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Dreaming of Idaho: Illuminating the Literature of Idaho through Zane Grey’s Thunder Mountain.

Stoddart, R. A. (2016). Dreaming of Idaho: Illuminating the Literature of Idaho through Zane Grey’s Thunder Mountain. From The Selected Works of Rick A. Stoddart; University of Idaho

Odds are that most Idaho writers did not grow up dreaming of becoming an “Idaho” author. Smart money would assume they simply desired to write, and be prosperous in writing, and geographic location played no part in their decision to put pen to paper. However, readers often like to associate authors with geographic regions. This is because the work either contains elements of that region within its content or the author has some connection to the area through birth or place of residence. Idaho readers are no different in that regard, embracing writers such as Vardis Fisher or Mary Hallock Foote. While “Idaho author” may seem like a simple concept to define, it is actually a nuanced literary construction. For example, Ernest Hemingway is often considered an Idaho author but he is also claimed by many other states and places around the world. This essay will examine what goes into making a writer an Idaho author. This undertaking will use Western genre novel writer Zane Grey’s 1932 novel Thunder Mountain which is set in Idaho to examine this literary exploration. Thunder Mountain is a fictionalized telling of the Idaho mining camp of the same name.

What is our collective fascination with the fictions and truths of the West and by extension Idaho? Robert Penn Warren tapped into something true when writing about a character briefly seeking solace in the physical and metaphorical West in All The King’s Men (1946).

“For West is where we all plan to go some day. It is where you go when you get the letter saying: Flee, all is discovered. It is where you go when you look down at the blade in your hand and see blood on it. It is where you go when you are told that you a bubble on the tide of empire. It is where you go when you hear that thar’s gold in them-thar hills. It is where you go to grow up with the country. It is where you go to spend your old age. Or it is just where you go. (p.286)”

But this Robert Penn Warren character is only a visitor to the West — an interloper or outsider — defining what the West is for us.

Zane Grey’s Thunder Mountain might certainly be viewed in the same way towards its description of Idaho. It is a fictionalized telling of the Idaho mining camp of the same name. The story centers on a rough and tumble cowboy from Missouri turned miner, who garnered his reputation in Montana. He takes under his wing a tenderfoot father and daughter from out East and helps interpret the wild west of Idaho for them. Ironically, this outsider interpretation for others of Idaho, its landscapes and experiences, is reminiscent of many writers who live in and write about Idaho. Grey was not from Idaho, nor did he live here. Thunder Mountain is his only significant work with a setting in Idaho. So then, is Grey’s interpretation of Idaho an accurate one? Is this Idaho literature?

Grey was known to write formulaic novels. Ronald (1975) describes the Zane Grey formula in this manner.

“An Easterner – that is, an innocent – arrives in the West. He, or she, has been a failure in the past and seems unprepared to meet the challenges ahead. The land at first seems harsh and unforgiving – the sun is too hot, the canyons too deep, the peaks too rugged, the rivers too swift. Problems are compounded by the appearance of evil, of men who live by their guns and who care nothing for the rights of others. Gradually, however, the neophyte becomes a man. Rather than be beaten by the environment, he learns to conquer the elements, and in doing so acquires a deep appreciation for the land. (p. 13)

Thunder Mountain definitely follows this familiar plot-line but Ronald also notes that “(m)ost important, the Zane Grey formula is an outgrowth of the author’s personal experiences, a reiteration of his own journey to the frontier” (Ronald, 1975 p.13). Grey did indeed experience Idaho as he journeyed to the remote area around Thunder Mountain on a multi-day horse packing trip. This trip served as the basis of inspiration for the rich descriptions he includes in Thunder Mountain such as this description along a canyon in the Salmon River:

“Somehow it had induced lingering hours of happy reverie, to which he had long been a stranger. The place was down around the bend from the valley, where a bench of sage nestled under a great wall. The melodious murmur of the stream came up; the warm sun beat down; the sweetness of sage almost intoxicating; the solitude was omnipresent; and across the canyon a tremendous broken slope as many-sided as that mountain could boast. Long glistening slants of talus, rugged narrow defiles winding up, grassy benches fringed with fir, huge sections of splintered cliff hanging precariously, and patches of black lodge-pole lines stepped endlessly to the blue sky (p.15).”

