WAR OF THE WILDCATS (aka: IN OLD OKLAHOMA)
director: Albert Rogell; screenwriters: from the story by Thomson Burtis/Thomson Burtis/Eleanore Griffin/Ethel Hill; cinematographer: Jack A. Marta; editor: Ernest Nims; music: Walter Scharf; cast: John Wayne (Daniel F. ‘Dan’ Somers), Martha Scott (Catherine Elizabeth Allen), Albert Dekker (Jim ‘Hunk’ Gardner, president, Gardner Oil Co.), George ‘Gabby’ Hayes (Despirit Dean, stage driver), Marjorie Rambeau (Bessie Baxter, hotel proprietor), Dale Evans (Cuddles Walker, dance-hall singer), Sidney Blackmer (Teddy Roosevelt), Paul Fix (Cherokee Kid), Grant Withers (Richardson, head driller), Byron Foulger (Wilkins), Harry Shannon (Charlie Witherspoon); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Robert North; Republic; 1943)
“Not much of a story, but John Wayne makes for a pleasant heroic figure.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Released as In Old Oklahoma; reissued as War of the Wildcats. It’s an action-packed potboiler involving a fight over drilling rights to an oil field on Indian Territory. Not much of a story, but John Wayne makes for a pleasant heroic figure, Martha Scott is sort of cute as the romantic interest of Wayne and his oilman tycoon rival Albert Dekker. It’s based on a story by Thomson Burtis who co-writes the script along with Eleanore Griffin and Ethel Hill. Albert Rogell does a workmanlike job directing.
Dan Somers (John Wayne) is a cowboy adventurer just returning from the Philippines and before that he fought in Cuba with Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders in the 1898 Battle of San Juan Hill. When his horse dies on him in the desert he hops aboard a train heading to Sapulpa, Oklahoma, where tycoon Jim Gardner (Albert Dekker) struck it rich in oil. In Gardner’s private car is the lovely Catherine Elizabeth Allen (Martha Scott), a schoolteacher who has been run out of town as a hussy by a women’s group after writing a know-it-all scandalous book about love even though she’s an inexperienced woman. The poor cowboy and tycoon fall for her, and she, at first, chooses the tycoon. In town, Dan runs into his old friend stage driver Despirit Dean (George ‘Gabby’ Hayes) and they teamup. When Gardner can’t steal from the Indians the land where there’s more oil to drill Dan becomes an oilman and President Roosevelt arbitrates who will get first crack at dealing with the Indians, choosing his old friend Dan. But he must bring in ten thousand gallons of oil within a four-month period, and if he can’t the sweetheart deal is turned over to the established oilman Gardner.
The best scenes come in the third act, as Dan has no access to the pipeline owned by Gardner and has to bring the oil in by covered wagons through a prairie of bushfires and with some wagon drivers on Gardner’s payroll sabotaging the effort. The crooked Gardner does everything he can to stop the cowboy, but in the end loses to the more determined man both the oil field contract and the girl.
Aside from the entertaining action scenes, the film was only mildly interesting. Dale Evans plays a small role as a dancehall chanteuse named “Cuddles” Walker, in these pre-Roy Roger days.
REVIEWED ON 8/7/2005 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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