I have to say that this Academy Award Best Picture winner dates badly, especially the acting. I know that The Front Page (1931) was also nominated for Best Picture that year, a film I thought was far superior to this one. It is, however, clearly better than another of the nominees I've seen Trader Horn (1931), although that one did provide quite an educational adventure (into Africa), for the time.
This film has several old stereotypes (racial, and others) in it, which is understandable for the time it was filmed. But, other than that, it feels very long and, in the end, unfulfilling. It is a Western which focuses on the settling of Oklahoma through statehood. There are several contrived scenes which cheapen what I think could have been a better film. There were perhaps two scenes worth seeing: the land rush (which has since been done better, even in the 30's e.g. The Oklahoma Kid (1939)) and a church revival held in the largest building in town (the gambling house!).
Initially, I thought to myself "well, it was made in 1931, what did you expect?". And then I remembered several other well made horror and gangster films from that same year. So, who knows? Perhaps I just don't have a good feel for the pulse of America in 1931. It's clear to me that it's one of the most disappointing of the Best Picture Oscar winners (and that's saying a lot). It does, however, have Edna May Oliver (always a plus). The film also won for Art Direction and Writing. Its director (Wesley Ruggles) and two leads, Richard Dix and Irene Dunne, were also nominated as was the Cinematography. For Dunne, it would be the first of her five (unrewarded) Best Actress nominations (a crime that she never received one!); for Dix, it would be his only Academy recognition. Based on the Edna Ferber novel, and remade in Technicolor as Cimarron (1960) with Glenn Ford (among others).
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