This trip has been documented in at least two articles (Kimball 1973; Waite 1996) and each approach this trip through the eyes of an Idahoan marveling at the otherness of Zane Grey with his fancy saddle and Japanese cook that accompanies him. Despite the otherness of Zane Grey’s camping provisions, it could be argued that Grey did indeed experience Idaho and this experience is found with the surprisingly descriptive prose of Thunder Mountain. Ronald (1975) notes that Grey had once stated “My inspiration to write has always come from nature. Character and action are subordinated to setting (p.14).” Ronald concurs but suggests alternatively that “Character and action are not subordinated to setting, but rather are developed by it. The three work together, with setting providing the impetus for change (p.14-15).” As setting plays such an important role in the development of Grey’s work, it could then be thought that the setting of Idaho is the primary protagonist in Thunder Mountain since, as Ronald suggests, it is the vehicle which not only drives the plot but also initiates change in the characters. From this angle, Thunder Mountain is indeed a book about Idaho and should be embraced heartily as part of its literature.

The rest of the article is found at Bepress

 
 

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Zane Grey and images of the American West

In 1995 Kevin S. Blake wrote an article about Zane Grey’s influence on popular culture. In his introduction he says:

“The western novels by Zane Grey have been a source of imagery about the American West for almost the entire twentieth century. The plots and characterizations of Grey’s popular novels set in the American West have been thoroughly examined, but it is less clear how his work acquired a fundamental role in the creation of western imagery. With the ability to influence much of the public, mass media dominate the molding of popular culture. A medium that repeatedly projects a set of simple ideas can define the amorphous perceptual lenses through which people view a landscape and fuse them into a clear, uniformly perceived place image. Movies and television now often clarify place perceptions, but literature traditionally played a key role.

Speculation about the meaning of the American West, a landscape that occupies center stage in American folklore, is more profitable with an understanding of the evolution of the ideas that are attached to the place. This article explains how Grey’s distinctive combination of spatial, temporal, landscape and social elements crystallized the enduring idea of a mythical West and qualified him as a place-defining novelist (Shortridge 1991). My mapping and analysis of Grey’s settings lead me to contend that he shaped popular attitudes about the extent of the boundaries of the West and the location of its core. Furthermore, the temporal settings of these novels proved integral to continuing popular acceptance of the western myth. I also illustrate how Grey’s evocative portrayal of the landscape and social characteristics of the region is representative of the western imagery. I discuss modern ramifications of Grey’s imagery in each section, and a review of the western myth making that preceded Grey and his unparalleled record of popularity provides the context for understanding his power of place definition.”

The entire article may be read at: Blake, K. S. (1995). Zane Grey and images of the American West. Geographical Review, 202-216.

 
 

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The Trail Driver: Zane Grey (1931)

Translator: Hansheinz Werner

Translator: Hansheinz Werner

Zane Grey’s stories were mainly written to entertain. Entertainment was achieved through action- and romance-driven stories. For a story written in the early 1900’s, there was quite a bit of cussing and violence. Readers should be aware of changes in word-usage. “Ejaculation” in The Trail Driver is used about conversations: ““World comin’ to an end!” ejaculated Texas Joe.” Commonly used words back then are considered racist today. Views expressed in The Trail Driver romanticize cowboys and discriminate against women, Native-Americans and African-Americans. In most ways The Trail Driver is representative of the propaganda of its day (Wisniewski/Nakamura).

American tribes

Portion of US map compiled by Aaron Carapella detailing Americans in the US before Europeans invaded

By the time of the cattle-drives, most of the Plains Indian tribes had been decimated in the genocide of Native American (Jawort). The Comanche were too busy trying surviving the American Army to fight cattle drives for anything but survival (Miheshua, p. 14).

The Trail Driver enters the US at a turning-point of the cattle-drives (1871). It was first published as a serial in McCall’s Magazine, Oct. 1931—Feb. 1932 and later published as hard-cover by Harper & Bros in 1936. Friesen points out that Zane Grey got the crossing of the Chisholm Trail at Doan’s Store wrong. Other than that, Grey seems to have his facts straight. (VC Friesen, ch. 27).

