Cast & Crew
Sabra Cravat's wealthy Kansas City parents try to dissuade her from participating in a land run in the Oklahoma territory with her new husband Yancey, but she is adamant. During the journey, Sabra's knowledge of her husband's character deepens, and when he lends one of his covered wagons to Tom and Sarah Wyatt and their large, destitute family, she experiences his generosity. Upon arriving in Oklahoma and meeting many of Yancey's friends, including a lady of the evening named Dixie Lee, she discovers that he is something of an adventurer. Sabra has her first disagreement with Yancey, however, when he staunchly defends an American Indian family whose wagon has been overturned by a group of angry men. Even though a Cavalry officer states that Ben and Arita Red Feather have the right to participate in the land run, Sabra, a French American, wonders aloud whether Yancey should have risked injury just to help some Indians. At high noon on 22 April 1889, thousands of settlers, who hope to claim one hundred and sixty acres of free land, race wildly on horseback, wagon, bicycle and stagecoach across the prairie. Tom is pushed off the stagecoach, whereupon a frantic Sarah plants a stake into the arid dirt near the starting line. Sam Pegler, an idealistic newspaper owner from Osage, is killed during the run, and Ben is lassoed to the ground by a bigoted roughneck named Bob Yountis. After Dixie, angry at Yancey for having married another woman, vengefully claims the land that Yancey had wanted, he decides to forget about ranching and take over Sam's newspaper. The printer, Jesse Rickey, remains in Osage with the paper, the Oklahoma Wigwam , while Sam's widow Mavis sadly returns home. Some time later, Yountis and William Hardy, a young troublemaker known as "The Kid," terrorize a Jewish peddler named Sol Levy. Yancey rescues Sol, but The Kid, whose father had been Yancey's friend, refuses to listen to the older man's advice and rides away with his rowdy companions. One night Yountis, leading a band of Indian-hating townspeople, lynches Ben and destroys his home. Outraged, Yancey shoots Yountis and then brings Arita and her baby to the Cravat house. When the three arrive home, they discover that Sabra has given birth to a baby boy, whom they name Cimarron. Several years pass, and The Kid, now a feared outlaw, reluctantly joins his cohorts in robbing the Osage bank. Cornered, the robbers take refuge in the schoolhouse, but when his buddy, Wes Jennings tries to make a child their hostage, The Kid intervenes and is shot. Yancey shoots Wes, thereby earning a large reward, but when he remorsefully tears up the checks, Sabra accuses him of cheating Cim out of his future. Dixie confesses that she still loves Yancey, and when he gently rejects her, she sells her farm and opens a "social club." Meanwhile, Arita's little daughter Ruby is ejected from the schoolhouse. Yancey files a protest, but the townspeople refuse to allow an Indian to attend school. Yancey charges that they are keeping their children's blood pure, but their heads empty. Soon afterward, Yancey leaves town to participate in another land rush, to the bitter disappointment of his wife. During his five-year absence, Sabra obtains a loan from Sol, who has fallen in love with her. Sabra learns from Dixie that Yancey, who spent several years in Alaska, is now a Rough Rider in Cuba. Dixie also confesses that it is Sabra, not her, whom Yancey loves. That year, Yancey returns, promising to make amends for his absence. Sabra and Cim accept him, and the years pass. One day Yancey excitedly reports that oil has been discovered on the Indian reservation. Tom, whose own oil-rich land has made him wealthy, laughs and says that it is he, not the Indians, who owns the oil rights. Yancey writes in his paper that Tom swindled the Indians, and the story is reported all over the country. Sabra, meanwhile, worries that Cim is becoming serious about Ruby, whom she considers unfit for her son, but when Yancey tells her that he has been nominated for governor of the territory, she beams. In Washington, Sabra ecstatically dresses for a party, but Yancey learns that Tom and his powerful friends will name him governor only if he agrees to cooperate with them. Yancey rejects the post, whereupon Sabra orders him to leave her. Later, Sol, now a successful merchant, lends Sabra a large sum, and she builds the paper into a major enterprise. When Cim informs her that he has married Ruby and is on his way to Oregon, Sabra bitterly complains that he is throwing his life away and then dismisses him from the house. Ten years later, in 1914, Sabra sits at a desk composing an editorial for the newspaper's twenty-fifth anniversary. Sol and Tom want her to be the model for a sculpture exemplifying the pioneer spirit, but Sabra protests that the man who ran away from her was the true pioneer. At a surprise anniversary party, Sabra is reunited with her son and his family. She pays tribute to her husband, claiming that she still hopes for his return, but that day, war is declared. In December, Sabra rereads the letter she has received from Yancey, in which he again apologizes for being a disappointment to her. On the table is an open telegram stating that her husband has been killed in action.
