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South of the Chisholm Trail

South of the Chisholm Trail(1947)


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In the 1870's, along the cattle trails of Kansas, cattle rustling and violence have become commonplace. The arrival of the first railroad through the territory is thus seen by many as the first step to the elimination of lawlessness and thievery. The first Kansas and Pacific train arrives in the small cattle trail town of Abilene during a celebration honoring fight promoter and investor Big Jim Grady, who brought the railroad to the town. Grady promises the townspeople that the new railroad will bring prosperity, and then directs the crowd to the arena, where a wrestling match will be held between his man, Biceps Billikin and Bone Crusher. Just as the match is about to begin, Grady learns that Billikin has been knocked unconscious by his own wife and cannot fight. Desperate to replace Billikin, Grady dupes singing horseshoe salesman Smiley Burnette into entering the match. With no wrestling experience, Smiley is given a terrible beating by Bone Crusher. Seeing Smiley's distress, his pal Steve Haley, who is actually The Durango Kid, the masked champion of law and order, replaces him and scores an easy victory over the wrestler. A short time later, Smiley and his pals are witnesses when some masked gunmen hold up a covered wagon, and chase after them. Smiley then takes the money from the hold-up men, but when he tries to bury it for safekeeping, Sheriff Palmer and the justice of the peace arrest him and charge him with the robbery. Steve, a witness to the false arrest, puts on his Durango Kid disguise, takes the stolen money and frees Smiley. Smiley and his musician pals then travel to the town of Bearcat, where they put on a medicine show. When the sheriff makes another attempt to arrest Smiley, Steve saves him by turning over the stolen money to the sheriff. Though Steve turns down an offer by rancher Pop Grant to be his hired gun, he agrees to help Pop by attending a meeting of the local cattlemen that night. Meanwhile, Smiley accepts a job offered by the crooked Doc Walker, who claims to be a veterinarian, but who is actually one of the men behind the stagecoach robberies. That night, during the cattle ranchers' meeting, a shot rings out and Pop is killed. Later, at Chet Tobin's ranch, Smiley realizes that Walker is associated with the rustling gang and tries to dissociate himself from them. When Walker offers him a job rustling cattle, Steve, too, discovers Walker's real business. After learning that Grady is also behind the rustling, Steve accepts Walker's job offer and uses his position to gain advance knowledge of the rustlers' next cattle raid. A short time later, Steve shoots Grady in self-defense, and tries to stop Walker from robbing the exchange. A shootout between Steve and the rustlers ensues, during which Walker's men are killed and Walker is captured. The people of Abilene thank Steve for his good work and invite him to stay, but he leaves town for a new adventure.