Film is loaded with very superior acting and spectacular imaginative photography. Camerawork by Harry Stradling is particularly breathtaking in the outdoor sequences for the sense of space and correct feeling it gives to this drama of the New Mexico prairielands.
Story [from the novel by Conrad Richter] is built around the traditional American feud between cattlemen and farmers, with Spencer Tracy perfect as the iron-jawed leader in the ranchers’ determined stand against the inevitable surge westward of the agriculturists whose hoes and fences cut into the ranges on which the huge herds are dependent.
Katharine Hepburn is pictured as a cultured St Louis belle who goes to New Mexico to marry range-baron Tracy. His attachment is so great for the ‘sea of grass’ that he has no understanding of his wife’s feeling for the farm families whom he is forcing to starvation by illegally keeping them from the land. Melvyn Douglas, as a lawyer and judge, not only has a feeling for the farmers, but for Hepburn as well, and a natural amity grows between them.
Long arm of coincidence enters in when she finally leaves Tracy and runs into Douglas in Denver. In despair and confusion she gives herself up to him, only to turn remorseful the following day and decide to return to Tracy. A child is born and all concerned realize it is Douglas’ not Tracy’s. Tracy forces his wife to leave. There’s never a surprise. Likewise, the cliched dialog is frequently hard to accept.