House of Cards
Director: Harold M. Shaw

Director: Edwin S. Porter

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

At Bear Track Gulch A quarter-hour romantic comedy western, the mining town At Bear Track Gulch (1913) has never been visited by a woman before.

But presently Mr. Lorraine (John Sturgeon) & his school teacher daughter Alice (Edna Flugrath) are to arrive at the frontier mining town. All the rough & tumble guys begin to smarten up their looks & manner in preparation for her arrival.

Father & daughter have come west so Alice's invalid father can have the fresh air. The town hunk Jack Turner (George Lessey) volunteers his cabin for their stay. He sells them his cabin for ten dollars & then visits often, shyly courting Miss Lorraine.

When her ill father dies, she's alone in the world. The men of the Gulch decide to hire her as the town school teacher. Although there are no kids or families they need educating themselves.

Humorous adult education scenes follow, the tavern serving as schoolroom. A sign on the wall says "No Drinks Sold Durin Skool Hours," recess not withstanding.

The day Jack decides to declare his love, he finds Alice mooning over a picture of a handsome young man, & doesn't realize it's her deceased father twenty years before. He thus doesn't speak of his own feelings.

Thinking her homesick for a sweetheart back east, he conspires selflessly to raise funds to send her back. The men of the town get her the money on the sly by hiding a gold nugget by the cabin her father bought for ten dollars, & then auction the property off as a mining claim to men who are in on the scheme.

She has booked a seat on a stage to start her journey back east. But before she's gone, Jack will find out the cherished photograph had been a of her father when young. Jack's able to declare his love & Alice instantly decides to stay At Bear Track Gulch.

House of Cards A couple of cowboys prepare a saddlebag of gold dust collected by men of the ranch. One of the men, Thomas Crawford (Marc McDermott), intends to take the gold to into town to deliver to the bank.

On arrival Tom finds the bank is closed for the day, so he visits briefly with his girlfriend (Mary Fuller) the saloon keeper's daughter. He soon finds himself drawn into a game of poker, losing everything.

So begins The House of Cards (1909), an early Edison Manufacturing Company western, sixteen minutes in length.

A fiddler in the saloon plays "Home Sweet Home" for change put in his pocket. A tall handsome man in black is Rattlesnake Jim (Herbert Prior)m the sheriff of Cedar Gulch. He stops a cheating poker player, & seems to feel a mite sorry for Tom's bad luck at another table.

When the hour is late, only the Sheriff & the barkeeper's daughter remain in the saloon. He leaves a note for her to find, which speaks of being "dead gone on you," & a shy proposal of marriage.

House of CardsThere's no doubt Sheriff Rattlesnake Jim is the handsomest good man in town, but the saloon keeper's daughter has a soft spot for Tom, & this unexpected proposal is a soar confusion.

Nightfall. Tom overcome with guilt for having lost the rachers' gold breaks into the saloon. Alas he is caught by the barkeep's daughter & Tom sinks into himself for the shame of his actions. She collapses at his side sharing his desparation, then grabs his six-gun when he holds it to his own temple.

She pleads with Rattlesnake Jim to help Tom, for whom a warrant of arrest has been issued for his having embezzled funds belonging to the ranch hands. Jim has to arrest Tom, but for love of a woman intends to give him a chance.

They arrange a novel "duel" in Jim's cabin. Jim got his name Rattlesnake from keeping one as a pet. The duel consists of both men rolling up their sleeves, resting their arms beside the trapdoor in the table that Jim opens to let the rattler crawl out.

Whoever chickens out first is the loser. If it's Tom, he must get out of town for good, or be arrested. If it's Jim, he'll give up his position as Sheriff & get out of Cedar Gulch himself. And if one of them is bitten, that solves the problem for the other. Tom loses the the duel, jerking away from the snake's strike.

The climactic sequence lends uniqueness to the film that might otherwise have been a workmanlike melodrama even for 1909. There seems to be a closing scene missing, but Edwin Porter was notorious for going over length & an intended conclusion, with the saloon keeper's daugther shifting her affections to the honest sheriff, was never filmed.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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