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Film / Gold Is Where You Find It

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Gold Is Where You Find It is a 1938 film directed by Michael Curtiz.

The setting is California's Sacramento Valley in the late 1870s. The Sacramento Valley has become a highly productive agricultural area, with farmers like Chris Ferris (Claude Rains) growing wheat that feeds the world. His daughter Serena (Olivia de Havilland), given 50 acres on the Ferris estate, has started an apple orchard and believes in the potential of California as a fruit-growing area, but no one pays much attention to a 17-year-old girl.

Ferris and the other farmers of the Sacramento Valley are facing an immediate threat. Thirty years after the original gold rush, miners are still digging gold in California, but the easy gold deposits in the streams have been picked clean. The Mother Lode still contains gold, but in the bedrock of the Sierra Nevada mountains, requiring more labor-intensive mining techniques. Gold mining has become industrialized, with miners using high-pressure water cannons to break up the rocks in the hillsides so they can get at the gold. This results in flooding and mudslides that are destroying the crops of Ferris and the other farmers.


Jared Whitney, an engineer from the east (George Brent), has arrived in California to supervise operations at the Golden Moon Mine. Jared and Serena fall in love, much to the displeasure of Chris, who regards Jared as one of the enemy. Chris and the other farmers have sued in court to bring the miners to heel, but the owners of the Golden Moon Mine regard themselves as above the law and will go to any lengths, including murder, to keep the mine in operation.

Only the second Warner Bros. feature film made in Technicolor, the first being 1937's God's Country and the Woman.



  • As You Know: Chris's sister-in-law Roseanne is daughter of Harrison McCooey, owner of the Golden Moon. This information is imparted to the audience by having Chris say "Why, Harrison McCooey, Roseanne? Your father?"
  • Big Dam Plot: In the climax Jared destroys the mine by using sticks of dynamite to blow up the dam that forms a reservoir for the water used in the hydraulic mining. Jared saves Chris from the flood but the evil mine foreman drowns.
  • Dutch Angle: Dutch angles are used for every scene in the sequence in the stock exchange in San Francisco, where the owners of the Golden Moon are using corporate skulduggery to undercut and take over the other mines.
  • Ethnic Menial Labor: Since this is 1870s San Francisco, it's Chinese ethnic menial labor. Ralph and Roseanne's maid and butler are named Wang.
  • Gold Fever: In its organized, industrial phase, as capitalists think nothing of blasting the hell out of mountainsides and burying the farmers below in water and mud.
  • Headbutt of Love: Serena and her older brother Lance (Tim Holt) do this when Lance agrees to come home and help their father and the other valley farmers.
  • Historical Domain Character: George Hearst and Ulysses S. Grant both attend Ralph and Roseanne's high society party in San Francisco.
  • I Never Got Any Letters: Jared hurriedly departs to San Francisco on mine business and winds up getting reassigned to corporate headquarters there. He writes Serena back in the valley but her father intercepts his letters, making her think that Jared abandoned her. Luckily this misunderstanding is resolved when Serena goes to San Francisco and runs into Jared again.
  • It Will Never Catch On:
    • Serena's belief in the potential of California to grow fruit is dismissed and ridiculed by her male relations, mainly because she's a girl. The ending has a Call-Forward showing the vast scope of the 20th century California fruit industry. ("Some day, orchards will cover this valley.")
    • A couple of gags in the San Francisco ballroom scene. A party guest boggles at the "fellow by the name of Bell" who has invented something called the "telephone". And none other than Ulysses Grant chuckles as he talks about Thomas Edison, who has invented an electric lightbulb that Grant calls "a red-hot hairpin in a bottle".
    • Also in the ballroom scene, George Hearst talks about how "My boy Willie wants to buy a newspaper" and another guest says there's no money in newspapers. William Randolph Hearst, of course, built a media empire.
  • Mythology Gag: George Hearst talks about how his son William wants to buy a newspaper. William Randoph Hearst's film production company, Cosmopolitan Pictures, produced this movie.
  • Narrator: In the opening montage, a narrator quickly runs through California history from the first gold rush of 1848-49, to the rise of agriculture in the Sacramento Valley, to the use of hydraulic mining after all the easy gold deposits were tapped out, and the damage done to farmers by hydraulic mining.
  • Thicker Than Water: Serena's older brother Lance, who has no interest in farming, follows his uncle Ralph and joins the Golden Moon operation. But when events reach a crisis in the valley Lance switches sides, coming home to defend the farmers against the miners. (Ralph does not.)
  • Took a Level in Badass: Chris's son Lance is a wastrel who sleeps late in the mornings, drinks to excess, and has no interest in the hard work of farming. But when the chips are down he comes home to defend the farm, and even volunteers to go to the mine and serve the miners with the court order forcing them to cease operations. He's shot and killed.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Hydraulic mining was very real and it did do damage to valley farmers. And there really was a court case, which the farmers eventually won, limiting hydraulic mining in the state.
  • The Western: Sort of. There aren't any cowboys or Indians or bandits, but rather a story of wholesome farmers facing off against evil capitalists.