Adam Brite is a Euro-American, middle-aged, single and childless man. He has just made a profit off a run on the Chisholm-trail and seeks to further that profit by a second run. This time he is overly optimistic in buying 4500 head of long-horns (ornery buggers) plus about 200 mustangs for his remuda.

“A 12-man crew could manage a herd of 2,000 to 3,000 head. The trail boss was the ultimate authority on the trail, like the captain of a ship, and was paid $100 to $125 a month. Of the rest of the crew, the cook was the most important, earning about $60 per month.” (Texas Almanac)

Adam’s role in the story is that of father-figure. He joins in the work and tries to not play favorites. In many ways Brite’s role is to point out to the reader what might be going on inside people’s heads: “that the Uvalde cowboy had been shot through the heart by something vastly different from a bullet.” Sometimes he pranks Joe or Reddie if the mood hits him. I guess Adam is a greedy, kind-hearted racist man who was somewhat aware of his own racism.

The foreman Adam got himself has an excellent reputation. Like any good owner, he lets Texas Joe Shipman handle the crew as Joe sees fit. Joe is “tall amber-eyed, tawny-haired young giant might well play havoc with the heart of any fancy-free girl“. Fortunately, he is much more than that. He has to keep the feisty crew in check. Like he says: “I reckon I gotta make myself disliked,” The person he struggles most with (in true Zane Grey romance style) is Reddie Blayne. Joe organizes defense and offense against cattle-rustlers (Russ Hite and gang) and deals with Commanches. His worst problems are the combination of weather and long-horn cattle. .

Joe brings his friend Less Holden along “No better ever forked a hawse. But Less is the wildest hombre.” We don’t see much of Less during the story. His character is one on the outskirts of the crew and its adventure. Less calls himself a “walking calendar” due to his ability to figure out what day it is. The explanation is quite mundane, but I do not want to be a spoil-sport.

Library of Congress

Photo by William Henry Jackson, 1843-1942

Alabama Moze is the cook. “It took no second glance for the boss to be assured that this cook was a treasure“. He brought his own stocked chuck-wagon. In addition to being the place where food is made, the cowhands sleep under it if it rains. Alabama’s job is tough. In addition to getting up hours before the drivers and wranglers, Alabama has to haul wood whenever it was available or use dried cow/buffalo-turds for his fire. At times the chuck-wagon has to be hauled across rivers that sometimes went wild. Alabama is African-American. Grey shows us how African-Americans were usually (Massey, SA) treated on cattle-runs, “... On the trail it was not usual for any rider to share the tasks of a negro. Manifestly Pan Handle Smith was a law unto himself…”. Being the cook, Alabama was probably treated better than regular African-American cow-hands. He is the only one of the crew whose fate we do not learn.

Pan Handle Smith is a gun-fighter and “might have rode up this Trail with Jesse Chisholm an been doin’ it ever since.” Giff MacShane told me that Pan is Pecos Smith in West of the Pecos. When Adam hires him, Smith is looking to get out of San Antonio. Gun-fighters weren’t bad guys/gals per se. “Pan Handle Smith had been outlawed, but he had really been more sinned against than sinning.” During the story, Smith calms tempers in both cattle and feisty teen-agers and supports Shipman as foreman.

The Uvalde quintet are “de finest an’ fightenest boys I ever seen,“. Their leader is Deuce Ackerman who “appeared to be the most forceful personality“, a quality needed to handle his friends. We see more of him than the other four. San Sabe comes a close second. San Sabe “had Indian or Mexican blood, and his lean shape wore the stamp of vaquero.” He has a lovely voice and it works wonders “That was the magic by which the trail drivers soothed the restless long-horns.” Rolly Little is “small and round. He had yellow hair, a freckled face, and flashing brown eyes, as sharp as daggers.” Ben Chandler is a “typical Texas youth, long, rangy, loose-jointed, of sandy complexion and hair, and eyes of clear, light blue“. His drinking problem gets him into serious trouble with Deuce, Joe and Adam. Roy Hallett is the last of the five. He is “a quiet, somber, negative youth“.

