Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Cimarron

Yet another Western I missed somehow, the 1960 adaptation of Edna Ferber's famous novel. (The 1931 version starring Richard Dix, which I also haven't seen, won the Academy Award for Best Picture that year.) A few weeks ago I wrote about William S. Hart's TUMBLEWEEDS, which depicted the Cherokee Strip land rush. CIMARRON also features an Oklahoma land rush, although an earlier one. That takes place early in the film, though, rather than serving as the climax. The movie goes on to cover the next 25 years of Oklahoma's history as a territory and then a state, following in the process the adventures of gambler, gunman, lawyer, and newspaperman Yancey Cravat, whose nickname is Cimarron.

Well, just about everything you'd expect to find in a movie like this is there: Indians, outlaws, gunplay, the discovery of oil, political corruption, and a fairly soap operatic love triangle. Glenn Ford, never a real favorite of mine but always solid and likable, plays Yancey Cravat. Maria Schell is his wife, and Anne Baxter (who looks great in a red silk shirt, by the way) is the good-natured prostitute who's the third leg of that romantic triangle. And man, what a supporting cast: Arthur O'Connell, Mercedes McCambridge, Harry Morgan, Edgar Buchanan, Russ Tamblyn, Charles McGraw, David Opatashu, and Vic Morrow as a sniveling villain. (It's amazing how Morrow, who was so good as the stalwart, all-American Sarge in COMBAT!, could be such an outstanding sniveling villain in most of his movies.)

CIMARRON is long and epic in scope and has some great stunt work. It's also a little overblown and too slick for its own good in places, and the plot is really predictable. (I used to write this kind of stuff for Book Creations Inc. all the time.) Despite all that, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's the kind of movie I used to watch on TV all the time, so I don't know how I missed it until now.


Bill Crider said...

I saw this when it came out in 1960 but not since then. I remember liking it. I like Glann Ford more than you do. I used to see all his movies.

Jose Diez said...

I have TCM on cable TV and they would often have a western or glen ford movie festival maybe once a year. I would often re-watch it over several days of reshowing.
You should get TCM, you would get to watch some old gems (western or other genre) once in awhile.

Fred Blosser said...

Glenn Ford was the all-purpose MGM star in the early '60s, even in movies where he wasn't really suited to the role he played (like the Argentinian playboy in the remake of THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE). As I recall, when Yancey deserts his wife Sabra about halfway through CIMARRON, Ford disappears from the film, never to return. Reportedly, he and director Anthony Mann had a falling-out. The novel and the 1930 had a more satisfying albeit tragic ending when Yancey returns incognito as a broken-down old laborer, becomes a hero when he saves other roughnecks in an oil rig explosion, and dies in Sabra's arms.