Long Story Short
The original spaghetti Western: Spunky saloon-keeper saves handsome
bandit from posse and saves herself from lecherous sheriff.
Minnie Falconer, the Girl of the Golden West, is a beautiful young woman
who keeps a saloon in California. She longs for true love and has yet to
bestow her first kiss.
Dick Johnson is a gentleman from San Francisco who turns out to be
Ramerrez, a bandit with a price on his head.
Jack Rance left a loveless marriage back east to go west and look for
gold. He’s sheriff of Cloudy Mountain and a compulsive gambler.
Nick is Minnie’s bartender.
Ashby works for Wells Fargo and is hot on the trail of Ramerrez.
Nina Micheltorena is a local prostitute who has fallen in love with Dick
Wowkle and Billy Jackrabbit are native Americans; Wowkle lives with
Minnie, and Billy is Wowkle’s fiancé and father to her baby.
Jake Wallace is a ballad-singer.
José Castro is a member of Ramerrez’s gang.
Sonora and Trin are miners; both are in love with Minnie.
Sid is a miner from Australia who cheats at cards.
Jim Larkens is a homesick miner from Cornwall.
Happy, Handsome, Harry, and Joe are miners.
Where and When?
In Cloudy Mountain, a mining camp in the California Sierras,
during the Gold Rush of 1849-1850.
What's Going On?
Welcome to “The Polka” Saloon, where a motley gang of rough and uncouth
gold miners gamble, drink whisky, and sing to each other in Italian.
Most of them are in love with Minnie, who runs “The Polka” and who is
the only thing remotely resembling a virtuous woman out here in this
God-forsaken place. Minnie teaches the boys Bible stories—when she’s not
flirting with them and selling them whisky. Jack Rance, the sheriff,
intends to marry Minnie, despite the fact that he’s already got a wife.
Minnie seemed to welcome his attentions until a recent trip to
Sacramento, when she spoke with a handsome stranger on the trail. Since
then she’s cooled towards Rance.
In her saloon Minnie guards the miners’ gold; and so impressed is she
with the sacrifices her boys are making, all for the sake of their
faraway families, she has vowed to protect the safe with her life. One
night Ramerrez and his gang come by to rob “The Polka.” But Ramerrez
enters the saloon in his disguise as Dick Johnson, the San Francisco
gentleman Minnie met on the road to Monterey. No sooner have they
recognized each other then they’ve fallen in love, much to the annoyance
of Jack Rance. But Rance and the miners run off on a wild goose chase in
search of Ramerrez. Left alone, Minnie asks “Johnson” to visit her at
her cabin on the mountainside, later that night. Ramerrez, deeply moved,
calls off the attempt to rob Minnie’s saloon.
He visits her that evening, and the two are enjoying a lovely meal, lots
of sweet talk, and Minnie’s first kiss when the miners, still hunting
Ramerrez, burst in. “Johnson” hides while the boys tell Minnie her
handsome San Francisco stranger is none other than a thieving bandit—and
what’s more, he’s been seen on the trail leading to her house! They have
learned all this from his mistress, Nina Micheltorena. Minnie thanks
them for the information and sends them all away, whereupon she whirls
upon “Johnson.” She knows he came to “The Polka” intending to rob her;
why didn’t he? “You made me want to become a better man,” he insists.
Furious that this robber has stolen her first kiss and jealous of his
relationship with Nina Micheltorena, Minnie sends him out into the snowy
night. A shot is heard, and he stumbles back in, bleeding. He’s been
shot by the jealous Rance, who was hiding outside. Minnie hides him in
her loft, and while Rance is searching her cabin Johnson’s blood drips
down onto him from the loft, revealing him. Minnie challenges Rance to a
game of poker. If he wins, he can kill Johnson and marry her; if she
wins, Rance has to leave them both alone. Minnie cheats and wins, and
Rance goes out into the snowy night.
A week later, the miners finally catch Ramerrez. They are about to kill
him when Minnie convinces them to let her take him off to begin a new
life. It’s never too late for redemption, she explains, and she and
Ramerrez sing a poignant “Addio, mio California” as they head east,
toward the rising sun.