got Back from the Windy City" suggests "Everything's Up To Date in Kansas City" from Oklahoma! (1955), while her duet with Keel, "I Can Do Without You," is a "competition" song in the vein of "Anything You Can Do" from Annie Get Your Gun.
The film also was Oscar®-nominated for Best Scoring of a Musical (Ray Heindorf) and Sound Recording. Day herself adored the score and said that, when she first heard it, "I just about fell apart...I was just dancing around the house." By the time the awards rolled around in 1954, however, she was not up to singing "Secret Love" at the ceremonies and costar Keel appeared in her place to perform the number. A rather touching aspect of their onscreen relationship comes from the fact that Keel had a very weak left arm from a childhood injury and, if you watch closely, you can see Day unobtrusively protecting it and helping him cover the disability.
By Roger Fristoe
TCM Remembers Howard Keel this Monday, Nov. 15th
PLEASE NOTE SCHEDULE CHANGE
Callaway Went Thataway (1951)
Ride, Vaquero! (1953)
War Wagon (1967)
"MGM Parade Show #14"
(Keel talks with George Murphy about his latest MGM picture "Kismet")(1955)
Kiss Me Kate (1953)
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
HOWARD KEEL (1919-2004):
Howard Keel, the strapping singer and actor whose glorious baritone took him to stardom in the early '50s in some of MGM's best musicals, including Showboat, Kiss Me Kate and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, died on November 7 of colon cancer at his home in Palm Desert, California. He was 85.
He was born Harry Clifford Leek on April 13, 1919, in Gillespie, Illinois. His father, was a coal miner and his mother, a strict Methodist, forbid the children from enjoying popular entertainments. When his dad died, his mother relocated the family to California when Harry was still a young teenager.
After he graduated high school, Keel had a brief stint as a singing busboy, but had not considered a professional career as a vocalist....until one fateful evening in 1939. It was at this time he saw celebrated opera singer, Lawrence Tibbett, at the Hollywood Bowl. Keel was inspired, and he soon began taking voice lessons. Over the next several years, he carefully trained his voice while entering any singing contest he could find. It wasn't long before his talents caught the attention of Rodgers & Hammerstein.
In 1946, they signed him to replace John Raitt in the Broadway production of Carousel, changed his name to Howard Keel (His proper surname Leek spelled backwards), and Keel was on his way to international stardom.
After his run in Carousel ended, he sailed to London the following year to play the role of Curley in Rodgers & Hammerstein's Oklahoma. He received rave reviews from the London press, and by the time he returned to the United States in 1948, he was ready to make his move into films.
Keel made his movie debut in the British thriller, The Small Voice (1948), but it would be his second film, and first for MGM, portraying Frank Butler, Betty Hutton's leading man in Annie Get Your Gun (1950), that sealed his success. Keel's several strengths as a performer: his supple, commanding singing voice; his athletic, 6'4" frame; striking, "matinee-idol" good looks; and his good humored personality made him one of the studios' top leading men over the next few years. Indeed, between 1951-55, Keel could do not wrong with the material he was given: Show Boat (1951), Lovely to Look at (1952), Kiss Me Kate (1953), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), and Kismet (1955). Clearly, he was a shining star in this golden era of the MGM musical.
By the late '50s, movie musicals began to fade out of fashion, but Keel returned to the stage and had success performing with several touring companies. He made a brief return to films when he was cast as a seaman battling carnivorous plants from outer space in the popular British sci-fi hit, The Day of the Triffids (1962). Television also provided some work, where he guest starred in some of the more popular shows in the late '60s including Run For Your Life, and The Lucy Show.
Keel would keep a low profile over the next decade, but he made an amazing comeback in 1981, when he was cast as Clayton Farlow, Ellie Ewing's (Barbara Bel Geddes) second husband in the wildly successful prime time soap, Dallas. Not only did he play the role for ten seasons, but Keel would also be in demand for many other shows throughout the '80s and '90s: The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Murder, She Wrote, Hart to Hart, and Walker, Texas Ranger, to name a but a few. By the late-'90s, Keel retired to his home in Palm Desert, California, where still made public appearances now and again for a tribute or benefit. He is survived by his wife of 34 years, Judy; a son, Gunnar; daughters, Kaija, Kristina and Leslie; 10 grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter.
by Michael T. Toole
Important Milestones on Howard Keel:
Moved to Southern California at age 16 (date approximate)
Worked as a singing busboy in a Los Angeles cafe
Worked for Douglas Aircraft as a manufacturing representative travelling among various company plants; work included singing; won a first prize award at the Mississippi Valley while on the road; also won an award at the Chicago Music Festival
Began singing career with the American Music Theatre in Pasadena, California
Chosen by Oscar Hammerstein II to perform on Broadway in "Carousel"; succeeded John Raitt in the leading role of Billy Bigelow; also took over the leading role of Curly in "Oklahoma"
Recreated the role of Curly when he opened the London stage production of "Oklahoma"
Made feature film debut in a non-singing supporting role in the British crime drama, "The Small Voice"
Signed by MGM; became instant star as the male lead of "Annie Get Your Gun"
Provided the offscreen narration for the Western saga, "Across the Wide Missouri", starring Clark Gable
First film opposite Kathryn Grayson, "Show Boat"
First leading role in a non-musical, "Desperate Search"
Made best-remembered film, "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers"
Last musical starring roles, and last musicals for MGM, "Jupiter's Darling" and "Kismet"
Went to Britain to play the leading role in the action drama, "Floods of Fear"
Last leading role, "Red Tomahawk"
Last feature film appearance for over 20 years, "Arizona Bushwhackers"
Starred on the London stage in the musical "Ambassador"; later brought the role to Broadway (date approximate)
Toured the nightclub circuit, sometimes teaming up with his co-star from three MGM musicals of the 1950s, Kathryn Grayson
Toured in stage productions of musicals and comedies including "Camelot", "Man of La Mancha", "Paint Your Wagon", "I Do! I Do!", "Plaza Suite", "Gigi", "Show Boat", "Kismet", "The Most Happy Fella" and "The Fantasticks"
Teamed with Jane Powell on record-breaking national theater tour of "South Pacific"
Reprised screen role of eldest brother Adam in a touring stage version of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers", opposite original screen co-star Jane Powell
Joined the cast of the CBS primetime serial drama, "Dallas", which had premiered in 1978; played Clayton Farlow
Recorded first solo album, "And I Love You So"
Was one of the hosts of the feature compilation documentary, "That's Entertainment III", revisiting the MGM musical from the coming of sound through the late 1950s
Keel was President of the Screen Actors Guild from 1958-1959.
