Cimarron (1931)

cimarron poster best picture
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 8/10

Interesting time in American history

Not a very good Best Picture

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Cimarron

Studio:  RKO Radio Pictures

Genre(s):  Western/Drama/Romance

Release Date(s):  February 9, 1931

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated


Oh Sabra…I like you a little

Yancey Cravat (Richard Dix) has a dream of seeing the unknown.  As a forerunner of Western Expansionism, Yancey finds himself on the forefront of the changing United States.  Married to an upper class woman named Sabra (Irene Dunne), Yancey finds himself fighting for the rights of Native American and becoming trapped as society continues to move into the West.  Can Yancey and Sabra’s love endure Yancey’s yearning for freedom?

Directed by Wesley Ruggles, Cimarron adapts the 1929 novel by Edna Ferber.  The western was the first western to win an Academy Award for Best Picture (then called Outstanding Production) and the last until Dances with Wolves in 1990.  The movie also won for Best Writing—Adaptation and Best Art Direction, and nominations for Best Director, Best Actor (Richard Dix), Best Actress (Irene Dunne), and Best Cinematography.  Despite the awards, Cimarron is generally considered one of the worst Best Pictures.


The rush is on!

Cimarron covers an interesting time in America’s history.  It goes from the Oklahoma Land Rush to women being able to hold office.  With such a rich period of change, you’d expect the film to be better…unfortunately, the movie relies on a rather typical and dull story.

The movie starts out with a bang.  The Oklahoma Land Rush scene is the best part of the movie.  It has action, drama, and looks great.  The movie goes downhill from there.  The Yancey Cravat character is based on the real character of Temple Houston (Sam Houston’s son), but he doesn’t come off as very likable nor is his wife Sabra…with two unlikable leads, I don’t really care what happens to them.


Seriously Mr. Yancey…you’re offering me a watermelon?!?!

I do find some of the race stuff in the film interesting.  The movie has a very stereotypical young African-American character named Isaiah (Eugene Jackson) who is treated fairly well by Yancey, but Yancey goes out of his way to treat Native Americans and women of “low esteem” even better.  Native American end up being almost a novelty when African-Americans end up being more subservient.

The acting is very stiff.  I can’t entirely blame Dunne or Dix because the writing is stuffy and stodgy.  The relationship between the two characters isn’t very good, and both characters (until the end) seem more at odds with each other than in love with each other…and that is a tough sell for a Western-Romance.


Yancey…can’t we both agree we’re asses?

As mentioned, the best part of the movie is the opening scene.  It appears big budgeted and impressive.  Unfortunately, once the Sooners find their plots, the movie starts to look like a cheap TV Western.  Obviously TV Westerns didn’t exist at the time, but this movie has cheap sets and a back lot look.

Cimarron is a dull story which unfortunately misses a lot of opportunities.  The movie could have been so much better and other attempts to tell this story have been made.  Cimarron was remade by Anthony Mann in 1960 with Glenn Ford and Maria Schell in the roles of Yancey and Sabra.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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