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Great Day in the Morning

Great Day in the Morning(1956)


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Outside Denver, Colorado in 1861, Owen Pentecost is engaged in a battle with a band of Indians when Steven Kirby comes to his aid. Owen follows Steven to his camp, where he learns Steven is leading Easterner Ann Alaine into Denver, where she plans to set up a dress shop. Hired hand Zeff Masterson berates Owen for his Southern, and assumedly Confederate, background, until Ann stops the men from fighting and invites Owen along with them. They soon enter Denver, where Father Murphy encourages them to attend church. They procure rooms at the saloon owned by Jumbo Means, where the men loudly admire Ann's figure while bar manager Boston Grant admires Owen. As Owen gambles inside, outside Zeff beats a man for claiming that Northerners and Southerners are "brothers." Upon learning that Owen is winning, Jumbo challenges him to a poker game, during which Owen publicly proves that Jumbo is cheating. After changing decks, Owen wins all Jumbo's money, until the saloon owner is forced to put up all his assets as collateral. Although Jumbo expects Boston to help him cheat, she instead cheats in Owen's favor. She later tells Owen, who is now drunk, that Jumbo treated her poorly, and looks the other way when Owen flirts with Ann before passing out. The next day, Owen visits the handful of Southern townsmen, led by Rogers, who operate a gold mine nearby. After telling them that he has learned from a friend back home that they are hiding millions in gold, Owen offers them the use of the saloon's weapons and wagons, in exchange for a percentage of the gold. Rogers, who plans to give the gold to the Confederate Army, is horrified by Owen's mercenary ways, but is forced to agree. Later, Boston shows Owen Jumbo's mining claims that he now owns, after which Owen announces to the town that he will stake any claim in return for half the profits. As the men swarm to the mines, Owen, bearing champagne, visits Ann's new shop. Although she receives him coldly, Steven finds them together and guesses, jealously, that Ann is intrigued by Owen. Steven, who is really a Secret Service agent for the Union Army assigned to keep the Southerners from transporting their gold, visits his superior, Col. Gibson, who orders him to remain discreet. A few days later, Owen visits Jack Lawford at his new mine claim, and upon spotting Lawford burying some gold, accuses him of refusing to pay his fifty percent. As Ann watches, Lawford draws his gun, forcing Owen to kill him. They bring the body back to town, where Jumbo leads the townsmen in a revolt against Owen, but Ann saves him by asserting that they found Lawford already dead. The next day, when Lawford's young son Gary arrives in town looking for his father, only to learn that he has been orphaned, Owen takes the boy in. Despite her disgust with Owen's actions, Ann helps him, earning Boston's enmity. Over the next weeks, Owen takes Gary under his wing, teaching him everything he knows and sharing his father's gold. One day, Gary asks Owen to teach him sharpshooting skills so he can track down his father's killer. When Owen consents, Ann is outraged by what she considers his barbarism, prompting Steven's jealousy at her continued interest in Owen. She confronts Owen, declaring that when Gary learns the truth, he will be crushed, but Owen correctly surmises that her passion hides an attraction. He kisses her until she returns the embrace, then leaves. Soon after, the Civil War begins. When Fort Sumter falls, the Unionists march in the streets of Denver, and the Southerners gather in the saloon. There, Owen refuses to join them, but is forced to defend himself when Zeff leads an ambush into the saloon. Gary tries to join the men, and when Owen attempts to rescue the boy, he is shot. The shootout ceases only after Father Murphy is accidentally killed. Ann and Boston minister to Owen until Boston calls Ann outside to berate her being incapable of loving Owen unless she can change him. Later, the Easterners gather in Jumbo's new saloon, where Steven names Zeff a sergeant and swears them all in as Union soldiers. Soon, the Southerners move the gold into Owen's warehouse, which Gibson surrounds with his soldiers. Owen is unsure whether to join the Southerners until his bartender declares that he cannot turn his back on his own kind. While Owen packs to leave, both Boston and Gary insist on accompanying him, but to keep Gary out of danger, Owen reveals that he shot his father. Gary runs into the street, followed by Boston, who knows she must stay behind to care for the boy. Owen agrees to lead the Southerners out of the warehouse, but demands $100,000 in payment. Meanwhile, Jumbo tricks Boston into entering his saloon, where he kills her in a jealous rage. As he lays her body in front of the saloon, he is killed in the crossfire between the soldiers and the Southerners, who escape from the warehouse in a blaze of explosives. Zeff's men chase the wagon train while Steven takes his men to cut them off on the trail. There, Owen empties one wagon of gold and drives it into the hills, guessing correctly that the soldiers will follow him. As the other wagons escape, Owen jumps out of the speeding wagon and hides in a cave. Steven traces him there and is about to kill him when Owen admits that he and Ann are not right for each other, and that he loves only Gary and Boston, unaware that she is dead. After Owen asks Steven to tell Boston to meet him in the South, Steven allows Owen to leave. The two men salute each other before joining their separate forces.