In the 1920s, Tulsa, Oklahoma, a cattle rancher’s feisty daughter, played by Susan Hayward (I’ll Cry Tomorrow), unexpectedly enters the oil business and quickly becomes obsessed with acquiring money and power.
Reaction & Thoughts:
Directed by Stuart Heisler (Smash-Up, the Story of a Woman) from a script by Frank S. Nugent (The Searchers) and Curtis Kenyon 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 controversial Hollywood mogul Walter Wanger (Joan of Arc and Cleopatra), Tulsa could also be described as a rags-to-riches melodrama with plenty of attitude.
Hayward’s pluckiness, Heisler’s punchy direction, and the economical script, help turn Tulsa into a highly entertaining soapdish that packs its clichés neatly in less than ninety minutes. If like me, you have a taste for old-school popcorn, you’ll find this time-filler irresistible.
The splendid color cinematography by Winton C. Hoch (She wore a Yellow Ribbon and The Quiet Man) makes the film seem more substantial than what it really is. However, because of its current public domain status, you can’t fully appreciate the beauty of Hoch’s work. Bad prints aside, you can still enjoy the handsomeness of the camera work.
Frank Skinner’s (All That Heaven Allows) grand music score complements the visuals quite well. The special effects — they consist mainly of fire and scale models — were nominated for an Academy Award.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
Tulsa is a simple yet immensely entertaining flick. As I said before, the film is, unfortunately, in public domain so prints vary in quality. Hopefully someday this fun film will be restored. Chill Wills (The Alamo) narrates the film. He also sings the title song. The excellent cast also includes Robert Preston (The Music Man), Pedro Armendáriz (From Russia With Love), Ed Begley (12 Angry Men), and Lola Albright (Lord Love a Duck). Color, 89 minutes, Not Rated.