Dances With Wolves

The movie of inspiration, Dances with Wolves.   Made in 1990 — I can hardly believe it’s 21 years old.  It seems in some ways as if I were again there, looking at that screen and being taken in by the imagery and storyline.

The movie stars Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, Graham Greene, Rodney A. Grant, Floyd “Red Crow” Westerman and Tantoo Cardinal.   Since it was 21 years ago, there may actually be some people in the audience that haven’t seen the movie, and if not, I would highly recommend it — but get the extended version — my favorite.

Beautiful picture of Costner and a wolf.  I’m not going to tell you the story line, rather, I thought I’d tell you of my impression of the movie and how it changed the direction of my writing career.

I first went to see the movie in the long ago (it really doesn’t seem that long ago for me, however).  So into the movie was I that I didn’t “get” alot of the plot line.  But I remember having nightmares of the “Pawnee” Indians that night.

The picture to my left is Rodney A. Grant — one of the handsome, handsome American Indians in the picture.  With his flowing black hair and handsome figure and face, he set many a heart to stir with his presense on the screen.  Now the interesting thing is that Grandfather George — whose full name is George Randall — is a Native American Actor and at the time of Dances with Wolves, he was teaching an acting class.  Rodney A. Grant was one of his students.  Shortly after finishing Grandfather George’s class, Rodney secured this role.  Off to the right here is Grandfather George at his 90th birthday party last year.  As an aside, time is weird, isn’t it?  While it seems like yesterday that I saw Dances With Wolves, it seems so long ago that we had that party.

Graham Greene was another actor who shined in Dances With Wolves.  His acting skills were showcased in this movie as he created at first fear, then intelligence, humility, humor and abover all, understanding.  As you probably know, he went on to star in many, many other pictures.

To the right here is a picture of Mary McDonnell, the beauty who captured Kevin Costner’s attention.  And she was a beauty.  I once heard Costner say that he wanted a woman for the role — not some young starlet, but a woman who might even have wrinkles.  I remember thinking at the time that Mary certainly looked to me to be a young starlet.  But  I guess that’s only my opinion.

I gotta admit I really like this picture over to the left.  The “butt up” picture as I call it.

Here the Indians are showing Costner the ins and outs of scouting.  In the background you can see the herd of buffalo.  I remember hearing again Costner talking about the scene where they were chasing buffalo and how macho those stunt Indians were.

I hope you appreciate the picture, too.  I thought I’d share a little bit of the score with you.  For any of you who read music, you can hum right along with the melody that’s played over and over in the movie.  As soon as I started humming it, scenes from the movie came back to me.

And now for a little bit of the trivia that I promised you.  I had long been a fan of Indian romance novels, but never wanted to attempt one because just the thought of all the research involved seemed daunting to me.  After I saw Dances With Wolves, I started reading everything I could get my hands on concerning the American Indian way of life.  I read and read and read until one day a friend of my said to me, “And now you have enough information to write that Indian romance.”  At the time, I didn’t think so, I’d given up on writing.  But then a plot came to mind, and … well that was the story that started my career.

Of course no story would be complete without showing you the picture of the villain of the picture — off to the right here is Wes Studi, an actor who has really mastered the art of the “bad guy.”  He completely scared me when I first saw this picture.  Later — much later — I met him at a First Americans in the Arts event — and he was, indeed, not scary and a very nice gentleman.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed having a look at some of the pictures from Dances With Wolves and I hope that if you haven’t seen the movie, you’ll give it a try.

Would love to hear your thoughts about this wonderful, trend setting movie.  So come on in and leave a post.  I may be long in answering today as I’ll be away from the computer until this evening.  But come on in and chat!

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KAREN KAY aka GEN BAILEY is the multi-published author of American Indian Historical Romances. She has written for such prestigious publishers as AVON/HarperCollins, Berkley/Penguin/Putnam and Samhain Publishing. KAREN KAY’S great grandmother was Choctaw Indian and Kay is honored to be able to write about the American Indian Culture.
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30 thoughts on “Dances With Wolves”

  1. This was such a beautiful movie from the relationships developed between the characters to the stunning scenery. I didn’t see it in the theater, but when it hit cable my dad and I watched it many times over. I think we could’ve re-enacted many scenes at one time.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. “Clash of culture” movies always appeal to me, and Dances with Wolves is one of the very best. All of the characers evolve, and that’s what makes the movie so powerful. Mary McDonnell was a perfect choice, I thought. I agree with Kevin… a teenage starlet wouldn’t hae had the gravity she brought to the story. Thanks for sharing with us, Karen!

  3. Love this movie, Karen. I’ve seen it several times. I’ve told this story before – for 10 years I volunteered as a docent at Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City. We had Dakota, the wolf. He was still a youngster when the film was made. He grew up to be a magnificent animal. Because he had no fear of humans, he could be dangerous. The keepers had to be careful around him. He lost his mate when she died during a routine medical procedure. You could hear him howling all over the zoo – until a new female was brought in to make him happy. Great memories.

