Far too often we only hear about the legendary men that ruled the Wild West. Stories of Wild Bill Hickok, Butch Cassidy, and Billy the Kid have become immortalized over the years, but let's not forget the women that were just as tough and skilled with a rifle. Annie Oakley was one of the best sharpshooters of her time and Calamity Jane was one of the memorable touring members of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. One of the few solid onscreen depictions of life for these women on the rough frontier was the CBS miniseries Buffalo Girls.
Anjelica Huston stars as Calamity Jane in the series based on the novel by Larry McMurtry. Melanie Griffith co-stars as the (fictional) prostitute turned madame, Dora DuFran, with Reba McEntire effortlessly bringing to life Annie Oakley. The story is told from Jane's point of view, following her life through "the last of the Wild West times ... them last few days of wildness," explained in letters she sends to her daughter. While the cast itself is stacked, Gabriel Byrne plays Dora's love interest Ted Blue, Sam Elliott is Wild Bill Hickok, Jack Palance is Bartle Bone, and Peter Coyote is Buffalo Bill Cody, the miniseries shines because of its leading ladies -- the Buffalo gals.
As the Washington Post put it, "'Girls' is also a tribute to womanhood, its infinite variety represented by the butchy Jane, the frilly Dora and the no-nonsense Annie, all sisters under the skin."
The Old West was a mythical time full of gunslingers and cowboys but it's refreshing to actually acknowledge the cowgirls that survived right alongside the men. As the Baltimore Sun noted, really the best part about watching this series is the people.
"The best part of "Buffalo Girls" is not in the adventures, which are not nearly as great as driving all that livestock to Montanny in "Lonesome Dove." The best part of Calamity's freedom, and the best part of the miniseries itself, is in the unusual friendships her lifestyle allowed her to enjoy."
Though the miniseries isn't as beloved as Lonesome Dove (it's hard to top), it definitely received its fair share of accolades. Huston was nominated for an Emmy Award and Elliott and Griffith both landed Golden Globe nominations. The entire miniseries is available to watch on YouTube here and here!
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