Starring: Richard Dix, Irene Dunne
Director: Wesley Ruggles
Summary: An adventuring lawyer/newspaper editor settles down in an Oklahoma boom town
Other nominations: Director, Actor (Dix), Actress (Dunne), Adapted Screenplay*, Art Direction*, Cinematography
-You can obviously see the money and effort that went into this production-the great western scenery is a highlight, there’s a ton of extras and horses, they had to do different makeup for the leads since it takes place over 40 years, etc. The cost, and the great depression, is what caused this to be the only BP winner to lose money in its initial run
-Excellent cinematography, especially for the big opening Oklahoma rush scene which is a good as anything I’ve seen so far here.
-This is a slow and boring story with flat and uninteresting characters and not a whole lot worth talking about happens. Dix’s character is one note but at least his hamming it up is somewhat entertaining; Dunne’s character sucks and she effectively becomes the main character in the 2nd half. You would think that it taking place over 40 years would mean something has to happen, but not really. Sure the buildings change, the characters look older, etc., buts that’s all superficial. It’s mainly a series of semi-related events over a long period of time.
-Oh man, are the some offensive characters here, mainly the two black characters and the stuttering guy who’s used for comic relief. I’ve seen much more racist portrayals of African-Americans in early movies before, but it’s still pretty bad (it literally has a “look boy, doesn’t that watermelon look tasty?” “Oh yessum sir!” moment). The stuttering character is REALLY bad though-oddly enough this is the 2nd BP winner in the last 3 years to have a comedic stuttering character (the other being The Broadway Melody); this one was much worse than the other.
-There’s this really muddled message about the plight of the American Indians in this movie as well. While it laments what was taken from and clearly presents the racism against them as negative, the main characters sure don’t have a problem settling on and making money off the land that was taken from them. It’s a movie that says “look at how bad we treated these people and what we took from them”, and then proceeds to glorify the people who treated them badly and took their land from them. It makes Crash look like Do The Right Thing.
-This was the first Best Picture nominee scored by the legendary Max Steiner. While I didn’t find it to be exceptional or anything, his work was always solid at a minimum. Steiner would go on to be nominated for 24 Academy Awards, winning 3 as a composer.
I can see why, at the time, they would have given Cimarron Best Picture, due to its huge cost and scope and that even then, the Academy liked “Big” movies. To a modern audience though, this movie has aged very poorly