Hollywood has had its fun with the character of Calamity Jane – perhaps Doris Day’s 1953 performance as the cowgirl is the most famous. But Day’s portrayal does little to teach us about the real Martha Jane Cannary – and the truth is much wilder than you might think.
Who was the real Calamity Jane?
Of course, Hollywood’s just one place where Calamity Jane’s story has been told. Plenty of rumors surround the legendary figure of the Wild West – some of them she even wrote herself. It makes sense that there’s so much mystery, then, considering how much of her life story is unconfirmed. But experts have their theories as to who she was and what kind of trouble she really got into.
Pinpointing her history
As time has gone on, historians have been able to confirm some of the major moments of Calamity Jane’s life. Their findings paint a clearer picture of her existence beyond the tall tales and the film renditions of her exploits. So, who really was Calamity Jane? It’s time for the world to find out.
The Doris Day version
Hollywood has long relied on the character of Calamity Jane to make bright, romantic movies about the Wild West. There’s perhaps no greater example than Doris Day, who starred in the aforementioned 1953 flick that shared the cowgirl’s name. In it, Day portrays Jane as a tomboy – The Independent’s David Thomson memorably wrote in 2004 that the actress “walks as if she’s still on a horse” in the movie.
Throughout the flick, Day’s Calamity Jane comes to feel that she should start acting more like a lady. She ditches her loose-fitting wardrobe for more feminine attire. She re-styles her hair and re-decorates her home. And she admits to her buddy Wild Bill Hickok that she’s in love with him. The movie concludes with a double-wedding – Calamity Jane gets her happy ending.