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The Vanishing American

The Vanishing American(1955)

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Remind Me

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FULL SYNOPSIS

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High-spirited Marian Warner comes to New Mexico to claim the ranch she inherited from one of her uncles. After the stagecoach driver reluctantly leaves her at a remote station in the middle of the desert, she hires Shoie, a bewildering man with whom she has difficulty communicating, to drive her to the ranch. On the way, Shoie throws her bags off his rig and drives off without her. Observing her predicament is Blandy, a Navajo Indian and decorated veteran of the Spanish-American War, who was brought up by whites, but is bitter toward them because they rejected him when he returned from the war. After angrily telling Marian that the land she inherited belongs to the Navajos, Blandy takes her to Morgan's trading post, where Morgan and Blucher, a corrupt Indian agent, have been persecuting the Navajos and stealing their land, with the help of renegade Apaches led by Coshonta. Morgan, eager to acquire Marian's ranch and its valuable water rights, is scheming to pressure her into selling them to his accomplice, a rancher named Friel. At the trading post's guest house, Marian encounters Yashi, a young Navajo woman being held captive by Morgan. Yashi tells Marian about Morgan's treacherous deeds, including his practice of having Blucher deliver Navajo girls to his living quarters. Yashi's plight confirms Marian's suspicions about Morgan, and she helps the girl escape. When Marian later refuses to sell her property, Morgan and his men consider killing her, but Morgan realizes that the land would then be tied up in probate court. Believing that Blandy turned Marian against them, Morgan sends the Apaches to kill him. Morgan also dispatches his henchmen, Jay Lord and Glendon, to retrieve Yashi from the hogan of her father, the Navajo chief Etenia, but Marian follows and at gunpoint stops them from beating up the old chief. After taking their horses, she orders the henchmen to walk back to the trading post, and when Lord attempts to retaliate, she expertly shoots him in the arm. Marian sends Etenia to Spirit Rock, where Yashi is hiding, and then returns to the trading post. At night, one of the Apaches attacks Blandy high on a rock cliff, but falls to his death. Blandy then sneaks into the trading post and fights Morgan. In the mayhem, a fire erupts. After escaping, Blandy finds Marian waiting to ask him to help Yashi and Etenia, who are hiding at Spirit Rock and have no provisions. Blandy agrees to help them, then tells her that white men swindled the Indians out of their water rights and that Friel killed her uncle. The next morning at the trading post, Blucher informs Marian that Blandy was previously convicted of several assault charges. When Marian and Blandy next meet, he has brought along Beeteia, Yashi's lover who has been working on the railroad. The three proceed to Spirit Rock, where Yashi accepts Beeteia as her mate and the lovers ride off together. Thanking Marian, Etenia offers his services, if ever she needs him. In answer to Marian's questioning, Blandy explains that the assault charges against him were trumped up because he is an Indian. She warns him that Morgan is planning to accuse him of the Apache's death and that he should leave the area, but he wants to stay near the Navajos, whom the white man is driving to extinction. Listening to him, Marian is inspired to bring Morgan and his men to justice, but Blandy warns her not to return to the trading post, guessing that Morgan will kill her after she sells her land. Determined to search Blucher's safe, hoping for evidence against him, Marian asks Blandy for help. They sneak back to the trading post, where Marian's courage falters uncharacteristically, as she realizes she has fallen in love with Blandy and fears for his safety. Blandy sneaks into the trading post, while Marian distracts Morgan by signing the sale papers. After Marian and the men retire for the night, Blandy holds up Blucher and takes incriminating papers from his safe, which he secretly passes to Marian. Blandy escapes, but is captured and brought back to be interrogated and tortured. Marian rides out to ask Etenia to take the papers, which she has addressed to her mother's brother, U.S. Marshal Joe Walker, to the stagecoach driver, who will make his return trip the next day. Marian returns to the trading post, and to buy time, convinces the men to bring Blandy along while she shows them where she hid the contents of Blucher's safe. Meanwhile, Etenia manages to deliver the documents, but afterward, the Apaches kill him. His death provokes the other Navajos to ambush Morgan's group. When the Navajos retreat, Morgan, expecting more attacks, decides to set up camp. During the night, Blandy and Marian escape high into the rock cliffs, where the Apaches surround them. To find an escape route, Blandy climbs the rock face to the top of the cliff and discovers that Navajos have killed several of the Apaches, allowing them safe passage to the Navajo camp. At the camp, they learn that the Navajos have captured Walker and his deputy. Blandy and Beeteia convince the Navajos to free the lawman, but Walker refuses to leave without taking Morgan and his men into custody, so that they can be tried and hanged for their crimes. In preparation for their next attack, the Navajo medicine man performs a ceremonial ritual. Because Morgan's men are outnumbered and running out of ammunition, Glendon, using one of his last bullets, shoots the shaman from a distance, hoping to impair the Indians' morale. Quickly, Blandy takes the medicine man's place and reassures the people. When Glendon shoots Blandy, the Navajos are incited to attack. Afterward, Walker takes Morgan and his men into custody and promises to advocate for fairer land rights for the Navajos. Marian and Blandy, who suffered only a minor wound, plan their future together.