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Lightning Strikes Twice

Lightning Strikes Twice(1951)

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In Texas, Richard Trevelyan, a prisoner on death row convicted of wife-killing, wins an acquittal during a re-trial after one woman on the jury refuses to find him guilty. Meanwhile, stage actress Shelley Carnes is enroute to the Tumble Moon Dude Ranch for a rest cure when she learns about Trevelyan from her fellow bus passengers, many of whom believe that the once prosperous rancher bought his way to freedom. As the bus ride terminates eighty miles from the dude ranch, Shelley spends the night in a hotel owned by local ranchers J. D. and Myra Nolan. After discovering Shelley's plans to hire a car to take her to the neighboring Tumble Moon, Myra offers the use of her own. A storm develops during the drive and Shelley loses her way. When the car gets mired on an unpaved road, Shelley walks to the nearest house, where she meets a sullen Trevelyan. After revealing his identity, he allows her to spend the night on the sofa, although he is unexplainably suspicious when she mentions Myra and asks her the next morning not to reveal that she saw him. Upon arriving at the dude ranch, which is run by Liza McStringer and her teenaged brother "String," Shelley finds the ranch closed and the McStringers wary. However, while playing chess later, Shelley bonds with String, a youth suffering from weak legs and emotional problems. Liza then asks her to stay and intimates that, because she was the juror who held out for Trevelyan's acquittal, the town treats them like "lepers." Soon after, Father Paul, the local priest whose testimony helped convict Trevelyan, comes to visit and Shelley asks him privately what he witnessed. He explains that one morning he dropped by the Trevelyans' ranch and found the wife, Loraine, inside the house dead from a head wound and saw Trevelyan in a field burying something. Although Trevelyan maintained throughout the trial that he had been working all night with a sick horse, the towel he buried had Loraine's blood on it. Shelley sees Trevelyan when she goes shopping in town, but he ignores her as the townspeople shun him. Later, refusing to believe that he is a murderer, she searches for him on a borrowed horse and after finding him on a hill above Moon Canyon, offers to help him catch the real killer. Although annoyed by her presence, he helps her when she becomes frightened on a steep, narrow path, and they end up in each other's arms. However, he then orders her not to meddle and insists that she leave. At the ranch, as Shelley packs her things, Liza says that she has been good for String, who was infatuated with Loraine's beauty and troubled by her death. According to Liza, Loraine was a tramp who had an affair with J. D. before she married Trevelyan. When Shelley returns the car to the Nolans' ranch, Myra asks about Trevelyan, who was like a son to them and who they believe is hiding at the McStringer ranch. The Nolans are confused about why Trevelyan has refused to speak to them since his arrest, but Shelley can only answer that he was not at the McStringers'. At their insistence, Shelley stays with the Nolans and meets their other neighbor, Harvey Turner, a womanizing charmer with old money, who describes Loraine as a wanton and vicious woman, whose clutches he feels lucky to have escaped. One evening, Harvey tries to express his feelings for Shelley, but she admits that she does not reciprocate. Obviously disappointed, he takes her for a drive and scares her with talk about "doing things he will regret." When they arrive at his house, she runs from him, and to her relief, bumps into Trevelyan, who explains that he asked Harvey to bring her there to say goodbye. Harvey, Trevelyan explains, has offered him an engineering job, for which he will soon be leaving. After admitting that they love each other, they secretly marry the next day. However, that evening, a jealous Liza shows up at the house, claiming that she was there on the night of the murder, but that she had Trevelyan acquitted because Loraine deserved to die. After Liza leaves, Shelley, unable to shake off her anxieties, admits to Trevelyan that she is frightened of him, and runs away. Meanwhile, Liza tells String that, on the night of the murder, she found Harvey and Loraine in bed together and after Harvey left, Loraine, unaware that Liza saw him, laughed at her for loving Trevelyan, so Liza killed her. Hearing the confession, String decides that they must leave, but as he packs, Shelley shows up begging Liza to tell her if Trevelyan murdered Loraine. As Liza relives her story for Shelley, Harvey and Trevelyan show up in time to stop Liza from bashing Shelley's head, as she had Loraine's. Liza and String escape in their car, but soon crash. The next morning, Father Paul says that Liza confessed to him before she died. The vindicated Trevelyan, who had believed that J. D. killed Loraine, reunites with the Nolans, confident that he and Shelley can now live together unencumbered by the past.