TCM Remembers Howard Keel this Monday, Nov. 15th PLEASE NOTE SCHEDULE CHANGE
Make mine sarsparilly!- Calamity Jane
She ain't very pretty.- Wild Bill Hickok
That ain't all she ain't.- Calamity Jane
This town ain't big enough! Not for me and that frilled-up, flirtin', man-rustlin' petticoat, it ain't!- Calamity Jane
Look at these! Silk, pure silk! I'll bet her mother spun 'em!- Calamity Jane
At last my heart's an open door / And my secret love's no secret anymore.- Calamity Jane
"That's Better you toothless, old bufflo chip. Next time I tell a story you keep your hands in your pockets.- Calamity Jane
The real-life "Calamity Jane," Martha Jane Canary Burke (ca. 1850-1903), was a hard-drinking, sharpshooting frontierswoman known for wearing men's clothing and telling exaggerated stories about her life. As depicted in the film, she reportedly was a scout for Gen. George Armstrong Custer and carried mail through dangerous terrain between the towns of Custer and Deadwood in Dakota Territory. She also claimed to have galloped into the midst of attacking Indians to save the life of a wounded and horseless Capt. Egan, lifting him onto her horse and riding away with him. James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok (1837-1876) was a gunfighter, Union Army scout and Kansas marshal, who was killed by Jack McCall in a Deadwood saloon. Reportedly, Hickok was shot during a poker game in which he held the so-called "Dead Man's Hand" of aces and eights. Both Calamity and Hickok appeared in Wild West shows in their later years. According to some sources, Calamity boasted that she and Hickok were married, but there is no evidence that the two were ever romantically involved. However, at her request they were buried next to each other in a Deadwood cemetery.
According to publicity materials dated 1944 in the AMPAS Library file on the film, Warner Bros. assigned Jerry Wald to produce an Alan LeMay screenplay titled Calamity Jane, which was slated to star Ann Sheridan and Jack Carson. A February 1946 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that Delmer Daves had been assigned to direct the film. Neither Sheridan nor Carson appeared in the viewed print, and the contributions of LeMay, Wald and Daves to the 1953 release, if any, have not been determined.
Although their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed, the following cast members were listed in Hollywood Reporter news items: Brad Osborne, Post Park and James Gonzales. The Los Angeles Times review noted that Warner Bros. borrowed "unblushingly" from the stage musical Oklahoma! and the 1950 M-G-M film Annie Get Your Gun, which was directed by George Sidney and starred Betty Hutton and Howard Keel (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-1950). Both Annie Get Your Gun and Calamity Jane have a sharpshooting tomboy heroine and both co-star Keel as the romantic lead. The Daily Variety review noted that the song, "I Can Do Without You," which is sung by competitors Calamity and Hickok during a battle of the sexes, is reminiscent of the song "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better" from Annie Get Your Gun.
According to an October 1953 Los Angeles Daily News news item, Sigurd Anderson, governor of South Dakota, declined an invitation to the premiere of Calamity Jane, claiming that the heroine was not the kind of woman South Dakota should honor, and pointing out that the film inaccurately portrays Calamity as a sarsaparilla drinker, when in fact, she drank whiskey. However, an October 1953 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that after the Twin Cities premiere, the mayors and Chambers of Commerce of Rapid City, Lead and Deadwood, SD, in cooperation with Warner Bros., held a gala for a Black Hills opening and proclaimed a "Calamity Jane Week."
Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster received an Academy Award for their song "Secret Love." The song also became a pop hit single for Doris Day. Although Ray Heindorf was nominated for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture, he lost to Alfred Newman's Call Me Madam. The Warner Bros. Sound Department, headed by William A. Mueller, was nominated for Best Sound Recording, but lost to Columbia's From Here to Eternity. Calamity Jane marked the final collaboration of director David Butler and producer William Jacobs; Jacobs died September 30, 1953. A modern source adds Jack Perrin to the cast.
Other films featuring both Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok are the M-G-M/U-I 1995 release Wild Bill, starring Jeff Bridges and Ellen Barkin, which was directed by Walter Hill, and the 1984 CBS network television production Calamity Jane, which was directed by James Goldstone and starred Jane Alexander and Frederic Forrest. For other films featuring Calamity Jane, see the entry for The Paleface in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50. Among the many screen depictions of Hickok was the 1923 silent Paramount production, Wild Bill Hickok, which starred William S. Hart and was directed by Cecil B. DeMille (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30). Guy Madison portrayed Hickok in The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok, which aired on the Mutual radio network from 1951-1956, and on ABC and CBS television networks from 1951-1958.
Released in United States Fall October 1953
Released in United States June 1994
Shown at San Francisco International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival June 9-19, 1994.
Released in United States June 1994 (Shown at San Francisco International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival June 9-19, 1994.)
Released in United States Fall October 1953