In addition, Adam is joined by Hal Bender, “the tenderfoot from Pennsylvania, appeared to be a hulking youth, good natured and friendly, though rather shy“, and Whittaker (no first name) was “a red-faced, sleepy-eyed, young rider of twenty-two, notable for his superb physique“. Finally, at Pecan Swale, their first stop, their last addition in the form of Reddie Bayne arrives: “Before the rider stopped Brite answered to a presagement not at all rare in him—that there were meetings and meetings along the trail. This one was an event.” Brite is correct in his presentiment. No Reddie, no The Trail Driver.

Artist: Edward Rapier, July 27, 1878

Artist: Edward Rapier, July 27, 1878

Shortly after the arrival of Reddie, Grey reveals that Bayne is a girl. While not common, women on the trail were a known phenomenon. They chose this tough life for many reasons. “An’ I got the idee pretendin’ to be a boy would make it easier. Thet helped a lot. But I’d always get found oot.” Turns out the last boss who found her out wants her back. Wallen, a rancher from Braseda, is a nasty guy. He rides into the camp at Pecan Swale demanding Reddie: “… I want this rider, Reddie Bayne. He come to me in a deal I made with Jones at Braseda.” At this point the crew learns that Reddie is a girl. Adam has known it for some time.

Wallen is joined by Ross Hite. Ross is a cattle- and mustang-rustler. “Humph! Mebbe Hite is at the haid of this new game,” declared the boss, seriously. “Cattle-drivers sometimes lose half their stock from stampeders. I’ve heahed of one whole herd bein’ stole.” To add to the tension of the story, Grey throws in Comanche raiders.

The Indian mustangs were haltered to the saplings at the edge of the glade. What a ragged, wild-eyed bunch! They had nothing but halters. These they strained against at every rifle-shot. And more than a few of them faced the covert where the drivers lay in ambush. They had caught a scent of the whites. Heads were pointed, ears high, nostrils quivering.

Even the weather conspires to make life miserable for the drivers. In real life, the weather and ornery nature of the long-horns were enough of a challenge on most drives.

The night fell dark, with rumble of thunder and sheet lightning in the distance. The tired cattle bedded down early and held well all night. Morning came lowering and threatening, with a chill wind that swept over the herd from the north. Soon the light failed until day was almost as dark as night. A terrific hailstorm burst upon the luckless herd and drivers. The hailstones grew larger as the storm swept on, until the pellets of gray ice were as large as walnuts. The drivers from suffering a severe pounding passed to extreme risk of their lives. They had been forced to protect heads and faces with whatever was available. Reddie Bayne was knocked off her horse and carried senseless to the wagon; San Sabe swayed in his saddle like a drunken man; Texas Joe tied his coat round his sombrero and yelled when the big hailstones bounced off his head; bloody and bruised, the other drivers resembled men who had engaged in fierce fistic encounters.

I still enjoy Zane Grey’s stories, but keep on wondering how I would read them if I was Native American or African American. Whenever gender bias comes up, I’m jarred out of the flow. That is most likely a good thing and might well have to do with my sense of fairness evolving. Reading stories that were written almost 100 years ago, is always a strange experience. Noting that many stories today are still as problematic is kind of depressing.

During its heyday, between 1867 and 1884, some five million cattle and an equal number of mustangs were moved along the trail. 


The Trail Driver is available for free at Faded Page and Roy Glashan’s Library


Reviews:


Translations:

