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Film / The Bargain

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The Bargain is a 1914 film directed by Reginald Barker, starring William S. Hart.

It is set in 1889 in the Arizona Territory. Jim Stokes, "the two-gun man", is a notorious bandit. He waylays a stage carrying a gold shipment and successfully makes his escape, but not before being wounded and having his horse shot out from under him. Alone in the desert and suffering from dehydration and loss of blood, Jim is saved by Phil Brent, a prospector. While recuperating at Phil's cabin—he tells Phil he was waylaid by Indians, already an unlikely excuse in 1889—he falls in love with Phil's pretty daughter Nell. Jim, now a changed man, resolves to return the bank's money and start a new life with Nell. Unfortunately for Jim, he is still a wanted man, and someone recognizes him.

Feature film debut for William S. Hart (he had previously appeared in two shorts). He was fifty years old and had a long career on the stage behind him when he decided to give the movies a shot. Hart became an instant star and spent the next decade making cowboy movies before retiring.

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  • The Big Damn Kiss: The film ends as Jim and Nell share a passionate kiss.
  • Brandishment Bluff: Jim knows where the stage will go, through the mountain pass. He rigs up three dummies with pipes that look like rifle barrels, puts hats on them, and stages them on the rocks. Then when he flags down the stage, he robs it while his three dummy "partners" hold the stage at "gunpoint".
  • Fixing the Game: The roulette wheel that Sheriff Walsh gambles at is fixed, with a hidden lever that the croupier can flick to get the result he wants.
  • Guns Akimbo: William S. Hart's signature move (he was probably the Trope Maker), seen here when the posse finds him, and later when he's robbing the casino.
  • Let Off by the Detective: In return for Jim saving his bacon by rescuing the bankroll, Sheriff Walsh uncuffs him in the desert. Cue the Happy Ending when Jim finds his wife and takes her to Mexico.
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  • Love Redeems: Two weeks with beautiful Nell leads Jim to turn over a new leaf. Too bad he's still a fugitive from justice.
  • Missing Mom: Where's Nell's mom, dammit?
  • Oh, Crap!: Sheriff Walsh gets a pretty epic one when he realizes his epic blunder in gambling away the bank's money.
  • Scenery Porn: Very unusually for a film made in 1914, The Bargain was shot on location, at the Grand Canyon no less.
  • Stealing from the Till: An unusual and particularly stupid spin on this. Sheriff Walsh hits the roulette wheel and loses all his money. He then decides to gamble with the bank money he just rescued from Jim, and loses all of that too.
  • Thirsty Desert: Jim has to flee from the sheriff into the "bad lands". He is desperately slurping water from a puddle when Phil finds him.
  • Title Drop: After Sheriff Walsh stupidly gambles away the bank's money, Jim offers a "bargain": let him loose and he will steal the money back from the casino and give it to the sheriff.
  • Video Credits: A pretty unique version. The main players are introduced before the start of the movie. Each performer comes out onto an empty stage dressed in formal wear. Each one takes a bow, and as they bow, they morph into the clothes and makeup and wigs they wear in the movie.
  • "Wanted!" Poster: A poster offering $1000 for the capture of Jim Stokes is how the two men who stopped at the Brent cabin find out who Nell's new husband is.
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