L. Q. Jones
Dawn Little Sky
Eddie Little Sky
J. Edward Mckinley
Charles F. Seel
La Rue Farlow
Robert B. Williams
George W. Davis
A. Arnold Gillespie
Charles K. Hagedon
Robert R. Hoag
Robert L. Surtees
Paul Francis Webster
Best Art Direction
The film's premiere in Oklahoma was equally rocky. Co-star Anne Baxter, who traveled 9,000 miles from Australia with her husband to attend, discovered that most of her role had been eliminated in the cutting room and was now reduced to less than fifteen minutes of screen time. In her autobiography, Intermission, she also noted that "Ice had formed between Glenn Ford and Maria Schell for ugly private reasons, which didn't help. During shooting, they'd scrambled together like eggs. I understood she'd even begun divorce proceedings in Germany. It was obviously premature of her. Now, he scarcely glanced or spoke in her direction, and she looked as if she were in shock."
The resulting picture is a striking example of the CinemaScope process while still being something of a creative mishmash. The critics were bored, audiences stayed away in droves, and MGM never earned a penny from it.
Cimarron follows the plight of Sabra (Schell), a rich girl from the East who journeys to the untamed West beside her dashing husband, Yancey (Ford). The full scope of the pioneer experience receives its due, with everything from the pursuit of property to drilling for oil being depicted. Yancey's promising adventure will eventually turn sour but he'll get a chance to redeem himself in the final reel.
Mann wasn't the obvious choice to shoot an epic film in 1960, and the suits at MGM, rightfully or not, would eventually be sorry they hired him. Like many other directors at the time, Mann was shifting away from character-driven pictures to splashier projects that might convince viewers to abandon their dreaded TV sets for an entire evening. A lot of round pegs were being driven into square holes for the sake of generating a little more box office, and the pounding didn't always pay off.
Certainly, the Westerns Mann made before Cimarron rank with the greatest in the genre. Bend of the River (1952), The Naked Spur (1953), The Man from Laramie (1955), and The Tin Star (1957) are brilliantly constructed films that generate emotional impact with a bare minimum of melodramatic posturing. Although he moved his camera as gracefully as any director of the period, emotional angst rendered through extreme close-ups were Mann's forte, and he wasn't able to completely reconcile that visual orientation with Cimarron's vast landscapes.
It makes sense that, rather than focusing on the more refined Sabra, who guided both Ferber's novel and the earlier filmic adaptation, Mann chose to focus more on Ford's gutsy adventurer. He also hoped to capture the drama of the changing Western landscape as it fills with settlers, a task that perfectly suited CinemaScope. "I wanted to retrace the history of the U.S.A.," he said. "A remake didn't interest me." One has to wonder, though, if the executives at MGM were fully informed of this before he started their remake.
Mann ended up arguing bitterly with producer Edmund Grainger, and quit the production in the middle of filming. Director Charles Walters shot the rest, although he received no screen credit. As it stands, Mann guided
Cimarron's most thrilling sequence - a vivid re-creation of the Oklahoma land-rush of April 22, 1889. Despite the film's critical and financial failure, it still managed to garner two Oscar® nominations - one for Best Art Direction and one for Best Sound.
Would Mann have been able to weave his trademark obsessive protagonist into a larger narrative had he been left to his own devices? His later work on the better-received Charlton Heston vehicle, El Cid (1961), suggests that the answer is...maybe. Unfortunately, as the pictures got bigger, Mann's precise command of his material seemed to dwindle.
New projects would be few and far-between in the 60s. But Mann's reputation as a superb director of Westerns would actually grow by the 80s, with director Martin Scorsese, among others, often hailing his forceful economy of vision. That will have to do for a filmmaker who, almost inexplicably, was never properly appreciated during his career.
Producer: Edmund Grainger
Director: Anthony Mann
Screenplay: Arnold Schulman (based on the novel by Edna Ferber)
Cinematography: Robert Surtees
Editing: John Dunning
Music: Franz Waxman
Art Design: George W. Davis, Addison Hehr
Special Effects: A. Arnold Gillespie, Lee LeBlanc, Robert R. Hoag
Costume Design: Walter Plunkett
Principal Cast: Glenn Ford (Yancey Cravet), Maria Schell (Sabra Cravet), Anne Baxter (Dixie), Arthur O'Connell (Tom Wyatt), Russ Tamblyn (The Kid), Mercedes McCambridge (Sarah Wyatt), Vic Morrow (Wes), Robert Keith (Sam Pegler), Lili Darvas (Felicia Venable), Edgar Buchanan (Neal Hefner), Mary Wickes (Mrs. Hefner).