  • Croatian: Gonič stada; Translator: Omer Lakomica; Rijeka, Otokar Keršovani, 1966
  • Czech: Jezdci z pastvin; Translator:  Jaroslava  Vojtěchová; Praha: Olympia (to 1992), 1965
  • Finnish: Aavikon ratsastaja; Translator: Werner Anttila; Porvoo, Helsinki, W. Söderström, 1939
  • German: In der Prärie; Translator: Dr. Franz Eckstein, Berlin, Th. Knaur Nachf, 193
    • Sie kämpften sich durch; Translator: Hansheinz Werner; München: F. Schneider, 1969
    • In der Prärie; Translator: Hansheinz Werner; München: Heyne, 1981
  • Hungarian: A vöröshajú leány; Translator: Ruzitska Mária; Budapest, Palladis, 1937
  • Italian: La lunga pista; Translator: Simonetta Damiani; Milano, Sonzogno, 1968 (Cover artist: Guido Crepax)
  • Norwegian: Texas Joe; Translator: Claes Henrik Jaeger; Oslo, Ingar Weyar Tveitan, 1958
    • Chisholm-ruten; Translator: Claes Henrik Jaeger; Oslo, Fredhøi, 1982
  • Portugese: O guia da montanha; Translator: Fernanda Pinto Rodrigues; Lisboa: Ag. Port. de Revistas, 1959
  • Spanish: El conductor de manadas; Translator: Lino Novás Calvo / José Luis Fernández; Barcelona, Juventud, 1937

Sources

 

 
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Posted by on 2016-06-08 in Books

 

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The Trail Driver: art

 

 
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Posted by on 2016-05-26 in Artwork

 

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New monument to honor Paiutes slain in Circleville Massacre

Paiutes are some of the main characters in Zane Grey’s Wild Horse Mesa. Given his relationship with Paiute individuals, I imagine he would have strong feelings about this massacre and the role of the Mormons. This article about the intended memorial tells the story of the killing of 30 Paiute men, women and children for no other reason than unfounded fear and lack of information.

By , Deseret News
Published: Thursday, April 14 2016 12:45 p.m. MDT | Updated: Thursday, April 14 2016 10:46 p.m. MDT

An artist’s rendering of a new memorial that will mark a dark but rarely mentioned moment in Utah history when Mormon settlers slaughtered as many as 30 Paiute men, women and children in the small town of Circleville 150 years ago. The monument will be dedicated April 22, 2016.; By Sunrise Engineering

A new memorial will mark a dark but rarely mentioned moment in Utah history when Mormon settlers slaughtered as many as 30 Paiute men, women and children in the small town of Circleville 150 years ago.

CIRCLEVILLE, Piute County — A new memorial will mark a dark but rarely mentioned moment in Utah history when Mormon settlers slaughtered as many as 30 Paiute men, women and children in the small town of Circleville 150 years ago.

The massacre with guns, knives and clubs happened in April 1866 during the Black Hawk War because of unfounded fears by the settlers that the Paiute Koosharem band posed a threat, even though the two groups had been friendly.

Despite being the worst atrocity committed against Native Americans in Utah, it became a hidden chapter in state history. Paiute people know little of what happened to their ancestors. Circleville residents — none of whom are original descendants of the perpetrators — don’t talk about it.

But that is changing.

The Paiute Tribal Council, Utah Division of State History, Circleville, LDS Church Historical Department, Utah Westerners and some independent historians felt compelled to recognize the victims.

On April 22 — the suspected date of the massacre — they will dedicate a monument to the slain Paiutes in Memorial Park in Circleville. It will provide a solemn place of contemplation and commemoration to honor the victims of one of Utah’s saddest episodes.

“I think it’s going to be beautiful,” said Dorena Martineau, Paiute Tribe cultural resources director. “Hopefully the remains, the spirits of our past ancestors can come to rest.”

The Paiute Tribe wrote the inscriptions for the granite monument, which in part say, “None of us can ever hope to describe the emotions that these people might have felt. All we can do is honor their existence as human beings.”

“The story here is about the victims, and it’s about the process of forgetting the victims,” said Jed Rogers, a Utah state historian. “How is that we have a tragic event that very, very few people in this state know anything about. That, to me, compounds the tragedy of Circleville.”……….

