Glenn Ford and Maria Schell in Cimarron (1960)


(director: Anthony Mann; screenwriters: story by Edna Ferber/Arnold Schulman; cinematographer: Robert Surtees; editor: John D. Dunning; music: Franz Waxman; cast: Glenn Ford (Yancey ‘Cimarron’ Cravat ), Maria Schell (Sabra Cravat), Anne Baxter (Dixie Lee), Arthur O’Connell (Tom Wyatt), Russ Tamblyn (The Cherokee Kid), Mercedes McCambridge (Mrs. Sarah Wyatt); Runtime: 147; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Edmund Grainger; MGM; 1960)

“Tedious remake of the 1931 Wesley Ruggles version of Edna Ferber’s classic.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Tedious remake of the 1931 Wesley Ruggles version of Edna Ferber’s classic; it’s scripted by Arnold Schulman. It starts with the Oklahoma Land Rush on April 22, 1889, musing how amazing that in one afternoon a state will be created by settlers claiming stakes on former Indian land known as the Cherokee Strip. The film’s star Glenn Ford, as hot-headed cowboy Yancey Cravet, lays on the kitchen table of his immigrant wife Sabra’s (Maria Schell) wealthy parents’ eastern home, utensils and bakery goods to form a map to describe to the servants how the land grab will look.

Director Anthony Mann (“The Naked Spur”/”Winchester 73”) was sabotaged by the studio who unmercifully cut his film, shot it in the studio instead of on location as he wanted and even hired Reggie Callow to direct new scenes to try and clarify the ambiguous relationship between Ford and Schell. The film reduces the pioneering experience all down to the Ford character’s wanderlust and distorts Ferber’s classic novel by laying on it an unnecessary psychological theme. For fans of the director, this film can be viewed as the transition between Mann’s classic Westerns of the 1950s and his epics in the 1960s such as El Cid.

Yancey and Sabra stake out a homestead and Yancey starts a frontier newspaper (Oklahoma Wigwam), which he soon proves he has no head for the business but she does. After this fast start, the film goes into a slow simmer for the next two-and-one-half-hours as it tells a dullish sentimental melodrama of the taming of the frontier. Under Sabra’s control of the newspaper, it grows into a huge business venture and important influence in the state. The more adventurous and idealistic Yancey, goes in a different direction from his wife, as he cashes in on his popularity as a gunfighter to become a recognizable popular figure. Conflicted over stealing further land from the Indians, Yancey spurns the offer to run for governor by oil magnate (Arthur O’Connell) because he would be obliged to approve of legislation that would steal more land from them. His wife it turns out is bias against the Indians, and dumps him when he turns down the chance to be governor. There are a series of killings, childbirths and a holdup, which add little but pad the story. About a decade later with Oklahoma now booming, the film concludes without uncovering anything important to say about settling Oklahoma or its soap opera characters.

The title song “Cimarron” is sung by The Roger Wagner Chorale.