Synopsis Girls of the Golden West
Girls of the Golden West takes place in the
mining camps of Rich Bar and Downieville
in the Sierra Nevada during the California
goldrush of the early 1850’s.
Clarence and Joe Cannon, two miners,
describe the population arriving in Gold
Country. Dame Shirley, a New England
woman, is traveling to Rich Bar with her
husband Dr. Fayette. Having fallen off her
mule, she is picked up by Ned Peters, a
black cowboy moving west.
In the Empire Hotel, Joe spends the evening
with Ah Sing, a Chinese prostitute.
By morning, still yearning for his lover
back home, Joe has fled, leaving Ah Sing
to long for him.
The miners gamble and sing the night
away. Josefa, a beautiful Mexican woman,
is working the crowd, whilst her secret
lover Ramón is behind the bar. A drunken
Joe aggressively purses her, but she is
resistant. When alone, she and Ramón
recall their first romantic encounter.
Joe and Clarence a part of a group attacking
an Indian village. Meanwhile, in her
cabin, Shirley and Ned are concerned with
the miners’ increasing brutality. Ned confesses
to her that he is a fugitive slave.
That night, he prepares Shirley, his
‘Queen’, a ‘coronation dinner’.
The miners perform Shakespeare’s
Macbeth to celebrate the Fourth of July.
However, the fandango is a cover for the
plot by white miners to massacre the
Mexicans, Chileans and Peruvian.
Ah Sing takes to the stage to sing about
her journey to America in search of money
and a husband. Joe, nervous to be outed
as her secret husband, flees the scene.
The angered crowd rally against Ah Sing
and the Chinese miners.
Josefa hears the disfiguring and whipping
of two persecuted Chileans outside her
cabin. Ned steps up to calm the furious
mob. But the mob turn against him, and
he is taken away.
Dame Shirley laments the loss of her courageous
friend, Ned. Meanwhile, a nervous
Josefa fears she does not have long to live.
Ramón asks her to marry him. That night,
a drunk and lost Joe drags Josefa from her
cabin and attempts to rape her. In defense,
she stabs him with his own knife, killing him.
The town, having witnessed the dignified
Josefa speak in her own defense, watch as
she is tried and lynched.
Dame Shirley bids farewell to Rich Bar,
remarking the beauty of the Californian
mountains and sky.