A judge who had taken part in the gold rush of 1849 hires an acting troupe to recreate the experience in this rather fanciful silent Western. The make-believe turns serious when a real gold-mine is discovered nearby and a local girl (Donna Drew) is kidnapped by a nasty gambler (Jean Hersholt). Filmed near San Diego, California, the '49 - '17 is notable for having been directed by a woman, Universal scenario-writer Ruth Ann Baldwin. Miss Baldwin directed or co-directed a handful of feature films, several of which, including this one, featured her husband Leo O. Pierson in important roles. Baldwin returned to screen writing in 1919.