A Wife of the Hills
R: Gilbert M. ‘Broncho Billy’ Anderson. D: Gilbert M. ‘Broncho Billy’ Anderson, Arthur Mackley, Brinsley Shaw, Vedah Bertram. P: The Essanay Film Manufacturing Company. USA 1912
“The outlaw gang leader Bart McGrew lives with his wife in a shack in the hills. Unknown to McGrew, his wife is in love with an outlaw partner, Dan Trout, and they plot to run away. Trout chances to see a sheriff’s notice that promises to free any gang member who turns himself in; he uses this opportunity to lead the sheriff to the shack, where McGrew is arrested.
Realizing the two lovers’ treachery, McGrew vows vengeance. The next morning, he escapes from jail and heads for the shack, pursued by the sheriff’s posse. Reaching the shack and looking in the open window at the lovers, he is about to fire his gun, when the sheriff’s bullet meant for him misses and hits Trout, who falls dead across a table. Smiling at his wife sobbing over her lover, McGrew turns and lets himself be captured and led away.
This is a rather unusual film in Essanay’s ‘Broncho Billy’ series, not in that Anderson plays a differently named character (which he often does), but that the story refuses to lead to the outlaw’s expected transformation and redemption.
The posse’s pursuit of McGrew may be extended longer than need be, and directions get a little confusing as the outlaw and the sheriff and his men separately edge through the brush and trees toward the shack. But that delay makes the shooting of Trout all the more grimly ironic — and a sharp contrast to the ending of Essanay’s A Pal’s Oath (1911), (…) in which Broncho Billy decides not to exact vengeance when, through an open window, he finds his nemesis embracing his wife (Billy’s former lover) and child.”
Antti Alanen: Film Diary