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The First Traveling Saleslady

The First Traveling Saleslady(1956)


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In New York in 1897, inventor Charlie Masters crashes his horseless buggy into saleslady Rose Gillray's wagon. Despite his boasts about his automobile's superiority, he cannot start it and Rose is forced to pull it with her horse. At her business office, the Gillray Corset Company, Charlie annoys Rose further by ridiculing her suffragette leanings. In her office, Rose fits singer Molly Wade with a new corset, whose daring design is being rejected all over town. After loosening her shoe strap, Rose is inspired to propose the corset as a costume for Molly's current revue. They bring the costume, along with a song, to theatrical producer Martin Schlessinger, but he will not consider it until Rose threatens to take the idea to his competitor. Immediately, however, the police close the revue because of the scandalous outfits, and Rose's office is picketed by the Purity League. In deep debt to James Carter's steel company, which supplied her the garter stays, Rose rejects her assistant's offer to spirit her out of town and instead confronts Jim. After overhearing him complain to Teddy Roosevelt that his tons of barbed wire are virtually unsalable in the West, where large ranchers have convinced their smaller colleagues that wire will hurt the cattle, Rose boldly suggests that she sell the wire for him to work off her debt. Although Jim rejects the plan as far too dangerous for a woman, he invites her to dinner, intrigued by her spirit. Promptly falling in love with her, Jim issues a warrant for Rose's arrest in order to force her to abandon her plan, but she sneaks out of town with his wire disguised in a box marked "corsets." At the first train stop, Rose is outsmarted by the male salesmen, who elbow her out of the trolley which is heading into town. Luckily, Charlie, on his way to show his invention in California, drives by and offers her a ride into town. When the car breaks down, Rose, upon loosening her shoe, realizes that her corset stay can serve as a replacement part, and they are soon on their way. Although Charlie scoffs at Rose's feminist ideas, he is powerless to deny her the opportunity to drive his car. After she drives it into a ditch, they begin a quarrel that ends when Charlie kisses Rose, who returns his kiss before hopping onto a passing wagon. At the town hotel, Rose finds Molly, now assisting a traveling magician, and persuades Molly to join her. They head to Kansas City, where a Cattlemen's Association meeting is taking place in their hotel. As Rose schemes to find a room in the overbooked hotel, Molly flirts with young Rough Rider Lt. Jack Rice. Upon hearing that Texas cattle baron Joel Kingdon has been placed in a room earlier reserved for the Prince of Wales, Rose decides to sell Joel on the idea of barbed wire. To that end, she pretends to be the prince's American contact and, entranced, Joel offers his room to the ladies and invites them to dinner. In the hallway, however, his cohort Cal, who has found the wire in Rose's bags, reveals her real purpose, prompting Joel to set into motion a ruse to thwart her. At dinner that night, Joel pays a judge to pretend that the rancher is pro-barbed wire, then invites Rose to visit him in Texas. Back in the room, the prince's arrival forces Rose and Molly to sleep in the ladies' lounge, where they are awoken by Charlie, who is also in Kansas City looking for a place to sleep. After Rose and Charlie bicker, Rose directs Jim to send a shipment of wire to Texas, then heads there with Molly. As soon as they step off the train, they are abducted by Joel's men, who transport them to the county border, where they are unceremoniously dumped and told to walk home. Despite their warning that any barbed wire salesmen caught in Texas will be hanged, Rose insists on returning to town to telegraph Jim to stop the wire shipment. Along the way, she and Molly are thrilled to see Charlie, who offers them a ride but needs Rose's corset stay to fix the engine. At the telegraph office, Joel confronts Rose, admitting that he was waiting for her over the borderline. Charlie, amused by the proceedings, decides to stay, as do Rose and Molly, even though Joel has ordered all the locals to refuse service to the women. Rose is about to give up when she loosens her shoe and realizes she must sell the wives on barbed wire. Over the next few days, she explains the wire's benefits to all the ranch women, who agree to meet in town. Before the meeting, however, Joel has Rose arrested for "cruelty to animals," and Jim soon arrives in town to post her bail. After Jim proposes to Rose, Joel, also planning to propose, beats up Jim. Joel has Rose and Molly forcibly brought to his ranch. They are followed by Charlie, who is knocked out and hidden by Joel's men. Rose turns down Joel's proposal, after which Jack arrives with the Rough Riders to free the women. Back in town, when no one shows up for the meeting, Molly leaves with Jack. Charlie teases Rose that women should stay in the kitchen, prompting her to rant about men until he proposes marriage, which she accepts, admitting she cannot go on alone. By loosening her shoe, Rose is inspired to demand a hearing in defense of barbed wire, at which the jury is packed with Joel's rancher friends. Although the opposition lies to prove the wire is harmful to animals, Charlie arranges for the ranchers' wives to herd the cattle into town, where the cows avoid a barbed wire fence, proving the wire's efficacy. As the ranchers gather to place orders for Jim's wire, Jim and Joel commiserate over losing Rose. Later, while driving to California, Charlie tells Rose about a new flying machine, and is horrified to discover that she cannot wait to sell it.