Starring John Wayne! A pharmacist comes to Sacramento during the Gold Rush and finds trouble with a powerful crook.


In Old California (1942)

He Picked a Fight with the Wrong Pharmacist

John Wayne, Binnie Barnes, and Albert Dekker star. It’s a perfect period Western romance—and it’s a lot of fun watching John Wayne hit his acting stride. Fun fact: the Duke plays a pharmacist in this movie, and his father was a pharmacist in real life!

During the California Gold Rush, Tom Craig, a pharmacist, comes to Sacramento where he hopes to open his own shop. He immediately gets into trouble with local political boss Brett Dawson when he helps pretty Miss Lacey Miller by carrying her over a mud puddle. Tom was just being a gentleman, but now Brett has his eye on him.

Tom ignores Brett and makes a business deal with Lacey to sell his products in her store. Not long after, Ellen Sanford comes into Tom’s life, and the two become a couple. Everything seems to be working out nicely for Tom. But then, a problem named Brett Dawson reappears to disturb the peace.

While Brett’s morals are bothered by a man acting “forward” towards a woman, they’re not impacted at all by being a known criminal. Brett tells Tom that to work, sell, and yes, survive in Sacramento, he’ll have to pay Brett “protection money.” As a matter of fact, Dawson gets it from everyone who lives and works there. He gives what he thinks is a pretty good pitch, but Tom refuses to pay—or to see reason.

Tom thinks that’s the end of it, but when the town drunk swipes a bottle of Tom’s special elixir potion, drinks it, and dies in his store, the townspeople rise up against him. They drag him out into the streets and are about to hang him—but at that moment, gold is discovered, and Tom is saved.

Later, when a typhoid epidemic breaks out, Tom realizes that he must take his medicine and head out to the goldfields. He hopes he can get there in time to save as many people as possible.

That is, unless Brett Dawson gets to him first…