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Federal Agents Tipton and Bridger have been sent to Wyoming where the vote on statehood is imminent. Plummer and his gang are out to make sure the vote fails. When Plummer's men kill Bridger, Tipton fights on. He sends fake telegrams that trap some of Plummer's men. Then he organizes the ranchers and on election day they descend on the town barricaded by Plummer's gang. Written by
Maurice VanAuken <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The year is 1890 and Wyoming would like to be a state, but certain lawless elements want to keep it a territory. There will be a plebiscite to decide the issue and the outlaws are going to win this thing by hook or crook. There's redundancy if I've ever written one.
The Lawless Nineties has John Wayne as a 'government man' one of several sent in to the territory to see the elections are run fair and square. With maybe more than a little leaning on the side of the homesteaders and small ranchers and merchants who want statehood.
There actually is some historical basis for this. In this year, the president of the United States is Republican Benjamin Harrison and he's got a Congress with his party controlling both houses. Because of that six states get admitted in his four years as president, Wyoming being one of them the others being Idaho, Montana, Washington, and North and South Dakota. The idea was very simple, the territories were Republican leaning for the most part and would furnish representation in Congress to keep his party in power.
I'm assuming that the Duke as a 'government man' was working for the Department of Justice and oddly enough the film anticipates by about thirty years the Justice Department performing just such an electoral function that they did in the South after the Voting Rights Act was passed.
It's a novel and interesting premise for a western and another thing I thought was unique was the outlaw's use of early electronic surveillance to find out what the federal government's plans were and take steps to foil them. Of course there is no radio and the use of the telephone was not common yet in the west. We're talking here about the telegraph and Wayne does figure it out.
But sad to say that The Lawless Nineties is spoiled by the use of Etta McDaniel and Fred Toone as some black stereotypes, really, really bad ones. Sadder still because there was no need to bring them in, the racial issue just wasn't germane to the plot.
It's been twenty five years since the end of the Civil War and Toone and McDaniel act like Gabby Hayes and Ann Rutherford as a father and daughter resettled from Virginia still own them. Gabby is far from the grizzled, hairy old cuss we love. He's got a handlebar mustache and a clipped goatee and speaks in cultured upper class Southern tones. Not what we normally get from Gabby.
The action is good in The Lawless Nineties and I only wish that Republic hadn't seen the need to include McDaniel and Toone in the film.
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