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In Old Arizona

Black and white, 1929
Fox Film Company
Directed by Raoul Walsh and Irving Cummings
Runtime: 95 minutes

Starring: Warner Baxter (The Cisco Kid), Edmund Lowe (Sergeant Mickey Dunn), Dorothy Burgess (Tonia Maria), Soledad Jiménez (Tonita - the cook, uncredited), J. Farrell MacDonald (Stage passenger, uncredited)

SYNOPSIS

The film opens to the sound of bells ringing in the bustling center of a southwestern town. A stagecoach arrives; several passengers board, and the driver picks up a gold box for Wells Fargo. The camera pans through various scenes in the town market to a group of men playing Mexican music.

The next scene is a close-up of a handbill advertising a $5,000 reward for the Cisco Kid, who is wanted for the holdup and robbery of a stage. The Kid reads the poster aloud to his horse, Yacqui, and gleefully tears it up as he waits for the stage to pass. He looks down from a high rocky cliff on the stage as it approaches below.

The Kid holds up the stage, stealing only the gold box. He also takes a fancy pin from a female passenger, but pays her amply for it in gold. As the man riding shotgun on the stage reaches for a pistol, Cisco shoots the gun from his hand and admonishes him. He then sends the stage on its way with a friendly farewell. The passengers are relieved and pleased that the Kid did not rob or hurt them-- Cisco informs them cheerfully that he "never robs the individual." As the stage goes along its way, Cisco sings to himself and rides away.

The stage later pulls up to an army post, where the driver informs the post's Colonel that the Kid robbed them at Devil's Pincushion. The Colonel summons Sergeant Mickey Dunn from a game of dice and orders him to take a small band of men to bring back the Cisco Kid dead or alive.

In a nearby town, the Cisco Kid is seated in a barbershop for a shave. The barber and two townsmen discuss the stage robbery; not knowing what the Kid looks like, they do not realize he is in the chair. The barber is upset to learn that the Wells Fargo box was stolen, as he had just sent $87 to his wife in Italy via the company. Cisco announces that he hates to see a working man get robbed, and offers to make the loss up to the barber in exchange for a hot bath, clean town, and ample perfume. The barber is thrilled to make up his loss, and runs a bath for Cisco.

Sergeant Dunn visits the barbershop for a shave and has an extended conversation with Cisco, also not realizing who he is. As they leave the shop together, Cisco offers to meet him later that afternoon for a drink. As Cisco rides out of town, the blacksmith informs Dunn of the identity of the Kid.

The Kid rides up to a home in the desert, somewhere outside of town. An old woman (the cook) sees Cisco approaching, and she urgently calls to a younger woman to warn of his arrival. The young woman has another man inside, and she quickly sends him away. The cook helps stall Cisco, but she is clearly disgusted by the young woman's behavior.

The young woman is Tonia, Cisco's girl. He is devoted to her alone, and he showers her with gifts and affection each time he visits-- most of the money he steals goes to her. Tonia, however, is a narcissist who seeks attention from many men. Cisco is unaware of this, and he speaks to her of one day striking it rich and taking her away to Portugal, the land of his youth.

Realizing that Dunn has probably learned his true identity by now, Cisco sends Tonia to the town saloon to inform Dunn that they will not be able to meet as planned. When Tonia arrives at the saloon, she tries flirting with Dunn, but makes little progress. After she has left in a huff, Dunn discovers that she is Cisco's girlfriend.

Back home, Tonia says goodbye to Cisco, who is off to steal some cattle. He tells her that after this job, he will have enough money to take them both to Portugal. After he is gone, she laughs at the idea of leaving with him.

Dunn visits her later that day at the house as he searches for the Kid. He pretends that he is there to see her, and as they flirt Dunn comes to return her affection. He promises to take her with him to his home in New York when he is transferred. She decides she will go, and follows him to his camp.

Meanwhile, the Kid has acquired a large herd of cattle and is bringing them to market. A group of three rustlers recognize him and plan to kill and rob him, stealing the $4,000 he gained from selling the cattle as well as collecting the $5,000 reward. They wait for him on the trail, and one of the rustlers shoots at the Kid's back from a distance. When Cisco falls, they approach; he rises up and kills two of them, chasing the third away.

Back at Dunn's camp, the soldiers are merrily singing and Dunn is talking of his plans to go to New York with Tonia after collecting the reward on Cisco's head. Tonia discovers his plan, and is at first angry that Dunn is using her to get at Cisco. However, when Dunn states he will give her all of the reward money, Tonia changes her tune and agrees to help him kill Cisco.

As Cisco rides toward Tonia's house, he stops to buy a gift for her-- an elaborate white mantilla. He arrives with her present in the evening, but before entering the house he notices a horse tied near the front. The cook meets Cisco in the yard and tells him the soldier is in the house. Listening from a distance, the Kid overhears Tonia plotting against him, declaring that she never loved him and that she wished he was dead. She then plans to send Dunn a note when Cisco has arrived so that he may come and shoot him.

Cisco waits for the soldier to leave, then enters the house and acts as though he knows nothing of Tonia's plans. He presents her with the mantilla, and asks her once more to go away with him that night to Portugal. She insists that they leave the next morning, and he knows then for certain that she wants to see him dead that night.

When Cisco leaves the house on the pretense of feeding his horse, Tonia writes a note to Dunn and sends it away with the cook. The Kid intercepts the note and rewrites it so that Dunn will be expecting him to escape wearing Tonia's clothes and a white mantilla on his head.

When the sound of Dunn's horse approaches, Cisco asks that Tonia come outside and wave to him as he rides away. Cisco escapes on his horse, and Dunn, seeing a person wearing a white mantilla, shoots Tonia dead. Cisco rides away sadly into the night.

Plot keywords: stagecoach robbery, bandit hero, singing cowboy, love triangle, unfaithful woman

Scenery: desert, rocky terrain, badland-type cliffs and formations

Notes and trivia: The first western with full sound from a major studio. First western to give music a central role. Warner Baxter won the Best Actor Oscar for his role as the Cisco Kid.

The film's time period is placed in the late 1890s (McKinley is mentioned as the current U.S. president).

In Old Arizona is available on DVD.

On TV
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Westerns on Fox Movie Channel

 


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