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Mary Robbins is a moderately educated, beautiful, young woman who owns the saloon called "The Poker". She is the only woman in the town of Cloudee-making her the fancy of all the men there, especially to Sheriff Jack Rance. On the way to Monterey to sing at a mass officiated by Father Sienna, her stagecoach is held up by the infamous masked bandit, Ramerez. He too takes a fancy to Mary, and decides to secretly follow her, taking on the identity of an officer named, Lieutenant Johnson. While in Monterey, he dances, sings and courts Mary, who has now fallen in love with him. He then has to make a quick getaway. In the mean-time, Sheriff Jack has set up a trap to catch Ramerez at "The Poker". When Ramerez does arrive he soon discovers that Mary is the owner, and quickly changes to the identity of Lieutenant Johnson. How long can this sherade last?Written by
"Girl of the Golden West," starring Nelson Eddy and Jeannette MacDonald, is based on the play by David Belasco. This play was also used for Puccini's opera of the same name, "La Fanciulla del West" where the chorus sings, "Vells Fargo! Vells Fargo!" One change - the heroine in the opera is named Minnie; in the movie, she's Mary. Good move.
The film deals with one of those double identity villain/good guys - Eddy plays the crook Ramirez, but as Gringo is giving gold to the Indians through the mission of Father Sienna, who knew him and comforted him as a child when his guardian died. When he robs a stagecoach, he meets the beautiful Mary. She owns the Poker Saloon (which sounds with the heavy western accents like Polka). He's wearing a bandanna that covers most of his face. She's en route to visit Father Sienna, whom she also knew as a child. Determined to meet her as a gentleman, Gringo steals a uniform and introduces himself as Lt. Dick Johnson. He sweeps her off her feet, but he has competition in the local Sheriff, Jack Rance, played by Walter Pidgeon. Pidgeon wants Ramirez caught and Johnson out of Mary's life.
There's lots of singing from a Romberg score here, as well as "Ave Maria" and "Liebestraum" and a big mariachi dance number. MacDonald is excellent as the uneducated, somewhat awkward Mary who can also be a real spitfire. MacDonald was a good actress as well as a beauty, and her middle voice sounds especially rich in the songs. Like many sopranos of that era, she sang her high notes in a way that is no longer taught today, but she produces some lovely soft tones in that range. Eddy was a magnificent singer but never was anywhere near MacDonald in acting. He's very likable, but his accent as Ramirez is an absolute scream. In fact, all of the accents, from Buddy Ebsen on up, are laid on with a spatula. H.B. Warner gives a beautiful performance as the gentle Father Sienna, and Leo J. Carrillo is on hand in his usual type of role. Pidgeon is an effective and handsome Jack Rance.
Entertaining, and fans of Nelson and Jeannette will love it.
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