The rest of the article is on Deseret News

 
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Posted by on 2016-04-17 in General

 

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Image

Art based on “Wildfire”

My book-review of Wildfire

 
3 Comments

Posted by on 2015-12-20 in Artwork

 

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Video

Films based on “Wildfire”

Wildfire – the novel

1922: When Romance Rides (Wildfire)

  • Directed by Jean Hersholt, Eliot Howe and Charles O. Rush
  • Produced by Benjamin B. Hampton
  • Starring Claire Adams, Carl Gantvoort and Jean Hersholt
    • Harry Van Meter, Charles Arling, Mary Jane Irving, Tod Sloan and Audrey Chapman
  • Portugese: Romance da Planície

“When Zane Grey‘s novel, Wildfire, was filmed here, it somehow turned into a hoary Drury Lane-style melodrama, set in the West instead of England. While chasing an unruly colt through the hills, Lin Slone (Carl Gantvoort) is knocked unconscious. Lucy Bostil (Claire Adams) finds him — a stroke of luck, since her father (Charles Arling), who owns a stable, has a formidable rival in the villainous Bill Cordts (Harry L. Van Meter). Cordts will do anything to make sure his horse beats out Bostil’s in the next race, including drugging the steed. Slone has trained his colt, named Wildfire, to carry a rider, and he gives him to Lucy, providing she ride it in the race. She does, and Wildfire wins. But the story’s not over yet — in one last bit of villainy, Cordts and his half-wit accomplice, Joel Creech (a not-very half-witted Jean Hersholt), kidnap Lucy. Sloan, of course, heads into the mountains and rescues her for the requisite ending clinch. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Reviews:

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1949: Red Canyon (Wildfire)

Red Canyon was one of several medium-budget, Technicolor westerns turned out by Universal-International between 1949 and 1959. Howard Duff plays wandering cowpoke Lin Sloane, who spends most of the film trying to capture a fabled wild stallion. While thus occupied, he finds time to romance Lucy Bostel (Ann Blyth), daughter of the region’s most influential horsebreeder (George Brent). Conflicts arise when Lucy intends to race the captured stallion, much to the dismay of her father; there’s also a major brouhaha involving Sloane’s disreputable family heritage. Red Canyon was adapted by Maurice Geraghty from a rugged novel by Zane Grey. (Film Affinity)

Translation:

  • Austrian: Die rote Schlucht
  • Belgian: Le roi de la vallée
  • Brazil Portugese: Escrava do Ódio
  • Dutch: De Strijd in ‘t rotsgebergte
  • German: Hurrikan (TV) / Die rote Schlucht
  • Danish: De vilde hestes konge
  • Spanish: Huracán
  • Finnish: Tuliharja
  • French: Le mustang noir
  • Greek: Sto farángi tou trómou / Στο φαράγγι του τρόμου
  • Italian: Figlio del delitto
  • Portugese: Sangue Ardente
  • Swedish: De vilda hästarnas dal

Reviews:

  • Fred Blosser: Handsomely mounted and well acted, “Red Canyon” is an engaging, unpretentious tale about second chances that should be better known than it is.”
  • French forum for Western films: “Le jeu des acteurs secondaires est assez intéressant avec un (court) duo étonnant à l’écran : Chill Wills et Edgar Buchanan.”
  • Greenbriars Picture Shows: “… this was among loveliest-shot westerns the decade offered.”
  • James D’Arc: “School was cancelled and workers left their daily labor when Kanab locals were needed to get into costume and become a crowd at the Kanab Race Track for the horse-racing scenes …”
  • Jacqueline T. Lynch (Wonderful review): “Buchanan’s speech is so tangled up in the most outlandish and complicated blustering euphemisms that I’m surprised he could remember half his lines.  I’d love to see the outtakes; they’re real tongue-twisters and he had to have messed up sometimes.”
  • Once upon a time in a Western: “One of the better scenes is watching little Lucy’s reaction as she opens her birthday present from her dad, and finds it complete with corset, bustle and other female do-dads.”
  • Robert Cornell: “Only Chill Will’s typical character acting distinguishes this very minor and rather childish western.”
  • Scott O’Brien: “… Bostel mistakenly buys Lucy a frilly frock for her eighteenth birthday. He may as well have given her a cow pie.”
  • T.M.P., New York Times: “While “Red Canyon” is not a picture to create any special enthusiasm, it runs its course in agreeable enough fashion.”

Sources

 
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Posted by on 2015-09-15 in Movies

 

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