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Cimarron

(1931 b 124)

En: 7 Ed: 7

This Oscar-winning epic on Oklahoma is based on the novel Cimarron by Edna Ferber.

In 1889 two million acres of Indian territory were opened in the greatest land rush ever. Yancey Cravat (Richard Dix) helps a woman whose horse is down, while she takes his. He lets her take his prime claim, because "you can't shoot a woman." Yancey takes his wife Sabra (Irene Dunne) and his son named Cimarron (meaning wild and unruly) to start a newspaper in the boomtown Osage. The previous editor was shot in the back, and Yancey means to find the murderer, who engages in gun play with Yancey and bullies a peddler. Yancey is asked to conduct the first gospel service in the gambling hall, and he gives a sermon on the "lion in the streets," killing the murderer in self-defense. In another shoot-out with outlaws he kills his friend, the Kid, and he refuses to accept the rewards. The Cravats' young black servant Isaiah is also killed.

In 1893 the restless Yancey leaves his wife to join another land rush on the Cherokee strip. She takes over editing the newspaper and doesn't see him for five years until he returns from the Spanish-American War to defend Dixie Lee in her trial. As a harlot she has been denied work in several towns, but his pleading gets her a not-guilty verdict. Oil is struck on the Osage reservation. The Cravat daughter Donna is giving up school, because she wants money. Cimarron as an engineer helps at the reservation with the oil work and marries the Osage princess Ruby. Yancey is running for governor as a progressive; but he refuses to accept the support of Pat Leary, because he has a scheme to rob the Indians of their oil. Yancey writes an editorial criticizing the government's bad treatment of Indians and recommending Indian citizenship. Then he disappears again. In 1929 Sabra is still editing the newspaper under his name, and for the 40th anniversary edition she reprints his editorial on Indian citizenship, because his ideas have become law. She herself has been elected to Congress. Finally an old drifter has sacrificed himself to save the lives of others in an oil-rig accident, and he turns out to be old Yancey.

Although much of the heroics are accomplished by fancy shooting, this story shows the pioneering of a western territory by the power of the press, law, and religion. Although his wife calls them "filthy," Yancey stands up for the Indians as well as for the fallen woman. The black boy Isaiah and the Jewish tailor Levy are rather stereotypical, but nonetheless the theme of racial and religious pluralism and tolerance comes across.

Copyright © 1999 by Sanderson Beck

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