Film / Cimarron

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Cimarron is a 1931 film directed by Wesley Ruggles, starring Richard Dix and Irene Dunne.

Dix and Dunne are the ridiculously-named Yancey and Sabra Cravat, who along with their even more ridiculously named son Cimarron enter Oklahoma in 1889 with the Oklahoma Land Rush. (This topic was also dramatized in Tom Cruise vehicle Far and Away.) Yancey helps found the town of Osage, Oklahoma, and also starts a town newspaper. Actually he becomes a jack of all trades—holding religious services in the town, serving as an unofficial lawman (complete with shootouts with ruffians), and also serving as an attorney. The Cravats prosper as the town thrives, but Yancey gets a yearning to pull up sticks and leaves for the second land rush in 1893, with the opening of the Oklahoma Panhandle (aka the "Cimarron Strip"). He does not make contact with his family for five years. He makes it back to Osage after fighting in the Spanish-American War, but his wanderlust isn't quenched.

Cimarron received seven Academy Award nominations and won three, including Best Picture. It routinely appears on short lists of the worst Best Picture winners of all time. Users at the Internet Movie Database rank it as the absolute worst Best Picture winner. Among films made in that time period that weren't even nominated are the Bela Lugosi Dracula, Little Caesar, The Public Enemy, and Charlie Chaplin's masterpiece City Lights. It was, however, the last Western to win Best Picture until Dances with Wolves fifty-nine years later.

The film was remade by Anthony Mann in 1960, starring Glenn Ford, Maria Schell and a thousand character actors. This version failed with both critics and audiences, and is generally considered inferior to the original.

Tropes:

  • Antagonist in Mourning: Yancey, who knew The Kid and rode with him before The Kid turned to a life of crime, is racked with guilt after shooting him.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Who dies when The Kid and his bandits raid the town? Not Yancey, not Sabra, not Cimarron, not the madam or the Jewish salesman, not any of the white people. No, the only person to die is Isaiah, the Cravats' black servant.
  • The Bully: Lon Yountis, who just likes to screw with people, like when he torments Levy the salesman of sewing notions.
  • Character Development: Sabra grows out of her appalingly racist beliefs about Indians by the end.
  • Determined Homesteader / Determined Homesteader's Wife: Yancey and Sabra, carving out a life in the frontier prairie of Oklahoma. Sabra is more determined, as she sticks around and builds something while Yancey has a bad habit of chasing after adventure.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: After not having seen Yancey for at least 12 years (he was already gone by 1918), Sabra finds him in 1930 just as he's been mortally injured by an explosion on an oil rig. She cradles him as he dies.
  • For the Evulz: Lon Yountis doesn't seem to have any active criminal career, he just likes to bully people. And The Kid is a bandit and bank robber, but the shootout that leads to his death doesn't have any ultimate goal behind it. The Kid and his gang just storm into town one day, shooting the place up, until Yancey finally shoots him.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Dixie Lee. As revealed at her trial, she only entered prostitution after she was orphaned as a teenager and then taken advantage of by a man. She tried to go straight by claiming a plot of land in the Oklahoma Land Rush (in fact, the plot of land Yancey wanted), but meddlesome blue-noses forced her off.
  • Instant Death Bullet: Lon Yountis dies in standard freeze-and-keel-over fashion.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Yancey to an amazing extent. When bad guy Lon Yountis puts a bullet through his hat, Yancey draws his gun and, firing from the hip, grazes Lon's ear. Later he shoots Lon dead from the other end of a crowded revival tent.
  • Large Ham: Richard Dix throughout the film, but particularly during Yancey's bombastic speech to the jury at Dixie Lee's trial.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: Sabra is horrified at the prospect of her son marrying an Osage Sioux woman. Later, she comes around.
  • Miss Kitty: Dixie Lee, who has set up a brothel in town.
  • Moral Guardians: All the prudish women trying to boot Dixie Lee out of town, including Sabra.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Yancey takes a bullet through his upper arm. In Real Life that would have killed him if it hit an artery and should at least have incapacitated his arm, but in the movie he's still able to carry a gun with that arm, although he does wince in true Only A Flesh Wound style.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: The ridiculously ornate dress that Sabra wears as she and Yancey are strolling down the main street of the boom town of Osage. More humbly dressed pioneer women point and laugh, and Sabra feels self-conscious.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Yancey's habit of abandoning his family for years on end isn't exactly portrayed favorably, as Sabra is shown to be broken-hearted about it, but it is portrayed as being a sort of romantic wanderlust. After Yancey disappears for five years without even sending a letter, Sabra falls into his arms on his return. When he disappears again for at least twelve years, again without even sending a letter, she embraces him as she finds him dying.
  • Settling the Frontier: Oklahoma was the last "frontier" region. The United States government, having stolen all the rest of America from the Indians and crammed them into barren flatlands known as the Indian Territory, decided in the latter 19th century to steal that from them too. Hence the settlement of Indian Territory and its admission to the Union as Oklahoma.
  • Speech Impediment: Rickey, the printer at Yancey's newspaper, has a stutter, which is used for comic effect.
  • Time Skip: Several, with the biggest being from 1907 and the admission of Oklahoma to 1929.
  • The Trope Kid: Yancey's old friend who has turned to banditry is simply called "The Kid".
  • Uncle Tomfoolery: The embarrassing stereotype of Isaiah, the black servant. Isaiah is introduced hanging from a ceiling fixture, fanning the white people. He falls from the ceiling to general hilarity. Later he accompanies the Cravats to Oklahoma by hiding in a rug—he is rolled out of the rug, to general hilarity. He calls Yancey "Master".
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