THE IRON MISTRESS is based on a novel by Paul Iselin Wellman. It covers Jim Bowie’s early life and ends with his marriage to Ursula de Veramindi, the daughter of the Mexican gobernor of the Texas Territory.
Alan Ladd is Jim Bowie(apparently I’ve been pronouncing his name wrong all my life. It Bo-wie, not Boo-wie). Virginia Mayo plays Judalon de Bornay, a woman of means in New Orleans and somewhat of a narcissistic woman who’s always scheming and playing men, Bowie included, to maintain her station and reputation in life.
Bowie is consumed with Judalon from the first moment he saw her. He’d come to New Orleans to sell a load of timber and ends up spending time with her. They were from two different worlds and neither wanted to give in. She was New Orleans high class and he was a backwoods rube. Her schemes ends up getting her brother killed in a duel and Bowie killing the man in another duel.
He returns north to a new plan for his family, mother and two brothers. With the advent of the steamship, wood shipments weren’t profitable. Cotton was king and the Bowies were soon building their own fortune.
His return to New Orleans for a horse race to win money competitors demanded instead of the usual land swap deals, their hope to bankrupt Bowie and his partners. When they lose, they demand proof that Bowie owns the horse. The bill of sale from a gambler, who won the horse in a poker game, is not good enough. He must have the original owner’s agreement that it was a legitimate deal. On the way, he stops at a blacksmith known for his exceptional knives with a new design. He wants it made by the time he returns. The smith puts his heart into it, even using a chunk of meteorite he’d had for years.
A knife fight with the same gambler who’d sold him the horse, a duel gone bad that results in three deaths, a murder attempt on Bowie’s life, which result in his meeting the woman he would marry who saves his life, a later murder attempt that frees Judalon where her drunken husband goes to murder Bowie and runs into the gambler hiding in Bowie’s stateroom to murder him results in them both killing each other and freeing Bowie’s mind.
Based on a novel, i don’t know how much of the story is true. He throws the famous knife into the river, but he supposedly had it at the Alamo. I don’t know.
The film was Ladd’s first for Warner Brothers after a decade with Paramount and was a modest success. They just missed the boat by being released before the huge Shane, one of his last Paramount pictures.
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