'49-'17 is a 1917 film directed by Ruth Ann Baldwin.
It is a quasi-satirical take on the Western. Judge Brand is a former gold prospector who struck it rich during the 1849 gold rush. Now in his old age, Brand is increasingly nostalgic for the days of his youth, and because he is rich, he can do something about it. He tasks his loyal secretary, Tom Robbins, with literally recreating the gold rush boom town of Nugget Notch, and finding people to live there.
Tom goes off to California but unsurprisingly finds people less than enthusiastic about starting up a Wild West theme town. He makes it to San Diego without any success until he has the good fortune to run into "Castle's '49 Camp". J. Gordon Castle runs what is basically a Wild West theme experience at a San Diego amusement park, and business is very bad. Consequently Castle leaps at the chance to take his Wild West show and all the actors therein to the empty spot where Nugget Notch once was, all for the benefit of Judge Brand.
Among the actors in the troupe are lovely young Peggy Bobbett, who immediately draws the attentions of Tom. This enrages evil "Gentleman Jim" Raynor, who runs the saloon in the Wild West show. Jim, who is quite evil, wants Peggy for himself.
Jean Hersholt, who plays Jim Raynor, can be seen here right at the start of his 40-year career as a character actor.
- Bond Villain Stupidity: Jim wants Tom out of the way so he can have Peggy for himself. So his big plan is to...uh, lower Tom by a rope into a ravine. Tom, unsurprisingly, simply finds his way back to Nugget Notch.
- Cosplay: Pretty much the whole deal behind the reestablishment of Nugget Notch, in which a bunch of actors play Wild West types solely for the amusement of one rich old coot.
- Deus ex Machina: Jim, having apparently succeeded in robbing everyone, is galloping away with his loot when he's thrown from his horse and killed.
- Establishing Character Moment: The second Peggy bobs onto the screen, she plays a "guess who" game with her adoptive father. Then she goes to play with the ducks in the park. Her innocent and wholesome nature is established.
- Flashback: Several, mostly to the Wild West days. There are flashbacks of Jim and his partner Hugh Adams panning for gold, a flashback to Bee abandoning her husband Hugh, a flashback to how Peggy's father accidentally killed his partner long ago...
- Guns Akimbo: Jim, when he finally decides to just go ahead and rob everyone in the troupe, barges into Brand's house with guns akimbo.
- Imagine Spot: Tom has a brief imagine spot where he imagines his boss, Judge Brand, as a gun-toting Wild West prospector.
- It Works Better with Bullets: Brand picks a gun off of the mantel and attempts to shoot Jim, but the gun does not fire, because Jim unloaded it the night before.
- Love Triangle: In the backstory, and told with a flashback. Brand and his partner Hugh Adams vied for the love of a girl named Bee. Hugh won, only for Bee to leave him for a seducer, disappearing with her and Hugh's baby girl Lorena.
- Plot Hole: If Peggy isn't really the long-lost daughter of Brand's partner, why does she have the necklace? If Jim gave it to Peggy's father as part of a scheme—he's seen to be holding it—why does innocent Peggy agree that the necklace has always been hers? And further, why does Brand play along when the ending reveals that he found the real Lorena Adams five years earlier? And why does Jim have a clipping about Judge Brand looking for Lorena that must be several years old?
- Wedding Ring Removal: Bee leaves her ring along with her "Dear John" Letter as she's leaving Hugh.
- Writers Cannot Do Math: A particularly egregious example. If Judge Brand was an adult during the California Gold Rush, he should be at least 90 years old; he looks more like 60. Even more absurdly, Jim Raynor was the bad guy who seduced Brand's partner's wife back in the Gold Rush days, and Peggy is the partner's long-lost daughter...well actually she isn't but everyone thinks that she is. Both Peggy and Jim are at least 40 years too young.