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Dawn at Socorro

Dawn at Socorro(1954)

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In Lordsburg, New Mexico, a local man remembers the events that led up to the 1871 shootout at Keane's stockyards: The atmosphere in Lordsburg's Oriental Saloon is charged as Sheriff Harry McNair, his brother and deputy, Vince, and their friend, gambler and saloon owner Brett Wade, warily keep an eye on troublemakers Floyd "Old Man" Ferris and his sons Tom, Earl and young Buddy. Also there are close Ferris friend Jimmy Rapp and Brett's enemy, rival casino owner Dick Braden. Braden offers to buy Brett's saloon, but Brett replies that he will not let Braden cheat the people of Lordsburg the way he does the citizens of Socorro. Soon after, Rapp takes a drunken Buddy's gun for safekeeping and returns to his hotel to drink himself to sleep, but the moment he leaves, Buddy grabs dancing girl Clare. When Harry tries to throw him out, Buddy grabs a gun and shoots at him, and Harry is forced to kill Buddy in self-defense. Meanwhile, Rannah Hayes is dropped at the hotel by her father, Jebb, who calls her a Jezebel. The scene is witnessed by Braden, who offers the lovely girl a job at his casino, which she spurns. Hours later, Rannah listens through her hotel room wall as the Ferrises attempt to revive Rapp so he can help them win a dawn duel against Harry, Vince and Brett in revenge for Buddy's death. When the sun rises, Rannah and Clare both watch as the duel begins. During the ensuing shootout, Rapp realizes what is happening and attempts to join the fray, but stumbles drunkenly and falls. Within minutes, Floyd and Tom are killed, Earl escapes on horseback, and Vince and Brett receive minor wounds. As Doc Jameson tends Brett's shoulder wound, he hears the gambler's wracking cough and deduces that a bullet with which Brett was shot while protecting Harry during the Civil War, has lodged in his lung. He advises Brett that unless he moves to the mountains and stops drinking, he will soon die. Brett at first responds by throwing a funeral party for himself at the saloon, but soon after announces that he is moving to Colorado Springs to regain his health. He boards a stagecoach bound for Socorro, where he will then catch the train to Colorado. Also on board are Rannah, who has decided to accept Braden's job offer, and Rapp, whose guilt over the loss of Floyd has resulted in a homicidal desire to kill Brett. At the first stage stop, Rannah offers Brett cough tonic, and he, impressed by her gentility, flirts with her. She lies that she is going to Socorro to be married, and they trade images of their respective idyllic futures. When they board the stage again, Rannah spots Earl, who has been trailing Brett, and pushes Brett out of the way of a bullet, allowing him time to grab Rapp's gun and shoot down Earl. Horrified, Rapp demands his gun back but, unwilling to shoot an unarmed man, returns to the stagecoach. There, Rannah questions Rapp's deep hatred for Brett, and the gunman responds that Brett's wasted life reminds him of his own. They reach Socorro, where Sheriff Calhoun demands that Brett leave town on the next train. Brett agrees, until he sees Rannah with Braden and realizes that she is Braden's new saloon girl. Concerned for her, he sneaks off the train before it leaves and enters Braden's casino. Meanwhile, Braden shows Rannah her new room and revealing dresses and explains that she must "entertain" the casino guests and leave her door unlocked at all times for him to enter as he pleases. When he leaves, Rannah whispers the word "Jezebel." Downstairs, saloon girl Letty Diamond greets Brett, her old friend, and confesses her sadness at what her life has become. Spotting Rannah, Brett tells her that she must leave before she is ruined. She reveals that her father, who wrongly assumed she was a wanton woman, has kicked her out and she belongs here. Angry, he drags her upstairs, but when she bitterly goes along with him, he slaps her and leaves. Braden then enters and tells Rannah that Brett must leave on the morning train, or die. As the night progresses, Brett wins thousands of dollars at the casino, foiling Braden's attempts to cheat him. With only minutes left before his train, he challenges Braden to a poker game for the casino. Braden wins the hand, and a defeated Brett explains to Rannah that he has failed to free her from Braden. She collapses in his arms, weeping, and when Braden states that Rannah belongs with him, Brett punches him and leaves to wait for the train. Braden and Rapp then tie up Calhoun and go after Brett. Rapp gives Brett a gun, and after the two face off in the street, Brett shoots only a fraction before Rapp does, killing him. Braden then lunges at Brett, forcing the gambler to kill him. Dismayed that he cannot escape his violent past, Brett boards the train. As he begins to cough, he is overjoyed to see Rannah sitting next to him, offering him a tonic for the long ride to Colorado Springs.