It was given some dandy advertising for the Globe’s premier. It’s a picture that can stand any kind of strong exploitation, some of that prize Radio campaigning, where they know they have a picture.
When it may be said that the only possible fault finding about this expensive talker may be its length, 124 minutes, and that it will be difficult to cut it down for the regular picture houses without losing some of its value somewhere, that about sums up everything. Of course, 124 minutes will interfere with the usual turn-over of a picture house program, but as shown at the Globe, not a foot is padding.
Two outstanders in the playing, Richard Dix and Edna May Oliver. Each surprisingly excellent. Dix with his straight character playing of a westerner and an Oklahoma pioneer who dies before his statue is unveiled in that state, while Miss Oliver is nothing less than exquisite in her eccentric comedy role of a Colonial dame in the wilds.
A notably balanced company and an evenly balanced performance. But of the remainder perhaps nothing will draw more attention than the skillful aging of the main role players, from 1888 to 1929, a period they pass through of over 40 years on the screen.
Wesley Ruggles apparently gets the full credit for this splendid and heavy production. His direction misses nothing in the elaborate scenes, as well as in the usual film making procedure.
Big production bits start with the land rush into Oklahoma in 1888, then the gospel meeting in a frontier gambling hall where Dix makes his biggest mark, an attempted bank robbery and the court room trial of Dixie Lee, the harlot. Each of these, and others, carries its own individuality. There is something different about them all.
The land rush starts the action, men on horses and in wagons racing to capture some part of the two mil-lion acres released by the Government to the first comers after the boom of a cannon at noon. Action is further pushed into that bit when the same Dixie Lee outwits Dix by securing his horse and being the first to stake out the Bear Creek claim he was after. But in the trial where Dixie looks set for a jail term as a wanton, it is Dix who becomes her champion pleader to the jury, despite the protest of his wife, and secures as an acquittal.
It is Dix, too, who balks the bank bandits, alone, with his two-handed gun play. Dix is using the guns frequently. His first shot in the picture lopped off a piece of an ear of the heavy, and in the gospel meeting Dix ended the meeting by killing the same villain, who tried to shoot first.
Dix’s reform work as a quick shooter and editor of the local weekly turned the wild overnight camp of Osage, Okla., into a respectable town, with his influence felt throughout the newly squatted territory. Which is why he got the monument years after.
Of the other women, Estelle Taylor as Dixie Lee somewhat fades Irene Dunne as Dix’s young and old wife. Miss Taylor’s showings are few but she makes them impressive. Miss Dunne does nicely enough in a role of a loving wife and mother, which does not permit her to be much else. What she later accomplishes in a political way is suggested rather than acted. Roscoe Ates as a stuttering printer lands several laughs.
It’s doubtful if a red-blooded western such as this, another period in American history, has held as many big diverting scenes as “Cimarron.” Many parts of it grip, ofttimes quite tight, and for this reason as well as in general the women will go for it along with the men, and the kids, too.
The finish may disappoint those lovers of a reward for the heroic. Dix dies in a newly discovered oil field, aged and ragged, after away from his family years without explanation for that, to the audience or the family. But he died, anyway, in the arms of his wife, now a congresswoman in 1929, and the unveiling immediately afterward partially squared it.
Radio has made a great start with “Cimarron” for 1931.
1930/1931: Outstanding production (RKO Radio), Writing–Adaptation (Howard Estabrook), Art Direction (Max Ree)
Nominations: Actor (Richard Dix), Actress (Irene Dunne), Cinematography (Edward Cronjager), Directing (Wesley Ruggles)