  4. Spectacular post, Kay! As always, you leave me in awe of the depth of your perceptiveness and knowledge! I so appreciate all of your posts. Even if I don’t comment every time, I read them and store them away in my mind ; ) You are a treasure!

  5. Hey, Kay…that was me, “Virginia C” who just left a comment beginning “Spectacular post”. For some reason it posted under your login!

  6. This is one of my all time favorite movies! It gives you a grim picture of how our military dealt with the Native American situation and even it’s own soldiers. Kostner gave a brilliant performance… Graham Greene too. The ending was especially poignant!

  7. I loved this movie! Growing up with TV westerns, Indians were always the bad guys. This was one of the first movies I remember seeing that depicted the beauty of the Native American people, their humanity. Now I’m in the mood to see it again!

  8. Kay,

    I loved this movie. I watch it at least every other month. It really touches the heart and soul. Like you, I love any movies that has the American Indian in it.

    Thank you for sharing such a great post. It brought back memories to me too

    Walk in harmony,

  9. I very much enjoyed this movie. Now that I’ve read about it again, I’m going to have to see it again – going to visit netflix lol.

  10. Good one, Kay. I fell in love with Graham Greene in this movie, even though Kevin Costner was the hottie of the time. This is a hard movie for me to re-watch because of what happens to Two Socks… Mary McConnell was so awesome re-learning the English language. Ah, good one. Thanks for the memories! oxoxox

  11. Great post on the movie, Karen. However, I’m probably one of the few people who didn’t care for it. And I love, love, love vast, sweeping, panoramic historical movies. There are parts that I remember, but I guess I just never can get past Costner. (in any movie).

    ah well. The rest of the casting was fine, though. Very fine. 🙂

  12. Kay,
    This has to be on my top 10 list as I LOVED this movie. You are right about the extended version. It is wonderful. Of course the fact that I know the mountain men and especially the one with the chicken, may have something to do with that.:)

  13. Hi Kay, Dances With Wolves—-what can I say? The best, all around, ‘Indian’ movie to date. When you sit and watch with a family of Natives, you know if it is good or bad!!!!
    And now that I see Mary McDonnell in “The Closer” I expect her voice to be clipped like her portrayal in Wolves. She’s very good.
    I, too, was scared of those Pawnee. Loved the young boys who stole Dunbar’s horse. Also didn’t see the raiders coming into camp.
    Thanks for all the reminders.

  14. Hi Victoria & Elizabeth!

    That’s a great story about Dakota! Interesting how the getting a new mate helped him. Wolves mate usually for life. And I, too, love the culture clash — maybe I should write about it…

  15. Hi Virginia!

    Gee, it’s good to hear from you again. It’s been a while. Thanks so much for your compliments, also. Gives my heart such joy! 🙂 Interesting also that it had you posting under my log in. Huh.

  16. Hi Laurie G.!

    I couldn’t agree more. It really did see the stage for the military and how it treated the Indians. It’s all about the natural resources, isn’t it? Sigh…

  17. Hi Karen!

    It was truly a movie that changed the thinking of many of us who grew up watching the cowboy and Indian movies. Costner really did it justice.

  18. Hi Melinda!

    It is really a beautiful movie. I haven’t seen it for a while. Interesting how those young teenagers in the movie went on to become heart-throbs now. 🙂

  19. Hi Catslady!

    Yes, and if you can get the extended version. I have both versions, but it’s the extended version that has more of the Native American presence. 🙂

  20. Hi Tanya!

    Like you I didn’t fall in love with Costner, but rather with Rodney A. Grant at the time — perhaps not “in love” but definitely I certainly thought he was a “hotty.” 🙂

  21. Hi Lizzie!

    I understand, but one thing I must say about him is that he really did the Native Americans some good, in that he was instrumental in changing the idea of how most Americans at that time viewed the American Indian. And the scenery was beautiful.

  22. Hi Connie!

    Did you really know one of them? I’ll have to have a look at that again. The extended version made the movie make more sense, I do believe. 🙂

  23. Hi Mary J!

    Yes, doing this blog it really brought back scenes for me. And it did change the attitude of so many people at the time, which really was wonderful at the time.

  24. Karen,
    Like you I can’t believe it has been 21 years since DANCING WITH WOLVES came out. I loved the movie and had our children watch it when they were old enough. I think it was the first movie where native american actors were used extensively and carried much of the movie. It brought actors like Graham Greene, Wes Studi, Rodney Grant, and others to the attention of the general movie going public. You are right about Wes Studi, he makes a great bad guy. In this movie and LAST OF THE MOHICANS he had nasty perfected. It was odd seeing him in the Tony Hillerman mystery programs on PBS as a good guy.

    It has been too long since I last saw it. Thanks for reminding me how much I enjoyed it. Time to watch it again.

    Have a great week.

  25. Hi Patricia!

    Yes, as soon as I did this kinda review, I realized it’s been too long since I’ve looked at it, too. Thanks for your comment!

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