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Many Rivers to Cross

Many Rivers to Cross(1955)


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In late 18th century Kentucky, a young man named Miles Henderson calls on Noah Crawford and his wife to complain that just as the preacher is about to make his annual visit to town, the Crawfords' daughter Cissie is suddenly reluctant to marry him. Mrs. Crawford blames Cissie's change of heart on handsome trapper Bushrod Gentry, who came to the area several days earlier. Meanwhile, at Bushrod's campsite, the trapper tells the infatuated Cissie that he is not yet ready to give up the wandering life. When Cissie starts to leave, she is attacked by a Shawnee Indian, but Bushrod fends him off with his whip. Next day, Bushrod is hunting in the woods when a group of Shawnee ambush him, but he is saved by a well-timed shot by Mary Stuart Cherne. Mary takes the wounded Bushrod to her family home on Barren River, and her father Cadmus, a garrulous Scotsman, insists that the trapper stay with them a few days. Mary privately declares to her mother that she intends to marry Bushrod. That evening, Mary's suitor, the coarse, ill-tempered Luke Radford, comes by, but Mary refuses to go out with him. Late at night, Mary wakes Bushrod, then takes him to a secret cave and requests a kiss. When she suggests that they discuss their future, however, Bushrod launches into the well-rehearsed speech he recited to Cissie earlier. Determined to remain a bachelor, Bushrod slips away early the next morning, and Mary tells the family's Indian servant Sandak to get Luke. Mary then tracks Bushrod to the river where he is bathing, brings him back at gunpoint and locks him in the shed. When Luke arrives, Mary tells him that Bushrod has insulted her. Boasting of his prowess, Luke challenges Bushrod to battle, and the two men engage in a wild fistfight as Mary's family and neighbors cheer from the sidelines. Bushrod wins, but denounces Mary for her treachery in orchestrating the fight. Cadmus orders Mary to make up with Luke, and the lovelorn young woman stays up half the night trying to think of a way to get Bushrod to marry her. The following day, Preacher Ellis comes to town to conduct a group marriage ceremony. When Bushrod tries to move on that afternoon, Mary's four brothers surround him and hold him at gunpoint, and Cadmus accuses him of seducing her in the cave. Despite his protestations of innocence, Bushrod is forced to exchange wedding vows with Mary. After the impromptu ceremony, Bushrod angrily leaves, unaware that Mary is tracking him. He stops at an inn in Bowling Green, but when the innkeeper tries to make him pay for a dinner he does not want, Bushrod punches him, only to learn that the innkeeper is the justice of the peace. Bushrod is sentenced to thirty days in jail, but is freed from his cell by Mary. As they walk through the woods, Mary feigns exhaustion and insists on stopping to celebrate their wedding night. Bushrod rejects her advances, claiming that he is "sick of being chased like a runaway bull," and they are soon joined by a group of men who are out to avenge a Shawnee attack. Bushrod quickly offers to join the "punishment party," and leaves Mary with two of the men, instructing them to take her back to Bowling Green. With the help of Sandak, who has followed her through the woods, Mary escapes from the two men and sets off after Bushrod. Meanwhile, at a tavern, the party's leader, Esau Hamilton, strikes up a friendship with Bushrod, having heard tales of his exploits over the years. Mary catches up with Bushrod at the tavern and tells him she is ending their marriage and going home to Luke. Inspired by Bushrod's carefree lifestyle, Esau decides to leave his family and become a trapper, but when word comes that his little daughter is sick, he rushes home, accompanied by Bushrod. Bushrod suggests using steam to treat her, and after a long night, the child's fever breaks. Moved by the experience, Bushrod gruffly tells Esau that he has decided to go trapping by himself, and the two men warmly say goodbye. Bushrod starts back to see Mary, and on the way encounters two survivors of a Shawnee raid, who say the Indians are headed toward Barren River. Racing through the woods, Bushrod comes across the badly injured Sandak, who tells him Mary fled when they were attacked by Shawnee. Meanwhile, Mary hides in a hollow tree trunk in the river as four Indians pursue her. Bushrod arrives just as one of them is about to scalp her, and they take shelter in the cave as the other Indians begin to attack. In between quarreling with each other, Bushrod and Mary manage to overcome the remaining Shawnee. The battle over, Bushrod once again starts to leave, but Mary runs after him and announces that he has won her. Happily resigning himself to the inevitable, Bushrod seizes Mary in a passionate embrace.