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Raton Pass

Raton Pass(1951)

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In 1880, New Mexico territory, elderly widower Pierre Challon and his son Marc, owners of the huge Challon ranching empire, are resented by Jim Pozner and the other homesteaders, most of whom live on the opposite side of Raton Pass. As Pierre high-handedly negotiates with Pozner for a lease of grassland property on the homesteaders' side of the pass, a stagecoach arrives bearing Cy Van Cleave, a ruffian whose return from Colorado is not welcomed by the Raton inhabitants. Also on the coach is an alluring woman, Ann, who claims to want to start a ranch, and who immediately pursues Marc after she realizes his wealth and power. Mistaking the greedy look in her eye for a love of the land, Marc is a willing victim, and the sentimental Pierre, remembering his happy marriage, is also easily charmed. Ann and Marc soon marry, and at their wedding, Pierre presents the deed to the ranch made out to both of them. Ann, who is more conniver than homemaker, is soon bored leaving ranch decisions to Marc, and urges him to take out a loan for an irrigation project. To please her, Marc invites Mr. Prentice, a wealthy Chicago banker and railroad man, to the ranch to discuss backing the project. When Marc realizes that Prentice requires a voice in management before he will grant a loan, Ann convinces Marc that, while he and Pierre are on a cattle drive, she will convince Prentice to agree to their terms. However, when the male Challons return, they find Ann and Prentice in an embrace and Ann tells Marc that she and Prentice want to buy out his half of the ranch. Although Pierre is ready to "take care of them," Marc plots revenge, and sells the ranch at an exorbitant price, expecting that he will be able to foreclose within the year. In the meantime, Marc intends to ranch the leased area, but Pierre sees no sense in the plan, and having lost his home, leaves town. Some of Marc's ranchhands, fearing trouble from the homesteaders, are reluctant to follow Marc to the other side of the pass, and Sheriff Perigord, who traditionally backs the Challons, is concerned about the well-being of the Raton community. Pozner's niece, Lena Casamajor, who has been secretly infatuated with Marc since they were young, scolds him for his talk of revenge, fearing that the town will suffer even if his plans succeed. However, she asks Pozner to persuade the homesteaders to support Marc and later brings Pozner and other homesteaders to Marc's camp. At first the homesteaders vent their years of resentment by bullying Marc, but when they talk business, Marc convinces them to close up the pass. In return he promises that, after he gets the ranch back, he will use the $100,000 down payment from Prentice to finance the irrigation project, which will benefit the homesteaders. Meanwhile, Ann discovers that the ranch employees have deserted her and hires Van Cleave as ranch foreman. Van Cleave and his hired thugs begin rounding up the cattle to bring through the pass and Marc's ranchhands, assisted by the homesteaders, try to stop them. Recognizing the two groups against him, Van Cleave then has Marc arrested for rustling by coercing Pozner to confirm his accusation to Perigord. Later, at the jail, Van Cleave shoots first Marc in the back, then Pozner, and leaves them for dead. Meanwhile, Lena finds and enlists Pierre, who proceeds with Perigord and the ranchhands to the Challon ranch to confront Ann and Van Cleave. The injured Marc insists on following them, so Lena takes him, after convincing the homesteaders to help. At the ranch, Prentice, who disapproves of the brutality unleashed by Ann and is genuinely concerned for the territory, finds himself no longer in love and leaves. However, Van Cleave is quick to establish himself in Prentice's place. When Perigord tries to arrest him, Van Cleave kills him outright, then shoots Pierre, and a gunfight commences between the Challon ranchhands and Van Cleave's men. After arriving with Lena and witnessing Pierre's death, Marc sneaks into the house and throws Van Cleave and Ann out. As Ann begs to Marc, the injured Van Cleave shoots at him, but kills Ann instead. In turn, Van Cleave is shot, and the thugs surrender. With the uniting of Marc and Lena, the longstanding feud between the Challon empire and the homesteaders comes to an end.