The Fighting Kentuckian (1949)

 

 

Director:  George Waggner.

Starring:  John Wayne (John Breen), Vera Ralston (Fleurette De Marchand), Philip Dorn (Col. Georges Geraud), Oliver Hardy (Willie Paine), Marie Windsor (Ann Logan), John Howard (Blake Randolph), Hugo Haas (Gen. Paul De Marchand), Grant Withers (George Hayden), Odette Myrtil (Madame De Marchand), Paul Fix (Beau Merritt), Mae Marsh (Sister Hattie), Jack Pennick (Capt. Dan Carroll), Mickey Simpson (Jacques, wrestler/Marie's father), Fred Graham (Carter Ward), Mabelle Koenig (Marie).

trouble for Napoleon exiles in Demopolis, Alabama

 

 

Spoiler warning:  below is the entire movie.

Pretty good movie.  John Breen and his pal Willie Paine are two Kentuckians returning from five years of service with Andrew Jackson's forces.  Their 2nd Kentucky unit passes through the port of Mobile, Alabama.  Breen meets a very pretty French woman Fleurette De Marchand from Demopolis, Alabama where there is a French settlement of exiled French soldiers who fought with Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo (1815).  He flirts with her and she returns his attentions.  But Breen has to rejoin his unit marching back to Kentucky. 

Breen makes sure that his unit walks out of its way to get to Demopolis.  There he runs into Fleurette, who is preparing to marry a very wealthy riverman Blake Randolph.  Breen decides that he wants out of the army and he and his friend stay in Demopolis when the unit leaves.  

Breen and Paine try to get a drink at the local bar, but the owner Hayden (partners with Randolph) prevents this saying they can't stay in Demopolis if they don't have a job.  A brawl breaks out, which is stopped by the barmaid, Ann Logan, who pretends she knows Breen.  She gives Breen and Paine surveying equipment even though neither man knows about surveying.  She tells Breen that she was going to marry the surveyor who owned the equipment but that his cabin was burned down and Hayden's jury decided it was the result of the man's own drunken negligence. 

Randolph and Hayden cooperated to trick the French into building on the wrong land, that belonging to the two Americans.  And they don't like the idea of Breen and Paine snooping around while pretending they are surveying.  They send someone to spook Breen and the would-be surveyor receives a flesh  wound on his wrist and forearm. 

Breen learns that the upcoming marriage between Fleurette and Randolph is an arranged marriage.  With that knowledge, Breen and Fleurette decide to elope.  But when Breen arrives at Fleurette's home, he is met by Fleurette's father, General De Marchand.  He asks Breen not to elope because the success of the French settlement in Demopolis depends on a coalition with the wealthy Randolph.  Wayne takes this into consideration and agrees that he may be rushing Fleurette, but asks the General not to marry off his daughter the next morning as planned. 

French Colonel Geraud hands a very recent letter from the original surveyor to Breen, which makes Breen very suspicious since the surveyor has been dead for some time.  Breen and Paine head over to the local bar to see Ann.  There Breen sees Ann kissing Beau Merritt, one of Hayden's henchmen, and he hears their plan to double-cross Hayden by stealing his money and leaving Demopolis.  Wayne gets the drop on Merritt and forces him to confess that the original survey stakes were deliberately moved by Randolph and Hayden.  Hayden and his men bust into the room and Breen and Paine have to run for their lives. 

Breen reaches the French General and the Colonel and tells them his story, but Hayden and his men arrive and give a different story and arrest Breen.  On the way to the jail, Hayden plans to kill Breen.  He is saved by the Colonel who suddenly shows up and rides with the men.  Paine sees all this happening and heads out to Catawba to reach the Kentuckians. 

At the tavern, Hayden kills Beaux for trying to double-cross him. 

Florette tells Randolph that she cannot marry him because she loves Breen. 

Breen, meanwhile, is locked up in a make-shift jail in the tavern.   Randolph shows up and Hayden imprisons him.  Later Hayden leaves the door open in an attempt to fool Breen and Randolph into thinking they can escape.  Randolph tries to escape and is mortally wounded by Hayden.  Wayne tries to safe Randolph but it is too late.  He then finds Ann dead next to Hayden's safety box.  Hayden on horseback gets away, but Breen closely follows behind. 

Meanwhile all the French are congregating at the General's mansion.  They are about to be attacked by Randolph and Hayden's rivermen.  Before reaching the mansion, one of the rivermen shoots at Breen and his horse goes down.  Fleurette rushes out and hands Breen a rifle with which he kills the charging Hayden.  The two hide behind a log as the rivermen attack.  It looks like the rivermen will overwhelm the French, but they are given a reprieve by the intervention of the French cavalry led by the Colonel.  And then the Kentuckians arrive and the rivermen are forced to retreat with their enemy closely behind them. 

Breen and Fluerette marry and head out on their honeymoon. 

A pretty good story.  Wayne does his usual good job being Wayne as a frontiersman.  Vera Ralston and Marie Windsor are both nice to look at and do good jobs acting their parts.  Olive Hardy provides a bit of comic relief. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 

 

  


Historical Background:

The town of Demopolis, Alabama is located in the extreme northern section of Alabama's Marengo County. It sits on top of the white bluffs, over looking the beautiful Tombigbee river. Demopolis is at the southern end of the 234 mile long Tennessee - Tombigbee Water system, a waterway connecting the Port of Mobile with the heartland of America via the Tennessee River.

Demopolis was originally settled in 1817 when Napoleonic refugees came to the area with land grants to establish the "Vine and Olive Colony". Unfortunately for them, Alabama is not warm enough for this type of cultivation. The colony left, but there remained many mementos of their stay, one of which is Bluff Hall, a beautiful home built as a wedding present.

 

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