Though its title would seem to indicate a medieval swashbuckler, The Iron Mistress is actually based on the life of American frontiersman Jim Bowie. Alan Ladd stars as the fearless, knife-wielding Bowie, who is first seen arriving in New Orleans to sell a supply of lumber. Bowie falls in love with duplicitous Creole lass Judalon de Bornay (a brunette Virginia Mayo), who inspires him to increase his riches and political power. When Bowie doesn't move up the ladder of success fast enough to suit her, the fickle Judalon weds another. Bowie eventually finds happiness in the arms of Ursula de Veremendi (Phyllis Kirk), the daughter of Texas' vice-governor. The film tactfully ends long before Bowie's rendezvous with destiny at the Alamo. The Iron Mistress is based on the novel by Paul I. Wellman; the highlight of the novel, a fierce knife-and-rapier duel, is faithfully recreated here.