Aces & Eights

The 1939 movie Stagecoach portrays outlaw, Ringo Kid played by John Wayne who has his sights set on revenge against Jake Plummer and his two brothers in Lordsburg for the killing of Ringo’s brother. When Ringo arrives in town, two men deliver the news to Plummer who was engaged in a game of poker at the local saloon. Plummer was simultaneously being dealt and hand including a pair of eights and a pair of aces, which by many poker players was considered the “Dead Man’s Hand”. The hand was made famous in 1876 when a similar game of poker in Deadwood Gulch, in the Black Hills of the Dakotas found Deputy US Marshal, James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok in possession of the same eights and aces when he was shot in the head by Jack “Crooked Nose” McCall. Jake Plummer’s obvious concern with the news of Ringo’s arrival and the “Dead Man’s Hand” is portrayed when his brothers join him at the bar for a shot of whiskey as if preparing to face death. Director, John Ford uses this element of foreshadowing effectively as the scene draws the audience into the anxiety of the moment, especially when Plummer, a documented killer of many men asks for the shotgun behind the bar in order to give himself an unfair advantage. An advantage that becomes even more apparent when he takes to the street with his two brothers in search of Ringo Kid.

The poker hand that was dealt to Plummer and its message of death ultimately came to fruition when the Ringo Kid effectively utilized his last three bullets to kill him and his brothers before his reunion with sheriff Curly who allowed him to avoid conviction and head into darkness with his newfound love, Dallas.