Quantrill in the Movies

Last modified: 
Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Relatively few Kansans have gone on to be immortalized in the movies.

Salina’s Dwight David Eisenhower has popped up as a character in nearly 40 films, the first time in the 1962 D-Day epic The Longest Day, which was released four years before the former President’s death.

On the other hand, hatchet-wielding prohibitionist Carrie Nation has never been portrayed on the silver screen, at least not according to the Internet Movie Database.

A couple of transplants to Kansas have enjoyed a long cinematic history. Wyatt Earp, an Illinois native who first gained fame as a lawman taming Kansas’ wide-open cattle towns, has been depicted in 55 films.

Gen. George Armstrong Custer, who lived in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, during the Indian wars, has made at least 50 movies and TV appearances.

And William Clarke Quantrill, the Confederate guerrilla leader infamous for the August, 1863, sack of Lawrence, Kansas, has been depicted on screen numerous times.

And if you add to the mix all the films referencing the Border War between Kansas and Missouri, not to mention innumerable Westerns in which the characters were former bushwhackers (anything with Jesse James, True Grit’s Rooster Cogburn, a former guerrilla played by Dean Martin in Bandolero!, and Clint Eastwood’s turn as The Outlaw Josey Wales), you’ve got well over 100 titles springing at least in part from our local history.

KU’s John Tibbetts looks at this cinematic heritage in Quantrill in the Movies on Sunday, August 18, 2013, at 2 p.m. at the Central Library. Through film clips, analysis, and anecdotes, Tibbetts examines Quantrill through films as varied as Dark Command (1940), Quantrill’s Raiders (1958), and Ang Lee’s locally-filmed Ride With the Devil (1999).


A broadcaster, journalist, artist, and scholar, Tibbetts has written and illustrated nine books, among them The Cinema of Tony Richardson, The American Theatrical Film, Dvorak in America, and His Majesty the American: The Films of Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.

His presentation is part of the Missouri Valley Sundays series, a program of the Missouri Valley Special Collections at the Central Library. The series is made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

As with all our events, admission is free, and Free parking is available at the Library District Parking Garage at 10th & Baltimore.


On a related note, several of the films featured in Tibbett’s talk are being screened on Mondays this month in the Film Vault of the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St. The shows begin at 6:30 p.m.

The schedule:

These events are all part of our A Quantum of Quantrill series, marking the 150th anniversary of the sack of Lawrence, Kansas by Quantrill and his band of “bushwhackers.”

About the Author

Robert W. Butler is a lifelong Kansas City area resident, a graduate of Shawnee Mission East High School and the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas. For several decades he was the movie editor of the Kansas City Star; he now writes a movie-themed blog at butlerscinemascene.com. He joined the Library's Public Affairs team in 2012.

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