The Woman of the Town (1943)

 

 

 

Director:     George Archainbaud. 

Starring:      Claire Trevor (Dora Hand),  Albert Dekker (Bat Masterson),  Barry Sullivan (King Kennedy),  Henry Hull (Inky Wilkinson),  Marion Martin (Daisy Davenport),  Porter Hall (Mayor Dog Killey),  Percy Kilbride (Rev. Samuel Small),  Beryl Wallace (Louella O. Parsons),  Arthur Hohl (Robert Wright),  Clem Bevans (Buffalo Burns),  Teddi Sherman (Fanny Garretson),  George Cleveland (Judge Blackburn),  Russell Hicks (Publisher),  Herbert Rawlinson (Doc Sears),  Marlene Mains (Annie Logan),  Dorothy Granger (Belle),  Dewey Robinson (Waddy Kerns),  Wade Crosby (Crockett),  Hal Taliaferro (Wagner),  Glenn Strange (Walker),  Charley Foy (Eddie Foy Sr.),  Claire Whitney (Mrs. Robert Wright),  Russell Simpson (Sime),  Eula Guy (Mrs. Brown),  Frances Morris (Mrs. Logan).

Black and white film

story of murder in Dodge City of Dora Hand by Jim Kenedy, who was partly captured by a posse composed of Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson and other famous lawmen

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

 

New York City, 1919.  The Morning Telegraph, founded 1836, office.  Film reporter Louella Parsons comes to sports reporter Bat Masterson to put  $50 on a bet that boxer Jack Dempsey defeats world heavy weight champion Jess Willard.  She says she would like to go with Bat to see the fight in Toledo, Ohio, but the editor comes in just as she says this. He tells Louella that she's not going.  Louella leaves the office.  The editor introduces to Bat a Mr. Percy Walton who is a writer of western novels.  The author says that Masterson was one of the best lawmen in the west.  He asks Bat if he could have one of his guns, preferably one that saw active service in the west.  Bat tells the man that he has no guns anymore.  So Mr. Walton has to go home empty-handed and disappointed.  After Walton leaves the editor tells Bat he can't believe that he doesn't have one of his old guns.  Bat says he buried his guns on Boot Hill some 50 years ago. 

Dodge City Globe, Dodge City, Kansas.  Bat comes into town and asks for Mr. Wilkinson.  He is told that he is over at the bar.  So Bat goes into the saloon and asks for the newspaper man.  They point out Wilkinson  who is busy playing poker.  Bat goes over to talk to the man and Wilkinson asks him to wait until he finishes with his poker hand. 

A bunch of rowdies come in shooting off their guns.  The leader of the bunch sees a picture of Ulysses S. Grant over the bar and tells the bartender to pull that picture down.  The bartender brings the picture over to the fellow while telling him that Grant himself singed the picture and gave it to Dave Ashley.  The trouble maker asks who's Dave Ashley and it turns out to be that he is the Marshall of Dodge City, who is standing behind him.   The rowdy breaks the glass of the picture.  Dave starts to draw his weapon, but he is too slow and is shot dead by the murderer.  The murderer calmly turns around to go back to his drinking, when someone says to him:  "Now pick it up and wipe it clean."  The killer turns around and sees Bat holding a gun on him.  The man wipes off the picture with his sleeve.  He then puts the picture on the bar, turns around and goes for his guns.  He is quickly shot by Bat.  The men in the bar tell Bat that he did a good thing.

An old man named Buffalo Burns comes up to him.  The two men greet each other.  Buffalo tells the bar patrons that this is Bat Masterson, a man who killed more Indians than the 7th Cavalry.  In fact, he fought off a whole bunch of Kiowa (they were actually Comanche) at the Second Battle of Adobe Walls in Adobe Walls, Texas.  Bat tells Buffalo that he came into town to ask Mr. Wilkinson for a job on his newspaper.  The mayor intervenes and tells Bat that they need him for sheriff.  The mayor asks for  a quick "vote" among the men in the bar and they all agree they want Bat.  The mayor says they are really going to need Bat when King Kennedy's men get here.  Bat agrees to take the job. 

The mayor then introduces Bat to the Rev. Samuel Small.  The reverend says that the women of the church (mostly easterners) are afraid of the Indians who attend church on Sunday.  They have requested that a marshal be present during the Sunday services.  The mayor tells Bat that this will be his first official duty.  

At Sunday service Bat sits near a pretty blonde lady.  The reverend compliments her on her voice and asks her to sing for the congregation.  The woman, named Dora Hand, obliges the pastor and sings.  After church Bat seeks her out and they start talking.  It's her first day in town.  She doesn't say what she does, but she jokes that she could even be a dance hall belle looking for a job.  Dora tells Bat they she will see him in church next week. 

