Monday, March 14, 2011

Total Pre-Call, Part 5

Lois Wilson and Richard Dix on location at Tonto Basin.
Surviving Famous Players-Lasky press materials have left us with a pretty good idea of what Roaring Twenties audiences saw in To the Last Man. As the picture opens, Gaston Isbel (Robert Edeson) accuses Lee Jorth (Fred Huntley) of cattle rustling and threatens the latter with punishment when his son, Jean (Richard Dix), arrives from Oregon. Jean, he says, has no equal when it comes to tracking down cattle thieves.

On the way to his father’s ranch, Jean meets Jorth’s daughter, Ellen (Lois Wilson), and smitten in a flash, impulsively kisses her. When Ellen learns the stranger is Jean Isbel, forgiveness becomes an impossibility – a Jorth can’t cozy up to an Isbel. Nevertheless, Ellen soon realizes she loves Jean, despite the conflict between their families.

Meanwhile, back at the Jorth ranch, Lee Jorth and his men, Diggs (Edward Brady), Colter (Noah Beery), Queen (player unknown) and others, discuss Jean’s coming and see trouble brewing. Simms Bruce (gravelly voiced character actor Eugene Palette, billed here as “Jean Palette”) starts the feud anew by shooting at Gaston Isbel. Some of Isbel’s cattle are stolen, among them Jean’s horse, Whiteface. It is upon meeting Jean, who recognizes his mount, which has been given to the girl by her father, that Ellen realizes that Jorth is in reality a horse thief. She returns to the ranch denouncing her father and his men. They learn of Jean’s tracking them and immediately set out to raid the Isbels.

Guy Isbel (Leonard Clapham, later known as Tom London) is shot down and a siege follows. At last, Gaston Isbel realizes the awful consequences of his selfish hate. As the Jorths start to leave, Gaston tells of his decision to follow Jorth, kill him and put an end to the feud, fighting to the last man.

Isbel is tricked and shot down by one of the Jorth men. Blue (Frank Campeau), a confederate, takes command, killing Jorth. A chase ensues, ending in the huge explosion of a planted mine at the foot of the painted cliffs. After this calamity, the only Isbel remaining alive is Jean, who, badly injured, makes his way to a cabin, where he hides in the loft.

Meanwhile, news of her father’s death at the hands of the Isbels has reached Ellen. She goes with Colter to find her father’s body, but Colter, who has less than honorable intentions, leads her to a lonely cabin where, unknown to him, Jean has found shelter. Ellen sees blood on the rung of the ladder leading up to the loft, and becomes aware of Jean’s presence. She tries to conceal this from Colter, and when he discovers her trick she offers herself in exchange for Jean’s life. She confesses her love for Jean.

Jean’s presence is discovered by Colter and as he is about to climb the ladder Ellen shoots and kills Colter. Jean’s pursuers arrive and for a time Jean and Ellen are at their mercy. But at the critical moment, a posse arrives and the gang is forced to surrender. Jean tells Ellen that the feud is over. True love prevails and they embrace at fade-out.–––Joe McNeill © 2011 Bar 225 Media Ltd.

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