In the 1880s, a cowboy-lawyer (Glenn Ford, 3:10 to Yuma) and his wife (Maria Schell, The Hanging Tree) join land rushers in Oklahoma. Over the next forty years, the couple witnesses the development of the once barren territory.
Reaction & Thoughts:
Second adaptation of Edna Ferber’s popular 1929 novel of the same name is a feeble attempt at epic. Cimarron has a big budget, a well-regarded director, the great Anthony Mann (Winchester ’73 and The Naked Spur), and an extraordinarily good cast, but the film doesn’t come together as well as it should. Cimarron is a handsome but kind of tedious epic that totally collapses during its second half.
For something touted as a sprawling two-generation saga, Cimarron looks pretty average. Most of the film was shot inside a soundstage, not the kind of thing you would expect from a big western. Oscar-winning cameraman Robert Surtees (Ben-Hur) appears to have fallen asleep on the job; it isn’t one of his finest works.
Even the reenactment of Oklahoma’s Land Rush is a bit anemic. Screenwriter Arnold Schulman (Love with the Proper Stranger) does a good job fleshing out the characters, but this somehow doesn’t translate into a good movie.
However, my main problem with the movie is that the two main characters are so unlikable: the wife is a racist social climber and her husband is a selfish and irresponsible cowboy. I just didn’t care if they lived or died. The 1931 version suffers from the same problem, so I must assume that Edna Ferber is to blame for this issue.
Glenn Ford and Maria Schell try hard, but they have been dealt bad cards. I thought the supporting characters were much more likable and interesting. Anne Baxter (The Razor’s Edge and All About Eve) is spunky and sexy as a “no bulls–t” businesswoman — her character, unfortunately, disappears too quickly.
The large cast also includes Charles McGraw (The Narrow Margin) as a nasty cowboy, Russ Tamblyn (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers) as a troubled young man, Aline MacMahon (Dragon Seed) as a sad widow, Vic Morrow (Blackboard Jungle) as an outlaw and Harry Morgan (TV’s Dragnet) as Ford’s buddy.
Arthur O’Connell (Anatomy of a Murder) and Mercedes McCambridge (she played Rock Hudson’s sister in another Ferber epic, George Stevens’s 1956 classic Giant) play a couple of pioneers. Edgar Buchanan (Penny Serenade) plays Judge Neal Hefner, Mary Wickes (The Man Who Came to Dinner) plays Mrs. Neal Hefner and beloved character actor L.Q. Jones (Ride the High Country) plays Millis. Great cast, isn’t it?
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
The 1931 Cimarron wasn’t that good of a movie and neither is the remake, but at least the first version was a technically innovative film. The remake is long-winded and boring. The supporting cast is really good, though. Sad to say, but director Anthony Mann’s last western was definitely his worst. Color, 147 minutes, Not Rated.