THE TOLL GATE (1920)

   William S. Hart, Anna Q. Nilsson, Lambert Hillyer (director). William S. Hart was at the height of his career when he filmed this classic silent Western. Deering (Hart) is the leader of a band of desperados, but he knows it is time to change his way of life. First, he must do one last job, a train robbery. But he and his men are set up by the unfaithful Jordan (Joseph Singleton), and all are killed except Deering, who is captured. The soldiers who capture him recognize him as someone who saved them in an Indian attack in the past, so they let him escape. Impoverished and afoot, Deering wanders into a nearby town only to find out that Jordan now runs the town. Matters quickly deteriorate for Deering: He is framed for a crime and seeks revenge himself. The saloon burns as Deering and Jordan fight. Then Deering flees, followed by a posse. His horse goes lame. Afoot again, he comes upon a farm house. Suddenly a little boy falls into the water and Deering, knowing it is the end if he stops, nevertheless saves the boy. The beautiful blonde Anna Q. Nilsson, playing the mother, saves Deering and gives him some of her long-disappeared husband’s dry clothes (who turns out to be Jordan). The posse captures Deering, but the sheriff offers to pardon him for killing Jordan. Obviously in love with the mother and idolized by the child, Deering can now marry and settle down. But that would not be right. Instead he leaves with the sheriff to serve his prison sentence. He will come back, but first he must pay “the toll” for his crimes. Thus, the film ends without a happy ending, which was typical for Hart.
   See also HELL’S HINGES.

Historical Dictionary of Westerns in Cinema. . 2012.

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