The ladies dance for the men in the bar and Eddy Foye, Sr. does a song and dance routine for them.  Then Bat gets up and starts reading the new rules of the city.  The guys in the audience don't like it and protest by firing their weapons into the bar ceiling.  Eddie Foye, Sr. rushes Bat off the stage in order to prevent a riot.  As he comes off the stage Dora goes on stage.  He hardly can believe that she is an entertainer at the bar.  After her song, she comes off the stage and has a drink with the mayor and his buddies.  She guzzles the drink down and then goes over to see Bat.  Derringer Davis pulls his derringer out and wants the dealer to pay him off because he says the dealer stacked the cards.  Apparently, Davis has already killed three different dealers in three different towns.  Bat draws and shoots Davis dead.  Dora tells him that the man is dead.  Bat says:  "It had to be one of us."  Dora asks how can he be so cold about the killing of a man? 

The boss tells Dora to take the sheriff upstairs and fix the man's wounds.  Bat got grazed by the bullets of Derringer Davis.  Dora needs more bandages and goes to get them in her room.  The reverend shows up and asks the sheriff to look after the money collected today in church.  He says he was told by some in the congregation that Buffalo had a gun under his hat that he was using as an impromptu collection plate.  Bat and the mayor just say that's an old western custom and convince him to let the matter go.  So he takes his collection money back.  As he starts to leave, Dora comes into the room.  The reverend doesn't know what to say to her.  Dora says she will stay away from church if the reverend so wishes.  The reverend says he won't deny church services to anyone, but Dora can see that it would be easier for him if she stayed away.  The reverend and the mayor leave. 

Mr. Wilkinson lets Bat write an editorial about Dora Hand.  He entitles it:  "A woman of the town!"  Wilkinson prints the editorial.  It's a defense of a show girl attending church.  When Bat talks with the reverend again, the reverend says the editorial got him thinking again and he is going to invite Dora Hand to church.  He adds that one cannot be a Christian and a coward.  He says of Dora that she went to Haine's Crossing to tend to a sick child. The Reverend even suggests that the town may have an unknown angel in its midst.  

Bat walks with Dora over to Boot Hill Cemetery.  She urges him to go east rather than stay here and be buried here like the previous sheriff.  Dora doesn't believe he will have a chance against Kennedy and his men for they have killed sheriffs and marshals wherever they've gone. 

Kennedy and his men ride into Dodge City shooting their guns off.  Bat has to do quite a bit of shooting to try and keep things quiet.  He also arrests quite a few cowboys. 

One evening Kennedy himself rides his horse into the saloon.  The big shots of the town don't want Bat to disturb Kennedy as long as he's not doing anything really bad.  Bat threatens to quit his job if he can't deal with Kennedy.  One of the men. Bob Wright, volunteers to go over and talk to Kennedy about tying his horse up outside the saloon.  Kennedy lets the man take his horse outside.  Kennedy, however, doesn't like it when he learns that 16 of his men are in Bat Masterson's jail.  He goes to the mayor to ask if the town is targeting his men for arrest, since there are 16 of them in jail.  The guys at the poker table correct him saying there are now some 20 of his men in jail.  Kennedy asks where's Masterson, but all of a sudden he sees Dora and likes what he sees.  He goes over to her and starts talking, but she's with Bat and he ends up pulling his gun on the man.  Dora talks Bat out of following up on his first reaction to throw Kennedy into jail.   So Bat introduces Kennedy to Dora and Dora introduces Kennedy to Bat Masterson.  They all three sit down at the table. 

Bat warns Kennedy that if any of his cowboys come after him, he will shoot Kennedy the first time he sees him.  Kennedy takes it in stride and even laughs saying he and his men will comply with the laws of Dodge City.  Bat now leaves.  Kennedy asks Dora if she is Bat's girl and Dora says no.  They dance together. 

Dora starts going out with Kennedy.  They stop at the general store and get some food.  Dora is going to cook a meal for Kennedy.  At her home she is taking care of little Annie Logan.  Her mother is there also caring for her.   The doctor checks on Annie and says she is doing fine.  Dora asks the doctor what is Annie's true situation?  The doctor says she is going to need a lot of care because her lungs are bad. 

Dora and Kennedy go out for a buggy ride.  Kennedy kisses her and asks Dora if she loves him a least a little?  Dora says yes.  He is going to go to St. Louis, but will be back with a fancy bracelet for her. 

