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The Gal Who Took the West

The Gal Who Took the West(1949)


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Anxious to obtain first-hand accounts about the famous O'Hara family of Arizona, magazine writer Douglas Andrews talks with three "old timers" at the Palace Bar. The first to speak is Ted, who recalls the day fifty years before when singer Lillian Marlowe came to town: As soon as Lillian, a New Yorker hired by General Michael O'Hara, the family patriarch, to inaugurate his new opera house, arrives on the stagecoach, she faints into the arms of O'Hara's handsome nephew Lee. Ted, who works for Lee, nervously watches Lee carry Lillian into his cousin Grant's saloon, as Lee and Grant have been engaged in a bitter, unexplained feud since childhood. To the relief of the townspeople, whose loyalties are divided equally between the cousins, Grant allows Lee to take Lillian to an upstairs bed to rest. Lee then gets a haircut and a new suit and, to the amazement of all, leaves the saloon with Lillian, unharmed by Grant. As Lee escorts Lillian to his grandfather's enormous ranch, she comments on the beauty of the West, impressing Lee and Ted with her gentility. In the present, Ted concludes his story and is contradicted by another old timer, who was once Grant's bartender. Insisting that Lillian was hungover when she arrived in Arizona, the bartender describes the singer as both tough and flirtatious, and unafraid of the womanizing Grant: After impressing Grant with her Irish singing, Lillian dines with him, then spills a bucket of water on his pants to ensure that he will be out of the saloon when Lee comes to pick her up. As soon as the bartender finishes his tale, Hawley, the third old timer and a former O'Hara foreman, tells his version of events: While riding on the stage across the vast O'Hara spread, an awestruck Lillian questions Hawley about the family's wealth. Upon seeing Lee in the street, Lillian pretends to faint, and later at a party at the O'Hara ranch, the two cousins fight over her. After their grandfather prevents them from shooting each other, he asks Lillian, whom he believes is too slight to be an opera singer, to return East immediately. Lillian, however, refuses to go, stating that she is in love with one of the cousins. An exasperated O'Hara explains to her that as soon as he dies, Lee and Grant will fight each other until one of them is dead and the other will gain control of the territory. Fearing for the safety of the town, O'Hara, who commands a Cavalry division, declares martial law. Later, however, when Lillian tells O'Hara she plans to make good behavior a condition for courtship, the patriarch angrily declares that he will not allow any woman to boss his nephews. The next day, while Lillian is on her way to a rehearsal, Grant's men waylay her wagon and force her to go to his hideaway. There Lillian deliberately rips her dress, hoping to intimidate the bartender into letting her go, but Grant bursts in and proposes marriage. Before Lillian can respond, Lee and his men ride up, and everyone prepares for a shootout. During the confusion, Lee tricks Grant into freeing Lillian, and once alone on the range, he, too, proposes. Moved, Lillian is about to kiss Lee when he notices her ripped dress and assumes the worst. At that moment, O'Hara's troops arrive to stop the confrontation before anyone is hurt. At the ranch house, Lillian admits to O'Hara that she is not, in fact, an opera singer but another sort of entertainer. Later, Lillian dazzles the crowd at the opera house with her rendition of "Frankie and Johnnie," further enchanting Lee and Grant. Determined to end their rivalry with guns, Lee and Grant conspire to draw O'Hara's troops away from the town, using local Indians as bait. Back in the present, the old timers inform Andrews that they do not know exactly how the conflict was resolved, but suggest that he talk to the one person who does know--Lillian. The now-elderly Lillian describes how, after the troops were drawn away, the cousins prepared to shoot each other, but allowed her to speak separately to them before carrying out their threats: After she gently reveals to Lee that he is not her choice, Lee notices that she is wearing one of Grant's signature rings. Unaware that Lillian just stole the ring from Grant's pocket, Lee assumes that her honor has been sullied and beats up Grant. He then demands at gunpoint that Grant marry Lillian. Sure that the upright Lee will never kill Grant as long as he is married to her, Lillian happily weds, and peace is restored to the Arizona territory.