Friday, June 02, 2006

1930/31 Cimarron

Stars: Richard Dix and Irene Dunne

I had hoped with the acknowledgement of "All Quiet" the year before, maybe the Academy and industry was starting to get the hang of this movie-making business. But alas. It isn't helped from the outset that this winner is a western - never a genre to strike my fancy - but the DVD blurb told it as a "generation-spanning saga....told with an authenticity that moviegoers.. recognised". I crossed fingers and ploughed in.

We meet Yancey and Sabra Cravat on their quest to gain land during the 1889 Oklahoma Land Rush. Through misfortune, they end up in the city, but with the will to start a newspaper in the newly formed town. Their newspaper is controversial in that it talks of equal rights with Indians, but finds success in this back-water. The story then goes on with drama befitting a western type tale.

Where it failed me dismally was in portraying Yancey as some sort of hero full of the pioneering hero. He decides to go off and leave his wife and children to fight wars and such - sending no word home. Meanwhile, Sabra runs the newspaper as editor (although always retaining his name at the top), and becoming a respected member of the community. He returns home briefly to defend the rights of a prostitute, and then whips off again, on some mission of his own design. Many years later, near the close of the story, we see Sabra, now being voted into public office, having brought up the family solo, and continued running the newspaper. And all this time, never once having heard one word from her renegade husband, but remaining faithful to him regardless. She erects a monument to him and those like him with their pioneering spirit.

It made my blood boil. Spirit, I ask you!?! He had no spirit - she was the one with spirit! The whole movie seemed to be in awe of him, but she was the one who pioneered, quietly at home - while he rode the prairies and left her without support. But that said, I shouldn't revile a movie based on political and personal objections. Was it any good? Hmm, not so easy to say. I felt most of the acting was stiff and objectionable. The portrayal of the town as it grew over the time period was perhaps the most impressive part of the whole film.


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