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Genre: Drama Western
Starring: Richard Dix, Irene Dunne (My Favorite Wife • The Awful Truth)
Directed By: Wesley Ruggles
Overview: A man with an insatiable sense of adventure plays his part as pioneer while his wife reluctantly keeps the home fires burning.
It's great having a film where the hero is tragically heroic. That above picture is actually quite representative of the type of man we're dealing with here. His wife does a great job of being this meek and supportive thing that stands up to him from time to time, and though some characters lacked depth (all Jews ARE the same after all), the players themselves were well directed and solid talent, even if some were made to sound imbecilic, be they black or stutterin' freaks.
Anyone that sets an establishing opening scene using 5000 extras and 28 cameras, well that's a person who deserves kudos. Certainly the meat of the film is nothing quite so dramatic but it is visually impressive to watch a city go from a good 'ol Wild West and grow into a modern urban metropolis. We have shootouts and sermons, courtroom drama and saloon scenes, and changing fashions all throughout. Definitely a skilled crew.
The constant slurs directed at the Indians sting a little but in that appropriate way that they should, given that it's about people trying to usurp every part of their land. Yes, this is the kind of epic film that includes all the necessary speeches about loyalty and pioneering and Christian values and all the romantic "Hold Me Closer!" kind of stuff, but somehow it works. I'd say that this is a nice way of looking at the 1890s as seen through Hollywood eyes of the thirties. Historical context is fun to watch sometimes... it gives us perspective.
This story follows the decades of a man's life, much in the way that Cavalcade or Best Of Youth did. We begin with a married man preparing for the Oklahoma Land Rush, and follow his pioneering adventures through the years, as well as his wife's more stable home life in their relatively settled town of Osage. I'm reminded of Fanny And Alexander while watching the tale unfold. In much the same way we're shown the dramatic highlights of a life, though this is more about the country's highlights, rather than those of its people. The down side of showing just those moments is that it seems a little too catch-all, as though they were cramming the story full of versatile high-points.
After the blatant racism and the two-dimensional characters prevalent in the beginning works its way out of the story, this becomes far more fun and palpable. Turns out I DO have a problem with pigeon-holed stereotypes like bumbling idiot Negroes, who knew! I understand that in the 1960s remake treats the whole racist thing with a better filter. Well at least it wasn't a white guy painted black getting rightfully lynched... What makes this tale unique is that it starts as a Western, but as a city becomes established, its becomes urban drama, which is cool, thinking that all this happened in just 40 years.
Overall Rating: 74% (Well It's A LITTLE Wild)
Cimarron means the wild no man's land that was Indian land not yet allotted for settlement, just so you know. As for why I've had to interrupt my Hitchcockian study for this, the library told me that this movie that I reserved months ago was finally in so I had to watch this on a schedule. It seemed perhaps a little different from all the rest of the stuff I've been focussed on, but the timing for the era itself was bang on perfect. What I don't get is how this film has such terrific camerawork and sound for being an early talkie. It's well ahead of its class. I guess 28 cameras at your disposal will do something for that.