The Little Bighorn battle, which resulted in the deaths of George Armstrong Custer and a large portion of his 7th Cavalry command, occurred on June 25, 1876. The reason this resonates with me—aside from the obvious fact that I’m a fan of American history—is because I’ve been working on a limited series called Crazy Horse and Custer: Vengeance on the Plains with co-writer and producer Peter Israel son. We’re hopeful it finds a home as it is currently being shopped to production companies.
We have faith that it will, among other things, because it presents a sober, factual, yet amusing portrait of Custer. He was unquestionably not the lunatic or fool that he has much too frequently been portrayed as, as in Richard Mulligan’s portrayal of him in the movie Little Big Man. Another factor is that it seems like westerns, or at least shows set in the American West, are making a resurgence on cable and streaming services.
While Taylor Sheridan’s Yellowstone as well as the other series it inspired are largely responsible for this, other projects are also finding audiences. The third is the significance we place on the legendary Sioux warrior and mystic, Crazy Horse. There have been a lot of Native American-themed TV shows lately, and AMC’s Dark Winds is one of the best.
Here is our limited series’ opening “pitch” for your evaluation and in honor of the anniversary:
Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho surrounded Custer. George Armstrong Custer, his brothers Tom and Boston, and a few soldiers from the 7thCavalry were left on the hill that deadly June afternoon. The air was inundated with the sounds of screaming, rifle cracks, and the bee-like buzzing of hundreds of bullets and arrows. As more bluecoats fell, as did his two flanking brothers, Lt. Colonel Custer, though still vigorously firing his pistols, eventually acknowledged there was no escape. Crazy Horse, covered in painted hail stones, turned his pinto pony and charged “Long Hair,” the last man standing.
Surprisingly, some of what we know about Custer’s Last Stand is actually accurate, despite the fact that our culture has frequently preferred myth to reality. But a lot of it isn’t. The famous Budweiser posters, which previously decorated many American saloons, transformed Custer’s Last Stand into a Wild West Armageddon, with Custer dying in much the same way as matinee idol Errol Flynn did in They Died With Their Boots On: in the face of insurmountable odds. And that film has been around for well over a century.
The remainder of the narrative follows… the real tale.
They are legendary figures of the American West, and their brutal clash was the most well-known post-Civil War conflict ever fought in the United States. Custer, George Armstrong, and Crazy Horse. One of them lost their lives in a desperate stand on a hilltop overlooking the Little Bighorn River, while the other was killed a year later by enraged Army officials. They were both the most courageous and alluring figures of their eras. Every schoolchild once understood what occurred on that tragic summer day, how the tragedy occurred, and why. Not as much these days.
At least two generations have passed, and a sizable portion of both America and the rest of the globe are unaware of this tale entirely. They are familiar with the names and may even be aware of the conflict, but little else. The true stories of Custer, Crazy Horse, and the epic battle that serves as one of America’s greatest dramatic passion dramas will captivate that global audience.
Because of the magnificent nature of what actually transpired on that hot Montanan day as the country started to commemorate its centennial, the Little Bighorn fight has never been correctly portrayed. It’s time for a dramatic retelling that includes never-before-seen biographies of two interesting frontier people and the story of their fatal meeting.
America’s first rock star was George Armstrong Custer. His image was seen everywhere. He was known as “Long Hair” because of his long, flowing hair, and he left the Civil War with the shining reputation of a fearless, dashing leader. The nation’s first paparazzi—a wagonload of embedded reporters and photographers—accompanied him as he prowled the plains at the head of the 7th Cavalry. An American public anxious to learn more about Custer’s amazing achievements devoured the feverish dispatches and photographs delivered east.
After Custer returned from a fruitful campaign against the Indians in 1876, he and his lovely wife Libby were destined to become the Bill and Hillary of their time. In fact, he had high hopes of succeeding another war hero, Ulysses S. Grant, in the White House in November. But everything changed on a steamy June afternoon when Custer, the “Boy General,” unexpectedly turned from hero to legend by charging head-on into an Indian force led by Crazy Horse, a terrifying warrior who had appeared in Custer’s wildest dreams.Custer only needed to pass away prematurely for his spectacular journey to immortality to occur. He passed away grinning and laughing in the face of death, according to those who found him.
The most charismatic and admired Indian warrior ever was Crazy Horse, or Tashunkewitko in Lakota. Cochise, Sitting Bull, Quanah Parker, Geronimo, Chief Joseph, and Red Cloud, the legendary Lakota Sioux leader, are all well-known figures in popular culture. For well over a century, we didn’t know too much about Crazy Horse. He had long hair, was physically strong, and was completely fearless, just like Custer.
Normally hostile tribes like the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho were all drawn to him. Crazy Horse was a fiery and ethereal guy who saw the future through his visions, including the notion that arrows or even bullets could never harm him. Unlike Custer, he never consented to having his picture taken—not even once. In addition, Crazy Horse never signed a treaty and never laid down in a bed prepared by another person. For his beloved Black Hills and all of its inhabitants—land and buffalo that no white man had the right to take away—he was ready to sacrifice his life.
The Crazy Horse, a stirring emblem he himself sliced on his own face before a battle, was the uprising’s lightning bolt if Sitting Bull served as its conscience. It’s incredible how little is known about this legendary Indian fighter who not once, but twice, completely destroyed an American military army.
After June 25, 1876, the Indian Wars were over (and when Native American conversation is required in this new film version, it will be in Lakota with subtitles to improve realism). Indians in wooden cigar shops or feathered dancers selling rubber tomahawks at business association events were going to be the only representations of Native Americans. The entire cast of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show —including Sitting Bull—became living ghosts in their own country. Only Crazy Horse remained obstinately true in death—in the mighty Spirit of Crazy Horse.