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In Old California (1942)

In Old California


88 minutes

Directed by William C. McGann

Western / Comedy / Romance

aka "Gold Runs the River "


John Wayne as Tom Craig

Binnie Barnes as Lacey Miller

Albert Dekker as Britt Dawson

Helen Parrish as Ellen Sanford

Patsy Kelly as Helga

Edgar Kennedy as Kegs McKeever

Dick Purcell as Joe Dawson

Harry Shannon as Mr. Carlin

Charles Halton as Mr. Hayes

Emmett Lynn as Whitey

Bob McKenzie as Mr. Bates

Tom Craig is a pharmacist from Boston, who decides to try his hand opening a store in the wild west of California in the 1840's.  Traveling from San Francisco to Sacramento Tom encounters a greedy saloon owner named Britt Dawson.  Britt holds considerable sway in Sacramento and has been bullying the surrounding ranches into signing their land over to him.  Tom and Britt don’t hit it off so well, and when Tom arrives in Sacramento he discovers that Britt has told all the shop owners not to rent him a space to start his business.  As he is wondering what to do next, he meets Lacey Miller, a singer in the local saloon, and unbeknownst to Tom, Britt’s fiancé.  Lacey takes an immediate liking to Tom, respecting his kindness and manners, something sorely lacking in this frontier town.  Lacey owns a storefront next to the saloon and agrees to let Tom open his store there and be his business partner.  Lacey is looking to become another kind of partner to Tom, but his is oblivious to her advances.  So much so that when Ellen Sanford comes to town, he becomes enamored with her instead.  Ellen, daughter of a prominent businessman in San Francisco, sees potential in Tom.  Ellen wants Tom to go back to San Francisco with her, where she plans to use her father’s influence to make him a successful business man.  Lacey can clearly see that Ellen doesn’t love Tom, but is using him to secure her own wealthy social status.  Lacey tries valiantly to keep the two apart, but Tom is love struck, and proposes to Ellen just as she is departing back to San Francisco.  Meanwhile Tom has allied himself with the local ranchers and, with the help of Kegs McKeever, foils a plot by Britt and his brother Joe to take over the Higgins farm.  Britt is furious with Tom, and Lacey tries to use her influence with Britt to protect Tom from any reprisals, but to no avail.  Britt alters one of Tom’s tonics in his shop, and the town drunk dies when Tom gives him the medication to help.  Britt whips the town into a frenzy over the event, and gets a mob together to go and rid the town of Tom for good.  Before Britt can make good on his threats, a miner runs into town stating that gold has been found in the hills!  The town empties almost instantly as everyone goes to establish a claim.  Tom stays, but cannot open his store again according to the local Marshall.  Deciding that nothing is left for him in Sacramento, he prepares to leave to San Francisco and a life with Ellen.  However before he can leave, he is involved in a fistfight with Britt, and is jailed for the offence.  Lacey comes to say goodbye to Tom in jail, as she is going up to the mining camps to help entertain the miners.  Once Lacey arrives at the mining camp, she discovers everyone is sick with fever, and sends Kegs back to town to get Tom, the one person who can save the miners.  Kegs persuades the Marshall to let Tom out of jail due to the circumstances, and Tom begins to gather supplies when Ellen arrives in town from San Francisco.  Ellen has come to take Tom back with her and is infuriated when Tom tells her he must take care of the men in the camp.  Ellen tells Tom that it’s either her or the miners, and Tom chooses to save the miners instead of placating the selfish woman.  Britt, always the businessman, sees an opportunity to highjack Tom’s medicine, and sell it to the highest bidder.  He orders his gang to attack, but changes his tune when he discovers that Lacey is among the sick.  At the last minute he tries to defend Tom and the supplies, but is shot by his own brother.  When they arrive at the camp, a dying Britt confesses all on his deathbed to Lacey.  Tom is able to stop the typhoid epidemic, and Lacey gets better.  Tom realizes his attraction to her, and they return to Sacramento. 
Notes: John Wayne plays a pharmacist in this movie, which seems very different from his other roles; however, John Wayne’s father was a pharmacist in real life.

Actors: John Wayne
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Matinee Classics - In Old California
Matinee Classics - In Old California

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