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Honky Tonk

Honky Tonk(1941)

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In the 1880s, when conman "Candy" Johnson hops on a train after narrowly escaping tar and feathering by irate citizens, he tells his partner "The Sniper" that he is tired of being run out of towns and vows to find one of his own. Candy sees the beautiful Elizabeth Cotton on the train and mistakenly thinks that she is a fellow con artist, but soon learns that she is returning to Yellow Creek, Nevada from school in Boston. She is greeted at the station by her father, Judge Cotton, whom Candy recognizes. In the saloon, Candy decides that this rich town is the one he wants. When he runs into an old girl friend, "Gold Dust" Nelson, she tells him that the saloon's crooked owner, Brazos Hearn, is also the sheriff. Soon the judge, who is a former conman, renews his acquaintance with Candy and reveals that he is a "pillar of the community," but is starting to be suspected of pocketing the fine money he collects. Soon after, Candy angers Hearn by siding with a local man who says the club is crooked. Candy then challenges Hearn to a game of Russian Roulette and wins $5,000 with help from the judge and Sniper. Later, Candy takes the inebriated judge home, angering Elizabeth, who thinks that Candy is a bad influence. When the judge's housekeeper, Mrs. Varner, mentions that the town doesn't have a church, Candy gives her $1,500 to build a mission. Candy then kisses Elizabeth, telling her that they are alike. A short time later, Candy opens up the ramshackle "Square Deal" saloon. It becomes more popular than Hearn's, and Candy impresses citizens at a town meeting, when he speaks with conviction against "Mr. John Barleycorn," and reveals that he eats candy because liquor always causes him trouble. Elizabeth lets him walk her home and he admits that he admires her brains, toughness and beauty. Gold Dust later tells Candy that when men like him marry "they get good and married," then goes to Elizabeth and warns her that Candy is only interested in "a fancy room in a fancy hotel." When Candy tells Elizabeth that he wants to take her to Sacramento, but is not interested in marriage, she agrees, but suggests that they have a drink first. Though reluctant, he takes a drink at her insistence, followed by another. The next morning, a hungover Candy wakes up in Elizabeth's room and she lets him know that they were married the night before. Rather than being mad, he admires her ingenuity and is amused by her determination to reform him. At the Square Deal, the judge learns about the marriage and is upset because he fears that Elizabeth will be hurt. The judge then tells Elizabeth that he and Candy are both cheap crooks, but she tells him that he will someday be proud of Candy. That night, after noting that they haven't had a proper courtship, Elizabeth locks the door of her bedroom, so Candy breaks the door down, then leaves for the saloon. Elizabeth soon follows and interrupts his private dinner with Gold Dust. After the two women exchange insults, Gold Dust leaves and Elizabeth and Candy passionately kiss. The next morning, as Candy and Elizabeth are happily walking to town, one of Hearn's men shouts a phony cheating charge against Candy and draws a gun. Candy defends himself by drawing a gun hidden in his coat, then rebukes Hearn in front of the town. After campaigning for honest elections, Candy is soon running the town, which booms with newly built schools and churches. At the same time, he builds political influence in the state and greedily amasses a fortune. When Elizabeth becomes pregnant, Candy happily says he will name the baby after the judge, but the judge, who has become increasingly bitter because he thinks Elizabeth has been changed by Candy, says he is moving out. That morning, Candy's henchmen, now headed by Hearn, say that they want to get rid of the judge, who is fomenting trouble in town. To appease them, Candy says that he will send the judge away and puts him on a train headed east, but the judge sneaks off and heads for a town meeting called to discuss Candy's corruption. Candy arrives prior to the judge and tries to defend himself. Then, the judge arrives and is shot in the back and dies in Candy's arms. When Elizabeth hears the news while riding in her carriage, she falls to the ground and is comforted by Gold Dust. At home, Elizabeth loses the baby and when the doctor says that she needs an operation to save her life, Candy threatens to kill him if she dies. After the operation, the semi-conscious Elizabeth tells Candy that she would do anything for him, even lie and cheat, and he is shaken. After being assured that Elizabeth will be all right, Candy gives Gold Dust papers and money for Elizabeth, then leaves. At City Hall, where the townspeople are trying to oust his men, Candy finds that Hearn and his gang have Sniper at gunpoint and want to take back the town. In a confrontation, Hearn draws, but Candy shoots and kills him. Although Hearn's cohorts want to kill Candy, he talks his way out of trouble again by making them think that he is on their side, saying that the governor is sending troops to attack them. Frightened, Hearn's men then leave through the back while Candy and Sniper bravely go out by the front, facing the angry townspeople. Some time later, in Cheyenne, Candy and Sniper are up to their old cons when Elizabeth shows up, summoned secretly by a postcard from Sniper. Candy is glad to see her and by the next morning he is a happily changed man.