No slouch himself at rearranging the facts to make a good story, Colonel William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody would probably have enjoyed this Technicolor version of his life and times. Well played by Joel McCrea, Cody is first seen as an army Indian scout, pursuing peaceful coexistence despite the animosity of Chief Yellow Hand (Anthony Quinn) and the obstruction of anti-Indian politicians. He also takes time out to court the lovely Louisa (Maureen O'Hara), the well-bred Eastern girl who will become his wife despite her initial (and quite justified) distaste for the West. Under the tutelage of impresario Ned Buntline (Thomas Mitchell), Cody follows up his military career with a more spectacular one as a larger-than-life super-showman, touring throughout the world with his spectacular Wild West show. In later years, Buffalo Bill director William Wellman would wince at the liberties taken with Cody's life -- especially the film's now notorious closing line, "God bless you, Buffalo Bill!" But Wellman allowed that, in terms of sheer entertainment, it was smarter to emulate Cody by perpetuating the legend rather than debunking the Buffalo Bill image with cold, hard facts. Or, as John Ford put it in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."
by Hal Erickson synopsis