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Calamity Jane (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Calamity Jane
Calamity Jane poster.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed byDavid Butler
Written byJames O'Hanlon
Produced byWilliam Jacobs
StarringDoris Day
Howard Keel
Allyn Ann McLerie
CinematographyWilfrid M. Cline
Edited byIrene Morra
Music byRay Heindorf
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
November 4, 1953
Running time
101 minutes
CountryUnited States

Calamity Jane is a 1953 American Technicolor western musical film loosely based on the life of Wild West heroine Calamity Jane, and explores an alleged romance between Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok in the American Old West. The film starred Doris Day as the title character and Howard Keel as Hickok. It was devised by Warner Bros. in response to the success of Annie Get Your Gun. It was nominated for Scoring of a Musical Picture and Best Sound, Recording (William A. Mueller).[2] The songs and screenplay form the basis of a stage musical of the same name that has had a number of productions.


Calamity Jane (Doris Day) rides into Deadwood, Dakota Territory as shotgun messenger on the stagecoach. When boasting how hazardous the journey was through Indian Territory, the men laugh at her exaggerated account. Survivors of an Indian attack report that the man Calamity has set her sights on, US Cavalry Lt. Danny Gilmartin (Philip Carey), was killed. When Calamity presses the survivors on how Gilmartin was killed, they admit they do not really know if he is dead. Calamity enters a Sioux war party camp with her six shooters blazing and rescues Lt. Gilmartin.

Meanwhile, the local saloon, the Golden Garter, sends for beautiful women entertainers to appear on stage in a predominately male town. The saloon owner is surprised when a woman entertainer he hired turns out to be a man named Francis Fryer (Dick Wesson). Fearing a riot, the owner persuades the reluctant Fryer to perform in drag. Initially convincing, his wig falls off, revealing him is a man. The angry audience begin storming out. Calamity calms the situation by vowing to bring the one woman all the men are fawning over: singer Adelaid Adams (Gale Robbins), who is in Chicago. Francis Fryer tells Calamity that Adams would never agree to come to Deadwood but Calamity is determined. Wild Bill Hickok (Howard Keel) scoffs at Calamity's idea.

Calamity travels to Chicago where Adams is giving her farewell performance before launching a European tour. Adelaid gives her old costumes to her maid, Katie Brown (Allyn McLerie), who dreams of becoming a singer. When Calamity walks in, she mistakes Katie for Adelaid. Katie, posing as Adelaid Adams, agrees to go with Calamity, seeing it as a chance to perform on stage.

During Katie's first performance at the Golden Garter, Calamity realizes she sounds different. Katie bursts into tears and admits that she is not Adelaid Adams, stunning the crowd who are then on verge of rioting. Calamity fires a shot into the air and defends Katie. The audience allows Katie to carry on, and her performance wins them over.

Calamity Jane (Doris Day) and Wild Bill Hickok (Howard Keel) at the Golden Garter
Calamity Jane (Doris Day) and Wild Bill Hickok (Howard Keel) at the Golden Garter

Calamity and Katie become friends; Katie moves into Calamity's ramshackle cabin which they fix up together. To attract Lt. Gilmartin, Calamity, with Katie's help, dresses and acts more ladylike. Lt. Gilmartin and Wild Bill Hickok, who are both in love with Katie, pay a visit to Calamity's cabin. While alone with Lt. Gilmartin, Katie knows he prefers her, but tells him that Calamity loves him and she will not betray her friend. Lt. Gilmartin tells Katie that he is not interested in Calamity. Katie tells both men that Calamity has changed, which they will see when she returns to the cabin. While waiting, the two men draw straws to see who will take Katie to the upcoming ball. Lt. Gilmartin wins, and Wild Bill agrees to take Calamity, though she believes Lt. Gilmartin prefers her. Before the men can see Calamity's transformation, she arrives back at the cabin covered in mud, having slipped while crossing the creek.

At the ball, everyone is amazed by Calamity's transformation. She becomes increasingly jealous watching Katie and Danny dancing together. Outside in the garden, Katie can no longer resist Lt. Gilmartin, and they kiss. Calamity, seeing them, reacts angrily and confronts Katie, shooting a punch glass from her hand. Back at her cabin, Calamity throws out Katie's belongings, vowing to shoot her if she ever sees her again, then breaks down in tears.