Bat comes to see Dora.  He hasn't seen her for awhile, he says, because she has been so busy with Kennedy.   He was send here by Annie Logan who wants Dora at the re-opening of the hospital. 

Dora comes into the hospital.  Little Annie is in one of the hospital beds trying to act very sick because she is the only patient in the hospital as of now. 

Dora goes to visit her uncle who is charge of the Kansas City Clarion.  She ran away from her home.  Dora wants her uncle to give Bat a job before he gets killed by one of the many desperadoes.  He agrees to do it as long as Dora stays out of Kansas City.

Kennedy is back in town, but Dora won't be back until Monday.  He asks where's Dora gone, but no one knows where she went.  Chorus girl Daisy tells Kennedy that Dora is making a fool of him behind his back.  She lies and says that she saw Bat and Dora fooling around in her back stage dressing room. 

Kennedy puts his guns back on and walks over to Masterson to accuse him of making him look like a fool.  Bat tells him he doesn't know what he's talking about.  And no, he has no objection to Kennedy and Dora being together.  Kennedy walks out of the bar. 

Bat tells the mayor that he is moving on to be in the newspaper business.  When Dora comes in, he shows her the letter offering Bat a job in Kansas City.  He says he is taking the job and he is taking her with him to Kansas City.  Dora says no, oh no, but Bat asks her can't she see that he is asking her to marry him?  She lies to him saying that Kennedy is an obstacle to their getting married.  She tells Bat good luck and gets out of his room as fast as she can.  She goes down to her room.  There Kennedy is waiting for her.  He accuses her of playing around with Bat behind his back.  Of course, she denies these charges.  Kennedy says there is one way for her to prove to him that she does not love Bat and that is to marry him, Kennedy.  He says Bat will only stay alive if she marries him, King Kennedy.  Dora says she wants to work for her boss until her contract runs out.  Kennedy tells her that he will go buy her contract from her boss Dog Killey.

Kennedy tells the bar owner that he will buy Dora's contract out for $5,000 dollars.  The boss says it's not a question of money.  Kennedy says he will give him $10,000 dollars and the bar owner repeats that it's not a question of money.  He has to have someone performing every night that will attract the customers. Finally, he says that he has his own personal reasons for wanting Dora to stay on.  So Kennedy suggests that Dora has also been two-timing him with the boss.  Dog Killey doesn't like that remark and he slaps King Kennedy.  King pulls his gun out and shoots at Dog Killey.  He only grazes the boss, but Dog Killey's dog jumps on Kennedy and starts biting his arm.  Kennedy shoots the dog and now Dog Killey goes to the attack on Kennedy, but the cowboy pulls out his gun and is set to shoot the boss.  Bat shoots the gun from out of the hand of Kennedy.  He then tells Kennedy to put his hands up.  Dog Killey comes over to Kennedy and says that his dog was worth four times what Kennedy is worth.  He slaps Kennedy again. 

Bat takes Kennedy to jail. His men come to get him out, but Bat doesn't back down from them.  In court the next day, all Kennedy gets is a $100 dollar fine for a breech of the peace.  The judge also forbids him from being in or around Dodge City for 30 days.  Kennedy leaves Dodge.

Two of Kennedy's henchmen ask Bob Wright to get King Kennedy two tickets to St. Louis for tonight.  Kennedy is coming back and Dodge is going to get a double dose of the damage the cowpokes usually cause.  Bob asks who is Kennedy going with?  The henchmen say they don't know (but it's probably Dora Hand).  Buffalo overheard what was said and rushes to tell Bat that two gunmen are coming for him. 

Dora doesn't want Bat to face Kennedy's gunmen.  She tells Bat that she loves him and she wants Bat to take her away from Dodge City.  Bat says even if he believed her, he wouldn't leave.  It's his duty to face down Kennedy and his men. 

Bat goes looking for the gunmen.  Buffalo tells him they're in the bar.  Bat goes into the bar and confronts the men.  He kills both of them after one of the gunmen tries to shoot him in the back. 

Bat goes to see Dora who is very relieved to see him.  They kiss.  Now Bat believes that she was telling him the truth. Buffalo says that local resident Bob Wright set up the attempted murder of Bat Masterson and that the henchmen asked Bob to get Kennedy two railroad tickets to St. Louis.  Bat tells Dora that Kennedy is getting the second ticket for her. So he wants her to go to Dog Killey's place and hide there because no one will think to look there because they know Dog Killey is in the hospital now being treated for a possible inflammation of his bullet wound. 

