The Girl of the Golden West is a play with no names. Or a play where the names are all made up. As the girl says of all the miners and everyone passing through the Polka Saloon, "Not one of you travelin' under your own name." Her outlaw love interest is traveling under the name of Dick Johnson, preposterous enough even before the age of porn stars. His real name is Ramirez, but the Wells Fargo agent on his trail tells us his ancestry is undetermined and his name is assumed. The girl herself is identified in the script just as the Girl. Her lover asks what her name is after he's got her first kiss: "What's your name, Girl--your real name?" She says her name is Minnie, and her father's name was Smith. But then she says, "it wasn't his right name." His right name was Falconer. He loves that, and who wouldn't love a girl named Minnie Falconer? But even that name isn't certain neither, as she admits: "I think it was. I ain't sure. That's what he said it was. I ain't sure of anything---only--jest you."
In Belasco's golden west, the past is something you don't remember or want to forget. His 1905 play was written during a period of sharply rising immigration, bringing more people to new lives in a new land, especially in the west. It was a time and place to re-invent yourself, to discover a self more fundamental and true than can be contained by any name. The girl may be Minnie, but before and beyond that she is the Girl. The west is where you can rise up and be all new again---as the Girl tells her lover, haunted by his criminal past, " Suppose you was only a road-agent--an I was a saloon keeper: we both came out of nothin' an we met, but through loving, we're goin' to reach things now--that's us." That's the hope anyway, and it's the promise of the golden west. Things have changed now; the west ain't quite what it used to be and names tend to be a whole lot more fixed. Yet I remember my mother, abducted from a stately English manor and taken to California by my Texan dad where she rejoiced in the open unconstrained space of mountains where her eye could run out forever.She wasn't all that old, but I think she felt all new again.
That's one of the joys of theatre too--actors get to reinvent themselves continuously, assuming different names and new identities. Belasco himself did it it, and very well. Born of Sephardic Jewish parents he headed east and began outfitting himself with a clerical uniform, becoming the "Bishop of Broadway."
He was an entirely new man. And he rose up and reached things. Yes he did. And you can too. At least it's pretty to think so.