Calamity later confronts Katie during her performance, and warns her to leave town. Katie is not frightened and borrows a gun, telling Calamity to hold up a shot glass. Taunting her, Calamity boldly holds it up. A gunshot rings out, and the glass falls from Calamity's hand. It was actually Wild Bill who secretly took the shot, but he lets everyone think it was Katie. Humiliated, Calamity storms out, but Wild Bill stops her, and they drive off in his wagon.

Wild Bill tries calming Calamity, and reveals that he shot the glass from her hand to teach her a lesson. He says that scaring Katie to leave town would not stop Lt. Gilmartin from loving her. Calamity is heartbroken, and reveals she was crazy about Gilmartin, while Wild Bill admits that he loved Katie. Calamity says there will never be another man for her, but she and Wild Bill passionately embrace and kiss. Calamity realizes she loved Wild Bill all along.

The sun rises on a new day as a much happier Calamity rides into town, but the townsfolk rebuff her. Katie has decided to return to Chicago, feeling guilty over betraying her best friend. A furious Lt. Gilmartin childishly blames Calamity for Katie leaving and gives her Katie's note. Calamity chases after the stagecoach, eventually catching up. She tells Katie she loves Wild Bill, and the two women are friends again. A double wedding follows and the two happy couples leave town on the stagecoach.[3]



The score, with music by Sammy Fain and lyrics by Paul Francis Webster, includes:

The music was included in the album of the same name, though some of the songs from the album were re-recorded rather than taken from the soundtrack.


The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:


The film has been popular with some lesbian audiences for its depiction of a character which can be read as lesbian, and was screened at the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival in 2006.[8] Film critic Jamie Stuart points to the film's lesbian overtones in Jane being played as a strong, independent woman who shares a house with a woman, the two of them painting "Calam and Katie" in a heart on its door.[8] Armond White sees the film as approaching sexuality in a way that Hollywood was not openly able to do, describing the empathy and envy (despite this resulting from conflict over a man) between Jane and Katie's characters as "a landmark display of girl-on-girl attraction."[9] Out magazine described the film's award-winning song, "Secret Love," as "the first gay anthem."[9]


Though the film portrays Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok as lovers, historians have found no proof that they were more than acquaintances. Jane claimed after Hickok's death that she had not only been his lover but also his wife and the mother of his child, but she offered no substantiation of her claims. Many of her contemporaries considered her a teller of tall tales (as portrayed in the film to humorous effect) who exaggerated her links to more famous frontier figures, and some insisted Hickok did not even particularly like her. But when she died decades after Hickok, friends buried her beside him at her request; four of the men on the self-appointed committee who planned Calamity's funeral (Albert Malter, Frank Ankeney, Jim Carson, and Anson Higby) later stated that, since Hickok had "absolutely no use" for Jane in this life, they decided to play a posthumous joke on him by laying her to rest by his side.[10]


  1. ^ 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1954', Variety Weekly, January 5, 1955
  2. ^ "The 26th Academy Awards (1954) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved August 20, 2011.
  3. ^ For music, lyrics and libretto of subsequent stage play and musical adapted after the Warner Bros Film, also see: Vocal score- "Calamity Jane (Operetta in Two Acts)" Amateur Operatic Version Warner Chappell Music Ltd copyright 2006 by Faber Music Ltd (ISBN 0-57152792-2). Libretto- "Calamity Jane A Musical Western" adapted by Ronald Hanmer & Phil Park from the stage play by Charles K. Freeman after the Warner Bros Film written by James O'Hanlon. Licensed to Josef Weinberger Ltd, London by arrangement with Tams-Witmark Music Library NYC. (Copyright 1962 by Tams-Witmark Music Library, New York. ISMN979-0-57005-498-5)
  4. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 18, 2016.
  5. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 18, 2016.
  6. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 18, 2016.
  7. ^ "AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 18, 2016.
  8. ^ a b Stuart, Jamie (2008). Performing Queer Female Identity on Screen: A Critical Analysis of Five Recent Films. McFarland. ISBN 9780786439713. Retrieved June 9, 2019.
  9. ^ a b White, Armond (June 29, 2017). "The First Gay Anthem: Calamity Jane's 'Secret Love'". Retrieved June 9, 2019.
  10. ^ Griske, Michael (2005). The Diaries of John Hunton. Heritage Books. pp. 89, 90. ISBN 0-7884-3804-2.


External links

This page was last edited on 24 August 2021, at 08:32
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