Kennedy and his men come riding into town shooting up the place.  But Bat and Buffalo along with newly appointed deputies are there to return fire.  It's a big shoot-out.  Meanwhile, Kennedy goes to find Dora.  He breaks into Dog Killey's place.  But Kennedy wants to kill Dog Killey so he goes first to Dog Killey's place.  Annie Logan tells the sheriff that Kennedy is upstairs.  When Bat goes upstairs a shoot-out occurs between Bat and King.  When Dora hears Kennedy mentioned, she starts to come out of the room concerned that Bat might be killed.  Kennedy sees the door open and he shoots through the door and then gets away.  Dora is hit by the bullet.  Bat rushes into the room and finds Dora badly wounded.  He takes her over and puts her on a couch.  She talks with him a while and then asks him for a kiss.  He kisses her and she dies. 

Bat rides out to talk to King Kennedy.  The cowhands want to know if Bat is crazy coming here like this?  Bat says he is here to arrest Kennedy for the death of Dora Hand.  The cowboys know Dora and are shocked that she is dead.  One fellow goes and gets Kennedy.  Bat and Kennedy face off and Kennedy says he must have killed Dog Killey or Bat wouldn't have come out here alone.  No, says Bat, Kennedy killed Dora.  Kennedy says Bat is lying and slaps him.  Bat now hits Kennedy and knocks him down. 

Kennedy and Bat, along with many town residents, turn out for Dora's funeral.  Bat takes off his guns and places them in Dora's grave.  Buffalo puts the dirt back on Dora's grave.  And that's the story of the murder of the woman of the town, Dora Hand. 

 

 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:

1852 (April 16) Mifflin Kenedy marries a beautiful Mexican woman.  He starts up a ranch outside Corpus Christi which becomes very successful.  They have a son nicknamed Spike. 

1872 (July 20) at Ellsworth, Kansas in a poker game Spike Kenedy and gunfighter Print Olive shoot and wound each other.

1878  --  Dora Hand was the most popular woman in Dodge City, Kansas.  She was an eastern actress who came out to Dodge City, it was said, to battle her tuberculosis.  She became a big hit when she started doing her act in the Lady Gay saloon.  She also came to be known for her work with children of the less fortunate, white, black or Mexican.  23 year old James "Spike" Kenedy's mother was said to be beautiful, intelligent and devout. Her son was one of the handsomest men in Dodge City.

The Mayor of Dodge City was Dog Kelley and he was crazy over Dora. 

1878 (July 29) Dodge City Deputy Marshal Wyatt Earp arrests Spike Kenedy for carrying and brandishing a pistol.

Spike falls in love with Dora and is jealous of her relationship with Dog Kelley.

1878 (August 17) Marshal Charlie Bassett arrests Spike for disorderly conduct.  After his release Spike gets into a bad argument with Dog Kelley.  Spike had complained to Kelley about the law officers of Dodge City.  Kelley tells him he was lucky that he didn't receive worse from the lawmen.  He also tells Spike that he better straighten up and behave.  Spike throws himself at Kelley, who ends up giving the young man a good beating.  Spikes threatens Kelley as he leaves.

Kenedy plans to kill Kelley by shooting through a flimsy wall of Kelley's shack. 

1878 (October 4)  --  Kelley has gone to Fort Dodge to seek medical advice.  He lets Dora Hand and her friend Fannie Garretson sleep in his shack.  Kenedy at night comes and fires two shots through the front door of  the shack.  The first bullet went through the first room, where Fannie Garretson was sleeping, and lodged in the second room, where Dora Hand was sleeping.  The second shot also went through the first room and into the second room but this time the bullet strikes Dora in the right side under the arm.  She dies instantly. 

(October 4, 2 p.m.)  --  a posse rides out after Kenedy.  In the posse are Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Charlie Bassett and soon-to-be lawman Ben Tilghman.  They figure that Kenedy will be heading to his rich father's ranch.  They ride through a hard rain and get ahead of Kenedy.  When Kenedy sees the posse, he turns his horse and starts riding away.  Masterson hits him with a bullet to his left shoulder and Earp's bullet downs his horse.  Kenedy asks the lawmen if he killed Dog Kelley and they break the news to him that he actually killed his beloved Dora Hand. 

(October 6)  --  Kenedy is back in Dodge City in jail.  His rich father uses his money to influence the outcome of the trial and Kenedy is acquitted. (It's been suggested that Masterson and some other lawmen received payments for their cooperation.)

1878 (December 16)  --  Kenedy undergoes an operation in which the doctors take off 5 inches of bone in his left arm leaving Kenedy crippled. 

 

Source: Susan L. Silva and Lee A. Silva. "The Killing of Dora Hand" in Wild West.  http://www.historynet.com/the-killing-of-dora-hand.htm/5

 

 

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