Tulsa (1949)

Tulsa (1949)


In 1920s, Tulsa, Oklahoma, a cattle rancher’s feisty daughter, played by Susan Hayward (I’ll Cry Tomorrow and I Want to Live!), unexpectedly enters the oil business and quickly becomes obsessed with acquiring money and power.

Reaction & Thoughts:

Directed by Stuart Heisler (The Star) from a script by Frank S. Nugent (3 Godfathers and The Searchers) and Curtis Kenyon (Lloyd’s of London) based on a story by Richard Wormser, this faux-documentary about the Okie oil industry is a deliciously Technicolor orgy with a touch of disaster cinema.

Produced independently by Hollywood mogul Walter Wanger (Invasion of the Body Snatchers), Tulsa could also be described as a sprightly rags-to-riches melodrama. Susan Hayward’s pluckiness and Heisler’s spirited direction help turn Tulsa into a highly entertaining soapdish that packs its clichés neatly in less than ninety minutes.

Sadly, the film’s best attribute, the splendid color cinematography by Winton C. Hoch (She Wore a Yellow Ribbon), can’t be fully appreciated because of its current public domain status. The film also sports some terrific, Oscar nominated visual & sound effects — they consist mainly of fire and scale models. Frank Skinner’s (All That Heaven Allows) grand music score complements the visuals quite well.

Robert Preston (The Music Man) is very good as Hayward’s love interest. He is the perfect foil for Hayward’s magnetic personality. The excellent cast also includes Pedro Armendáriz (From Russia With Love) as Jim Redbird, Ed Begley (12 Angry Men) as Johnny Brady, Harry Shannon (Summer and Smoke) as Hayward’s father and Lola Albright (Lord Love a Duck) as Candy Williams. 

Beloved character actor Chill Wills (The Yearling and The Alamo), who plays “Pinky,” narrates the film. Wills also sings the title song (yup, you read that right!).

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Tulsa is a simple yet immensely entertaining flick. If like me, you have a taste for old-school popcorn, you’ll find this fine movie irresistible. As I said before, the film is, unfortunately, in public domain so prints vary in quality. Hopefully someday this fun film will be restored. Color, 89 minutes, Not Rated.

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