Another early winner, another movie title with a ‘C’, another big epic – and another big disappointment. I’ve said in my review of Cavalcade that it was a close race for the last place in my ranking – and Cimarron was always a hot contender because there are more things that bother me about this movie than in Cavalcade but I decided that Cimarron also has some positive aspects that helped it to ‘reach’ number 82.
So, let’s start with the good things: first, unlike Cavalcade, Cimarron is more successful in being what it wants to be – a Western. It manages to create a sometimes even interesting atmosphere which is mostly helped by the wonderful production values – especially the Art Direction is fantastic and the way the movie presents the slow change from uncivilized outback to a big city is overall very impressive. As for the acting – the movie mostly suffers from the same problems as Cavalcade which means a lot of dated and over-the-top performances but the characters still become more memorable and distinctive. Irene Dunne made the wise choice to underplay her part to the maximum and that way became the only performance that is still worth seeing 80 years later – too bad for her that her character is the most uninteresting of the whole movie.
And, of course, what’s easily the most lasting aspect of the story is the opening sequence, the land rush in Oklahoma in which apparently hundreds of horses and carriages race across the prairie. The scene itself doesn’t really feature anything remarkable from a technical point-of-view but the cameras capture the spectacle thrillingly. And the movie even has a very unusual following scene when a woman pretends that her horse broke its legs and asks Yancey Cravat, the hero of the picture, to shoot it – only to steal his own horse moments later. It’s a highly promising beginning to what appears to be a gripping story – but the downfall begins right away.
While Cimarron may be able to create a captivating atmosphere, the whole story itself lacks every kind of entertainment value. So, Cimarron is definitely great to look at and does have some interesting scenes. But the whole content of the story, the central character and the ridiculous exaggeration of so many aspects make it almost as unbearable to watch as Cavalcade.