Dakota (1945)

Film and Plot Synopsis

“Dakota” is a 1945 western that was directed by Joseph Kane and stars John Wayne, Vera Ralston, Walter Brennan, Ward Bond, and Mike Mazurki. In “Dakota”, gambler/gunfighter John Devlin marries railroad heiress Sandra Poli against the wishes of her family. The couple escapes the Poli family homestead and heads out West to Dakota. Once there, John helps Dakota wheat farmers save their land from swindling entrepreneurs who hope to make a fortune selling it to the railroad for its right-of-way.

‘Dakota’ Movie Summary

The summary below contains spoilers.
Dakota (1945)The film begins in 1875. John Devlin (John Wayne) is a professional gambler who has married wealthy heiress Sandra Poli (Vera Ralston), the daughter of railroad millionaire Marko Poli (Hugo Haas). Marko disapproves of his daughter’s marriage and throws John out of his house when he arrives to retrieve his bride. Sandra sneaks out of the mansion and rides off with John to begin their life together. Sandra informs John that took $20,000 from her father without his knowing. However, Marko and his sons pursue John and Sandra to retrieve the money and Sandra. Marco’s carriage tips over when he takes a corner to sharply which allows John and Sandra to escape.

Once in town, the newly married couple decides to begin their new life in Dakota despite John’s desire to go to California. John and Sandra board a train out of town. The couple are observed getting on the train by Jim Bender (Ward Bond) and Bigtree Collins (Mike Mazurki), who decide to follow Sandra due to her connection with her father. On the train, a group of men assault John who receives assistance from Bender and Collins in overpowering the men. Sandra receives a message from her father that indicates that he is reluctantly allowing her to stay married to John.

On the way to Fargo, John and Sandra make plans to farm once they get to Dakota, although Bender and Collins try to dissuade them. In their last stop before catching a riverboat to Fargo, Bender is summoned to meet with Colonel Wordin (Jonathan Hale) who is investigating an alleged Sioux Indian attack on some farmers. John and Sandra make plans to take the Riverbird, captained by Captain Bounce (Walter Brennan), to Fargo. However, before they board, John and Sandra are witness to the murder by an unseen gunman of Anson Stowe (Robert Barrat), a man who lives in Fargo. Stowe tells John and Sandra to tell his wife to not sell. The Devlins board the riverboat and find Collins onboard already. On the journey, the Devlins are robbed after the riverboat is boarded by some bandits.

Not long after, the Riverbird runs a ground on the river, and everyone must abandon ship. The group begins walking to Fargo although Collins disappears. They come along the remains of the Stowe family farm which has allegedly been burned by the Sioux. Captain Bounce informs Mrs. Stowe (Olive Blakeney) that her husband was killed. Mrs. Stowe gives the group horses to travel to Fargo. Once in Fargo, John finds Collins in the bar associating with a man, Slagin (Grant Withers), who looks like one of the bandits from the boat. John accuses Collins and Bender of working with the bandits to steal the money. During the confrontation, Sandra is shot in the shoulder and John is pistol whipped by Collins. Collins and Bender take Sandra to the doctor and save her life. Bender offers to give John the money back if he and Sandra will leave town and not get involved in Bender’s plans.

And speaking of politics, where we’re going, there are only two parties: the quick and the dead. John Devlin (John Wayne)

John and Sandra do not leave the town, and Bender uses the stolen money to try to buy the properties of the landowners around Fargo. The landowners are reluctant to sell to him. When John learns about Bender’s actions, John rides out to stop him. Bender’s men try to stop John by shooting him. Once John arrives at a group meeting, he finds that Bender as declared Collins the new marshal and that the landowners have entered a contract with Bender that is contingent on their crop yield. John tries to protect the landowners by fooling Bender into selling the contract to John by implying that the railroad will actually run through another town and not Fargo. John implies that his relationship with Sandra’s father may alter the railroad’s plans. Bender agrees to sell the “useless” contracts to John for $100,000.00.

Not long afterwards, John and Sandra try to sneak out of town with the contracts so that Bender cannot change his mind. Unfortunately, John and Sandra encounter an agent of Sandra’s father, Wexton Geary (Pierre Watkin), getting off the riverboat. Geary is in town to purchase land for the railroad. Bender learns that he has been duped. John quickly rides out of town and turns the contract over to the landowners. Unfortunately, Bender’s henchmen collect the contract from the landowners and bring it back to town.

John rides back to town and finds that Bender has his men watching over Sandra. John and Bounce notice that Bender’s men have the contract. John enters the saloon and takes the contract from Collins. Shots are fired in the bar, and Bender uses the chaos to shoot and kill Geary. John is overpowered, and Collins attempts to frame him for Geary’s murder. Right then, a group of settlers arrive on horseback with news that the lands of the settlers are on fire. The lynch mob that was forming is distracted by the fires.

John uses the distraction to escape custody and goes looking for Bender. The rest of the town organizes to fight the fire. Bender seeks to leave town with the contracts and all his money. Collins suspects that Bender is running out on him, so he shoots and kills the crooked businessman. John, Sandra, and Bounce arrive on the scene, and John and Collins get into a fist fight. John wins the fight and reclaims the money and the contracts.

In the aftermath, John and Sandra prepare to leave for California. Sandra tries to get John to stay and help the landowners, but he is eager to leave and head west. The landowners are potentially going to form a collective to hold them over until they can negotiate with the railroad for the sale of their land. Sandra informs John that she gave their money to Bounce so that the boat captain could buy a new boat, since he ran his boat aground while carrying them to Fargo.

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Our Rating

Republic Pictures released Dakota on December 25, 1945. Joseph Kane directed the film starring John Wayne, Vera Ralston, and Walter Brennan.

User Rating: 2.03 ( 2 votes)
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