(director: Alfred E. Green; screenwriters: from the novel by Rex Beach/Kenneth Gamet; cinematographer: Sid Hickox; editor: James Gibbon; music: Adolph Deutsch; cast: John Garfield (Johnny Blake/Alexander), Pat O’Brien (Hap O’Connor), Frances Farmer ( Linda Chalmers), Raymond Walburn (Ellery Q. ‘Wildcat’ Chalmers), Cliff Edwards (`’Hot Rocks’` Harris), Tom Kennedy (Petunia), Jodie Gilbert (Tillie), Granville Bates (Hammond), John Alexander (Sheriff), Edward Pawley (Collins); Runtime: 82; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jack L. Warner; Warner Brothers/Seven Arts; 1940-B/W)
“One of the poorer John Garfield movies.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
One of the poorer John Garfield movies, but still is passable. Helmed by the competent studio vet Alfred E. Green (“Top Banana”/”The Eddie Cantor Story”), who keeps it flowing, forgettable and routine. It looks like a typical action melodrama about an underdog hero battling the system from Warner Brothers. It’s based on the novel by Rex Beach. The ordinary screenplay is by Kenneth Gamet. The gold that’s flowing is oil. It’s filmed in black-and-white.
Johnny Alexander now goes by Johnny Blake (John Garfield). He’s a tough guy with a chip on his shoulder (a part he can play in his sleep), who is a drifter on the run from the cops out in the American west. He goes from one oil field to another looking for work, with one eye always watching out for the law. He’s wanted for murder, which he says he committed when a stooge oil worker came after him with a weapon and he had to defend himself or be killed. Hap O’Connor (Pat O’Brien) is the gruff foreman with a heart of gold, working with a loyal wildcat oil crew. Hap hires Johnny knowing he’s a wanted man because his instincts tell him Johnny is a good guy. The two hit it off, especially when Johnny comes to his rescue when a drunk fired worker (Edward Pawley) comes after him with a weapon and is about to kill him. After the job they go separate ways, but meet again on another job.
Hap on this job reunites with his loudmouth old pal ‘Wildcat’ Chalmers (Raymond Walburn), and he provides his own cash to set up the oil rigs and partners with Chalmers when the bank denies a loan to Chalmers because the bank has an enemy of Chalmers on its board of directors. Meanwhile Johnny gets hired by Chalmers’ hated rival, Hammond (Granville Bates), as an enforcer. Johnny quits when he learns his friend Hap is on the other side.
Chalmers’ attractive roughneck daughter Linda (Frances Farmer) is wooed by both the gentlemanly Hap and the roughneck Johnny, but after a bad start with Johnny she succumbs to his sex appeal.
After a barroom brawl Johnny is arrested. Meanwhile Hap must stop Hammond from taking over the oil field bid, and works long hours to bring in the well before the option expires and he loses the oil rights to Hammond.
This oil strike allows Johnny and Linda to plan on getting married, and Hap gives him good advice to first surrender and clear his name. Johnny instead flees, but when Hap’s well catches fire he returns with firemen to put out the fire. Johnny now take’s Hap’s advice and surrenders to the sheriff (John Alexander) and returns East to plead self-defense on his murder charge. It’s presumed justice will prevail, after all this is America and not some South American banana republic.
REVIEWED ON 2/26/2021 GRADE: B-