AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
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Director: Wesley Ruggles (Dir)
Release Date:   9 Feb 1931
Premiere Information:   New York premiere: 26 Jan 1931
Production Date:   27 Aug--22 Nov 1930; retakes 18 Nov--3 Dec 1930
Duration (in mins):   124
Duration (in feet):   11,182
Duration (in reels):   13
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Cast:   Richard Dix (Yancey Cravat)  
    Irene Dunne (Sabra Cravat)  
    Estelle Taylor (Dixie Lee)  
    Nance O'Neil (Felice Venable)  
    William Collier Jr. (The Kid)  
    Rosco Ates (Jesse Rickey)  
    George E. Stone (Sol Levy)  
    Stanley Fields (Lon Yountis)  
    Robert McWade (Louis Hefner)  
    Edna May Oliver (Mrs. Tracy Wyatt)  
    Nancy Dover (Donna Cravat [as an adult])  
    Eugene Jackson (Isaiah)  
    Frank Darien (Mr. Bixby)  
    Dolores Brown (Ruby Big Elk, as an adult)  
    Gloria Vonic (Ruby Big Elk, as a child)  
    Otto Hoffman (Murch Rankin)  
    William Orlamond (Grat Gulch)  
    Frank Beal (Louis Venable)  
    Helen Parrish (Donna Cravat, as a child)  
    Donald Dilloway ("Cim," as an adult)  
    Junior Johnson ("Cim," as a child)  
    Douglas Scott ("Cim," as a toddler)  
    Reginald Scott (Yancey, Jr.)  
    Lois Jane Campbell (Felice, Jr.)  
    Ann Lee (Aunt Cassandra)  
    Tyrone Brereton (Dabney Venable)  
    Lillian Lane (Cousin Bella)  
    Henry Roquemore (Jouett Goforth)  
    Nell Craig (Arminta Greenwood)  
    Robert McKenzie (Pat Leary)  
    William Janney    
    George Lollier    
    Billy Elmer    
    Ethan Laidlaw    
    Frank Lackteen    
    Mildred Frizelle    
    Jack Leonard    
    Walter Lewis    
    Marion Mirsch    
    Lillian West    
    Max Barwyn    
    Carl Stockdale    
    Heinie Conklin    
    Barney Furey    
    Tim Lonergan    
    Helen Trask    
    Leo Willis    
    Ford West    
    Harry Holden    
    Alice Adair    
    Kay Deslys    
    Dorothy Simms    
    Dorothy Ray    

Summary: Inspired by his adventures during the 1889 Oklahoma land rush, Yancey Cravat, a freewheeling lawyer and newspaper editor, convinces his Eastern-bred wife Sabra to leave her stuffy Wichita family and join him in the West. Although Sabra finds Osage, the Oklahoma "boomer town" that Yancey has chosen to start his newspaper, rough and squalid, she settles there with him and, with help from their young black servant Isaiah, undertakes to bring up her son "Cim." Soon after his arrival, Yancey confronts local outlaw and bully Lon Yountis with the murder of the newspaper's previous editor. During an "all-faiths church meeting," which Yancey has been asked to conduct at the town gambling hall, Yancey threatens to identify the editor's killer and is shot at by Lon. In self-defense, Yancey kills Lon, then dismisses his "flock," which includes Dixie Lee, a maligned prostitute whom Yancey had befriended during the land rush. A year later, after the birth of the Cravats' daughter Donna, Osage is besieged by an outlaw gang led by The Kid, an old cowboy friend of Yancey's. Although Yancey kills The Kid during a fierce gun battle, which also claims the life of the loyal Isaiah, he refuses to collect any reward for his deed and bemoans The Kid's downfall. In 1893, a new "Cherokee Strip" land rush is announced, and Yancey, who has never stayed in one place for more than five years, deserts the much-settled Sabra to participate in it. Helped and supported by expert printer Jesse Rickey and department store owner Sol Levy, Sabra, who knows nothing of Yancey's whereabouts, takes over the newspaper. Five years later, dressed in a "Rough Riders" uniform, Yancey returns to Osage just as Sabra and a group of "decent women" are about to try Dixie Lee as a "public nuisance." Yancey successfully defends the misunderstood Dixie in court, then convinces his less tolerant wife of Dixie's essential goodness. After Oklahoma obtains statehood in 1907 and the oil boom has brought prosperity to some of the Osage Indians, Yancey, who has been approached to participate in a political scheme to trick the Indians out of their wealth, writes a provocative editorial favoring citizenship for all American Indians. Despite the heated objections of Sabra, who has always loathed the Indians and who is repulsed by her son's romantic involvement with an Indian chief's daughter, Yancey publishes the editorial and then disappears. Many years later, after the fortieth anniversary of the newspaper's founding, Sabra is elected as Oklahoma's first Congresswoman. During a luncheon in her honor, a more tolerant Sabra speaks fondly of her Indian daughter-in-law and her long-lost husband. Just before she is to dedicate a statue honoring the Oklahoma pioneers, Sabra hears that a tramp called "Old Yance" has risked his own life to save many oil drillers from a deadly explosion. Sabra rushes to the accident site in time to embrace Yancey before his death, then discovers that the statue has been sculpted in his image. 

