Laurel horsemen joined cast of 700 on filming of ‘Little Big Man’ in 1969

Jaci Webb Of The Laurel Outlook
Thursday, December 2, 2021
Laurel horsemen are pictured on the set of the film ‘Little Big Man.’ From left are Robert Boyd, LeeRoy Langlinais and O.J. All.

Laurel horsemen are pictured on the set of the film ‘Little Big Man.’ From left are Robert Boyd, LeeRoy Langlinais and O.J. All.

Karen Teeters (center) and her daughters Devienne Weekes, left , and Rene Roth, right.

Karen Teeters (center) and her daughters Devienne Weekes, left , and Rene Roth, right.

It was a hot and dusty September back in 1969 and three Laurel horsemen rode across the Montana prairie, something they did often. But at the time, the rolling hills and river banks in Yellowstone and Bighorn counties had been turned into a Hollywood set for the filming of “Little Big Man.”

Much of the filming was done southeast of Billings on the Earl Rosell Ranch and at the site of the actual battle of the Little Bighorn, which took place in June of 1876. But during September and October of 1969, director Arthur Penn and his crew filmed some of the fort scenes on the Clarks Fork River south of Laurel and the Fred Benner and Adolph Kamerzel property near Park City.

“Little Big Man,” starring Dustin Hoffman and Faye Dunaway, was released in 1970 with a gala party in Billings at the old Fox Theater, now the Alberta Bair Theater. North Broadway in front of the theater was closed for the occasion and local cast members and dignitaries mingled in the street before heading into the theater to see this epic film. Adrian Heidenreich, a former Native American Studies professor at Eastern Montana College (now Montana State University Billings), said the film featured many area tribal members in the cast of 700. He said “Little Big Man” was viewed as the one of first major films to be told from the Native perspective. Chief Dan George of the Tsleil-Wautuh Tribe was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Old Lodge Skins, a Cheyenne patriarch.

The Babcock Theatre in Billings screened “Little Big Man” this past October and the theater was packed with an audience mostly too young to have been around in 1970 when it was first released. Heidenreich introduced the film and read off the names of local tribal members who had roles in the film, playing Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne warriors at the battle.

Back in 1969, the film crew put out the call for locals with strong riding skills to play cavalrymen. Three Laurel horsemen—LeeRoy Langlinais, O.J. All and Robert Boyd—were among those who answered the call and were selected to portray members of the cavalry. The men were paid $100 a day, and they spent one to two weeks on the film, as long as they could get away from their regular jobs.

Langlinais worked in the lab at the Laurel Refinery and a week was about all he could take off. His daughter Karen Teeters was 9 at the time and she remembers her dad coming home from the movie set covered in dust. She laughs remembering the riding lessons her dad had to take.

“I think Dad got a kick out of it. He’d been riding his whole life and here they were teaching him how to ride,” Teeters said.

One local horseman was kicked off the movie set for forgetting to take his sunglasses off, according to a 1969 article in the Laurel Outlook. Another rider was let go because he had a peculiar way of thrusting out his elbow when he rode. Penn wanted the cavalry riders to be uniform.

One day, Teeters and her sister got to visit the set and eat lunch with the cast and crew.

“I remember coming home and thinking it was fun to be there,” she said.

Teeters went to see the film with her family when it was released in 1970, but she said they had a hard time picking their father out from the 100 cavalrymen depicted in the film. The Laurel Outlook quoted a company spokesman as saying that the local riders were “the best crew of horsemen they had ever used.” The article said there were 600 Native Americans used in the film and 100 riders depicting the cavalry. Among the Laurel men, All was the only one had a close-up scene in the film.

All was quoted in the Laurel Outlook article as saying the Humane Society was on set every day, ensuring the safety of the horses. Stuffed horses were used in the battle scenes to show a dead or wounded horse and the tomahawks that were used in the film were rubber, All explained.

All three Laurel men in the film were good riders. Langlinais was born in 1923 in Louisiana and always loved horses, Teeters said. He rode as much as he could at the Laurel Saddle Club. While the family never had enough land to board their own horses, her dad always had one and the kids got to ride a bit, too.

Another big thrill for Langlinais was being an outrider in the Montana Centennial Cattle Drive of 1989. He borrowed a duster jacket from Bruce Teeters, Karen’s husband, and rode along with long-time Laurel teacher Bob Graham’s wagon team.

For a horseman living more than a thousand miles away from Hollywood back in 1969, being on a movie set in one of the most iconic films ever shot in Montana was a big deal. Teeters and her family planned to watch the film together so her daughters and grandchildren can watch for Langlinais.



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