Sioux City: Perkins Bros. Co., [ca. 1926?]. Double-sided broadsheet, 22 x 8 inches. One very short closed edge tear, else fine. Item #WRCAM54826
A scarce poster advertising the re-release of Thomas H. Ince's famed western, "Custer's Last Fight." Originally released in 1912 and directed by Francis Ford, the older brother of John Ford, the film was re-released in 1926 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Ford not only directed the two- reeler, but also starred in it as Custer, supported by, among others, the Native American actor, William Eagle Shirt, as Sitting Bull. "Custer's Last Fight" was one of the earliest and most important Westerns based on an actual historical event, and is also noteworthy for its even-handed treatment of Native Americans. Film historian Tom Milne has pointed out that impartiality was a hallmark of Ince's treatment of Indians in his Westerns: "Ince, by contrast [with D.W. Griffith], was clearly interested in the Indian as a human being rather than as an adjunct to melodrama. His 'Custer's Last Fight' opens with a beautifully shot Indian attack in which the titles stress that the Indians never broke treaties, then continues after their retreat with touching sequences prefiguring John Ford's Cheyenne Autumn in which they wearily trek away dragging their possessions heaped on hurdles, skirmish bitterly as they are robbed of their buffalo, herded into reservations, and demeaned by the white men who cheat them, sell them whisky, mock them. But Ince was no mere polemicist, and the final sequence of the Last Stand itself is preceded by equally moving shots of the white troopers bidding farewell and being waved off by wives and sweethearts before fording the river in an exquisite, doom-laden shot." The poster admirably touts the thrills promised by "Custer's Last Fight," called "the big, new, and only original frontier spectacle of the celebrated battle of Little Big Horn." The copy praises the film's verisimilitude, promising that the viewer will be transported back in time to the event itself, and that the film was "reproduced on the exact location the battle was fought - with the cooperation of the U.S. Army" (it was actually filmed in southern California). The broadsheet contains actual photographs of Custer, Sitting Bull, Buffalo Bill Cody, and Calamity Jane, promising that the film, with a cast of 2,000, would be "true, authentic and faithful in every detail," while depicting "the Greatest Indian Battle Ever Fought on the American Continent." Further, "the well-known Ghost Dance of the Indians...is also shown in all its true and primitive frenzy." Though directed by Francis Ford, "Custer's Last Fight," is best remembered as a Thomas Ince production. Ince began his career in film as an actor and director, before becoming one of the most influential producers of the silent era. His "Inceville" studio in the Santa Ynez mountains of Santa Monica churned out quality films for a decade, and helped to shape the direction of the Western as a genre, often with William S. Hart as the leading man. Ince also worked with Native American actors and the cowboys of the 101 Ranch to lend his films authenticity. With legendary directors D.W. Griffith and Mack Sennett, Ince formed the Triangle Film Corporation in 1915. He died in 1924 at age 42, after taking part in a cruise on William Randolph Hearst's yacht. Ince's death was proclaimed as being caused by a heart attack, though the rumor persists that Ince was shot by Hearst in an altercation revolving around Hearst's mistress, the actress Marion Davies. A wonderful early film artifact for this landmark early Western recreating Custer's Last Stand. Tom Milne, "Thomas Harper Ince" in Richard Roud, (ed.), CINEMA: A CRITICAL DICTIONARY (New York, 1980), pp.520-24. Kevin Brownlow, THE WAR, THE WEST, AND THE WILDERNESS (New York, 1979), pp.257-60.