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Heller in Pink Tights

Heller in Pink Tights(1960)

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In Nebraska in 1880, after stealing their costumes from theater owner Mr. Hodges, Tom Healy and his Great Concert and Dramatic Company race their wagons to the Wyoming border, where Hodges' writ against them is invalid. Upon arriving at their next job in Cheyenne, the townspeople gape at the troupe consisting of Tom's girl friend and star, Angela Rossini; ingénue Della Southby; her mother, Lorna Hathaway; and Shakespearean ham Manfred Montague. Despite their worldliness, the actors are unnerved to witness the bodies of the two recent victims of hired gun Clint Mabry. Also dismayed is the dead men's partner, rancher Santis, who knows that Mabry has been hired by corrupt businessman DeLeon to kill the owners of the land that DeLeon wants to claim. As saloon and theater owner Sam Pierce leads the troupe into his building, Angie avoids Mabry's lewd stare, then eavesdrops as the killer taunts Santis for begging to be spared. Knowing that Angie's flirtatious, impulsive nature causes trouble wherever they go, Tom urges her to be good, and later leads the actors in rehearsing an opera. When Pierce sees them, he contends that the Cheyenne audience will not tolerate the show's theme of adultery, so that night, Tom agonizes over which play will best please the rough crowd. After asserting that it is vital that they succeed and escape trouble this time, Tom mentions settling down to Angie, who demurs, considering herself too young and "free" to marry. They soon perform Mazeppa , and Angie's appearance scantily clad and tied to the back of a galloping horse thrills the crowd, especially Mabry. Backstage, however, Hodges appears with a warrant for Tom's arrest, prompting Angie to persuade Pierce to pay off their debt in return for her company that evening. When Tom hears what she has done, he deduces the danger to come and prepares the troupe to flee once again. Angie hopes to win enough money to pay the debt and stay in town, and so joins a poker game. By the end of the game, she is forced to put herself up as collateral, and when Mabry calls her bluff, she loses to him. Just then, Santis enters the saloon, gun drawn, and as Mabry shoots him, Angie runs away. By the time the gunman gets to her room, the troupe is gone, but upon hearing that they have headed to the neighboring town of Bonanza, Mabry pursues them. When he finds them on the trail, Tom, who has heard that marauding Indians are nearby, invites him to join them, despite Angie's objections. That night, Indians attack and kill the drivers, but Mabry shoots two of them and the third flees. Realizing they will be attacked again, Mabry instructs the troupe to leave the wagons behind and run into the hills. There, as the Indians raid and burn the wagons below, Angie asks Mabry why he remains with them and he answers, "To protect my property." Heading for a mission on the other side of the mountain, the group is soon trudging through snow. Despite their exhaustion, Mabry urges them to keep moving, and along the way Angie avoids the gunslinger while Tom watches them warily and dodges Della's attentions. Eventually they reach clement weather, and when they camp, Mabry mentions the bet, forcing Angie to confess her wager to Tom. Disgusted, Tom stalks off, and Mabry follows Angie to a watering hole, where she reluctantly submits to his advances. Just then, Gallager, the henchman DeLeon has hired to kill Mabry so he will not have to pay him, shoots at them. He has mistaken Tom for Mabry, however, and Mabry disarms the shooter and forces him to reveal who hired him. Angie tries to look after Tom, whose leg has been wounded, but he has seen her emerge from the watering hole with Mabry and so pushes her away. They struggle to the mission, where Tom collapses. When he awakens, he refuses to listen to Angie's apology, informing her that the troupe is disbanded. Later, Mabry offers Angie $500 to go to DeLeon and threaten to expose his corrupt business practices unless he pays Mabry the $5,000 he owes him. With no other prospects, the plucky actress visits DeLeon in Bonanza and demands the money, then, as planned, waits in town for Mabry to return for the money. Soon after, a recovered Tom arrives in Bonanza with Lorna and Della, only to discover a building with the sign "Healy's Theatre." Inside, Angie reveals that she has bought the building with Mabry's money and deeded it to Tom, and although he originally refuses to accept the gift, she feigns incompetence, prompting him to agree to stay just long enough to stage another performance of Mazeppa . The first show is a success, but during the performance, Mabry sneaks backstage and grabs Angie, demanding his money. Tom is forced to defend Angie, and although he manages to knock Mabry down, he turns his back and Mabry draws his gun. The gunslinger is distracted, however, by DeLeon's men, who have learned of his presence and have surrounded the theater. While the troupe continues the play, Tom rescues Mabry by lashing him to the back of the play's horse, which then gallops through the audience and out of the theater. The audience is thrilled, but Tom is dejected to see that Angie has disappeared. Later, as he dims the theater candles, Tom sees Angie at the door. She informs him that she has repaid Mabry and sent him away, by securing a loan using the theater as collateral. Tom's exasperation turns to delight when Angie reveals that she signed the note as "Mrs. Tom Healy," and ignoring his sore leg, he sweeps her into his arms.