C-147m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Paul Tatara
Mercedes McCambridge (1916-2004)
She was born Charlotte Mercedes McCambridge on March 16, 1916, in Joliet, Illinois. After graduation from Mundelein College in Chicago, she acted in local radio, doing everything from children's programs to soap operas. By the early '40s, she relocated to New York, where her powerful voice kept her busy as one of the top radio actresses of her day, including a stint with Orson Wells' radio dramas.
In the late '40s she appeared successfully in several Broadway productions, and this led a call from Hollywood. In her film debut, she was cast as Broderick Crawford's scheming mistress in All the King's Men (1949) and won an Oscar® for her fine performance.
Despite her strong start, McCambridge's film roles would be very sporadic over the years. Her strengths were her husky voice, square build, and forthright personae, not exactly qualities for an ingenue. Instead, McCambridge took interesting parts in some quirky movies: playing a self-righteous church leader opposite Joan Crawford in one of the cinema's great cult Westerns, Nicholas Ray's kinky Johnny Guitar (1954); a key role as Rock Hudson's sister in George Stevens' epic Giant (1956, a second Oscar® nomination), and as a gang leader in Orson Wells' magnificent noir thriller Touch of Evil (1958).
By the '60s, McCambridge's career was hampered by bouts of alcoholism, and apart for her voice work as the demon in William Friedkin's The Exorcist(1973, where the director cruelly omitted her from the credits before the Screen Actors Guild intervened and demanded that she receive proper recognition), the parts she found toward the end of her career were hardly highpoints. Some fairly forgettable films: Thieves (1977), The Concorde - Airport '79 (1979) and guest roles in some routine television shows such as Charlie's Angels and Cagney & Lacey were all she could find before quietly retiring from the screen.
It should be noted that McCambridge finished her career on a high note, when in the early '90s, Neil Simon asked her to play the role of the grandmother in Lost in Yonkers on Broadway. Her return to the New York stage proved to be a great success, and McCambridge would perform the play for a phenomenal 560 performances. They were no surviving family members at the time of her death.
by Michael T. Toole
Mercedes McCambridge (1916-2004)
The film's opening title cards reads: "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presents Edna Ferber's Cimarron." According to a September 1940 Hollywood Reporter news item, Wesley Ruggles, who directed the first screen version of Ferber's novel, the 1931 RKO film Cimarron (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40), was interested in re-doing the story as a musical for Columbia. In July 1941, Hollywood Reporter then reported that M-G-M planned to team Clark Gable and Norma Shearer in a remake of the 1931 film. Neither project was realized, however.
According to a March 1958 Daily Variety news item, producer Edmund Grainger wanted Rock Hudson to play the male lead in what became the 1960 release, which at that time was to be scripted by Halstead Welles. Welles's contribution to the completed picture has not been determined. Hollywood Reporter news items add that George Hamilton, Dean Stockwell and Steve McQueen were considered for the role of "The Kid," Eva Marie Saint was considered for the role of "Sabra Cravat" and Carolyn Jones was initially cast as "Dixie Lee." According to a November 19, 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item, M-G-M secured a two-month early release from the U.S. Army for actor Russ Tamblyn to appear in the film. New York Times news item noted that many scenes in the film were shot on location around Tucson and Mescal, AZ.
The land rush scene employed a crowd of 1,000 extras, 700 horses and 500 wagons and buggies. Additional location shooting was completed on ranches in the San Fernando Valley. A February 1960 Los Angeles Mirror-News item added that the fictional town of Osage was built on three sound stages comprising over eleven acres at the M-G-M lot, making it the biggest western community in the studio's history.
In a March 5, 1961 letter printed in New York Times, Ferber wrote: "I received from this second picture of my novel not one single penny in payment. I can't even do anything to stop the motion-picture company from using my name in advertising so slanted that it gives the effect of my having written the picture....I shan't go into the anachronisms in dialogue; the selection of a foreign-born actress...to play the part of an American-born bride; the repetition; the bewildering lack of sequence....I did see Cimarron...four weeks ago. This old gray head turned almost black during those two (or was it three?) hours." Cimarron received an Academy Award nomination for Best Sound, but lost to The Alamo.
Released in United States Winter December 1960
Released in United States Winter December 1960