I love the Academy Awards and last year I realized how few of the “Best Picture” winners I’d actually seen. So I made it a goal to see all 83 winners and blog my thoughts about them along the way.

Why did it win? Should another movie have won instead? Has it become a beloved classic or do many of you not even recognize the title? I invite you, my friends and guests, to comment along with me. Do you agree/disagree? I should be fair and place a SPOLIER ALERT on this blog since I’ll be writing about various parts of the movie. So read at your own risk…

I have often told people that I have movie amnesia… I can see a movie and forget all about it years later. So for that reason, I am re-watching the 27 I’ve seen before. That said, if no one visits or reads my blog and I basically perform the online equivalent of talking to a brick wall, that’s fine; if for nothing else, it’ll be my own reminder. Enjoy!

And the Oscar goes to…

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cimarron, 1931

Not Rated

Adapted from a best-selling novel, this film is Oscar’s first western. The next one wouldn’t come along for another sixty years- “Dances with Wolves”.

Yancey Cravat, a newspaperman and lawyer, tries to claim a plot of land in the Oklahoma Territory Land Rush at the beginning of the film (similar to 1992’s “Far and Away” with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman). A wily woman (later discovered to be a prostitute) tricks him and stakes her claim first, but he still decides to move his family (wife Sabra and little boy Cimarron) to that area from Wichita. He becomes a respected figure in the booming town of Osage; he starts a newspaper and is determined to run out the hoodlums. He is even asked to officiate the first religious meeting in town. He opens it by saying, “Welcome ladies and gentleman to the first meeting of the Osage First Methodist Episcopalian Lutheran Presbyterian Congregational Baptist Catholic Unitarian Hebrew Church.” J

Yancey, played by Richard Dix, is more dashing than handsome really, and sounds as imposing as he looks. He’s a little Curly-esque for those of you familiar with “Oklahoma”. His commanding presence and the way he calls his wife “Sugar” made me a fan…. up until he leaves. When first leaving Wichita, he explains he could never settle in one place for more than five years; he gets antsy. So, when more territory opens up years later, he leaves his family and business and doesn’t return for five years. Let me say for the record, if my husband ever found himself needing something more exciting and took off for five years without any communication, he’d come home to find himself with a key that doesn’t work and some papers to sign. Just sayin’.

But Yancey does it AGAIN, and this time it appears to be for good. By the end of the film, forty years have passed for the Cravat family. The audience gets to see Sabra and Yancey’s two children grown up and married (one to Native American royalty who was also their hired help, and one to one of the oldest but richest men in town). Sabra continued to run the newspaper… but don’t ask me why she didn’t take her husband’s name off as Editor-in-Chief. She is a woman of fortitude having accomplished a great deal in her husband’s absence and is formally recognized when elected into Congress.  

I’m not sure why the Yancey’s son was named Cimarron (nicknamed “Cim”) though. Near the beginning of the story, the mother explains they named their son Cimarron because it means “wild and unruly”. But the story wasn’t about him; nor did he seem that wild of a child. As you’ve read, Yancey was the main character who couldn’t stay in one place for very long. He craved challenges and new adventures (usually involving relocating).

I’m also not understanding the movie poster. I really don’t think that’s a fair or accurate depiction of the film. More specifically, I don’t know what’s going on with the woman on the step OR the woman in the painting behind him. I found another poster online that wasn’t much better. It looks like the cover of some bad romance novel.

Some viewers may be sensitive to the stereotypes of minorities that abound in this movie, but keep in mind when the movie was made. Also, having not lived in that time, I’m not sure how much of what I saw was western clichés or true to form. The men in this film sure liked to battle out every issue with their pistols. They never really had good aim (unless it was critical, conveniently). And several times Yancey shot from his waist- he would steady himself, like he was trying to aim, with his wrist up against his hip. Hmm.

“Cimarron” is considered to be one of the weakest winners in Oscar history in terms of its financial success (and reviews on Imdb.com). It was up against “East Lynne”, “The Front Page”, “Skippy”, and “Trader Horn”, none of which I’ve heard of or seen. It also won Best Adaptation and Best Interior Decoration (um, what?). Another little bit of trivia: This was the first film that technically won Best Picture; the three before this were awarded Best Production (that was the award before the name change).  


The camera pans across to show the little town of Osage start to grow in 1889 and it immediately reminded me of this shot from one of my favorite movies… do you recognize it?

The one on the right is the growing western town of Hill Valley in 1885 from “Back to the Future, Part 3”.


Do not underestimate a woman’s drive for a successful career and/or the desire to provide for her family. I give Sabra much credit for forging full steam ahead with her life after Yancey leaves (especially the second time). She didn’t give up or try to marry again in order to have help or financial assurance. (I’m sure her reason was because of her unfailing love for Yancey, but still, it wasn’t easy). Not only did she survive, she prospered, making for herself a name of prominence.

1 comment:

  1. that's interesting that you say he is more "dashing" than "handsome"