Production Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Production Text: A Wesley Ruggles Production
Distribution Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Director: Wesley Ruggles (Dir)
  Breezy Eason (2d unit dir)
  Doran Cox (Asst dir)
  F. D. Langton (Asst dir)
  Dewey Starkey (Asst dir)
Producer: William LeBaron (Prod)
  Louis Sarecky (Assoc prod)
Writer: Howard Estabrook (Scr version and dial)
  Louis Sarecky (Contr wrt)
Photography: Edward Cronjager (Photog)
  Joseph Biroc (Asst cam)
  Harry Wild (Asst cam)
  Nick Musuraca (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Fred Bentley (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Joe Novak (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Edward Pyle (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Pliny Goodfriend (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  H. Lyman Broening (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Ben White (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  John Thompson (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Ed Ullman (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Fred Mayer (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Rex Wimpy (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Frank Redman (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Jack Landrigan (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Robert Pittack (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Harry Jackson (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Joe Walters (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Edward Henderson (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  O. H. Borradaile (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Guy Bennett (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Joe LaShelle (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Roy Clark (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Elmer Dyer (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Ed Kull (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Linwood Dunn (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Bob DeGrasse (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Fred Hendrickson (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Otto Benninger (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Rex Curtis (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Mack Elliott (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Newton Hopcraft (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Neal Harbarger (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  James Daly (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Rod Tolmie (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  E. F. Adams (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Ed Kearns (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Les Shorr (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  George Diskant (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Emilio Calori (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Ted Hayes (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Jack Grout (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Frank Burgess (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Earl Metz (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Louis DeAngelis (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Harry Underwood (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  James King (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Lothrop Worth (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Ed Garvin (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Harry Kauffman (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Neal Beckner (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Al Smalley (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Paul Cable (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Bill Heckler (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Dean Dailey (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Maurice Kains (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  William J. Schuck (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Harold Wellman (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Willard Barth (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
  Russell Hoover (Cam crew--Land rush scenes)
Art Direction: Max Rée (Scenery and Costumes by)
  Sidney Ullman (Asst art dir)
Film Editor: William Hamilton (Film ed)
Sound: Clem Portman (Rec)
  Ralph Spotts (Asst rec)
Special Effects: Lloyd Knechtel (Spec eff)
Make Up: Ern Westmore (Makeup)
Production Misc: William Johnson (Chief elec)
  Judd Steven (Loc meals served by)
  Harold Hendee (Research)
  Gordon Jones (Trick rider)
  Bob Erickson (Trick rider)
  Ken Cooper (Trick rider)
  Hank Potts (Trick rider)
  Colonel Whitehorse (Trick rider)
  Bob Burns (Trick rider)
  Walt Robbins (Trick rider)
  "Shorty" Hall (Trick rider)
  Buff Jones (Trick rider)
  Charles Johnson (Trick rider)
  Whitey Sovern (Trick rider)
  Bud Pope (Trick rider)
  Rex Cole (Trick rider)
  Lee Cooper (Trick rider)
  Pete Janet (Trick rider)
  Fred Hendrickson (Still photog)
  Hyatt Daab (Gen press rep)
Country: United States
Language: English

Source Text: Based on the novel Cimarron by Edna Ferber (New York, 1930).
Authors: Edna Ferber

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. 31/12/1930 dd/mm/yyyy LP1930 Yes

Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: RCA Photophone System

Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Historical
Subjects (Major): Marriage
  United States--History--Reconstruction, 1865-1898
Subjects (Minor): African Americans
  Cherokee Indians
  Department store owners
  Family relationships
  Gambling houses
  Industrial accidents
  Land rushes
  Osage Indians
  Political corruption
  Rough Riders
  Spanish-American War, 1898
  United States. Congress. House of Representatives
  Wichita (KS)
  Women in politics
  Women reporters

Note: The following statement is included in the film's opening credits: "For certain descriptive passages in Cimarron Miss Ferber makes acknowledgement to Hands Up by Fred E. Sutton and A. B. MacDonald." Sutton and MacDonald's novel was published in New York in 1927. According to an Oct 1932 LAEx news item, the studio bid $125,000 for the rights to Ferber's novel. That amount, which was also paid by Universal for the rights to Strictly Dishonorable , also produced in 1931 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.4369), was the highest ever paid by motion picture companies for rights to literary properties, according to the news item. The picture's famous land rush scene, which required a week to film, was shot at Jasmin Quinn Ranch near Bakersfield, CA, according to studio production files. Publicity for the picture notes that 5,000 extras participated in that scene and forty-seven cameras were used to shoot it. An IP articles states that the land rush scene was shot by twenty-eight cameramen, six stillmen and twenty-seven assistants, to make a total camera crew of sixty-one, one of the largest group of cameramen ever assembled for one sequence. According to publicity, the Native Americans who appeared in the film were "made up white to appear coppery on the screen." Production files indicate that the film cost $1,434,800 to produce and went over budget by $354,114. Modern sources state that the picture lost $565,000 at the box office in its initial release. Some of this loss was recouped in a 1935 re-issue. The film had its premiere at the Globe Theater in New York, where the top ticket price was $2.00. Cimarron won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Adaptation and Best Art Direction. It was nominated for Best Direction, Best Actor (Richard Dix), Best Actress (Irene Dunne) and Best Cinematography. FDYB included the film in its "one of the year's ten best pictures" list.
       Modern sources add the following cast credits: Clara Hunt ( Indian girl ), Bob Kortman ( Killer ) and Dennis O'Keefe (who at that time was known as Bud Flanagan). William Janney is identified in the role of a "worker" by modern sources. In 1960 Anthony Mann directed Glenn Ford and Maria Schell in an M-G-M version of Ferber's novel (see below). 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
EHW   27 Dec 30   p. 20.
Film Daily   18 Jan 31   p. 10.
International Photographer   1 Dec 30   p. 28.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Dec 30   p. 1, 3
Motion Picture Herald   3 Jan 31   p. 71.
Motion Picture Herald   17 Jan 31   p. 58.
Motion Picture Herald   31 Jan 31   pp. 27-30.
New York Times   27 Jan 31   p. 20.
Variety   28 Jan 31   p. 14.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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