Cimarron (1931)

 

 

 

Director:     .

Starring:     Richard Dix (Yancey Cravat), Irene Dunne (Sabra Cravat), Estelle Taylor (Dixie Lee), Nance O'Neil (Felice Venable), William Collier Jr. (The Kid), Roscoe Ates (Jesse Rickey), George E. Stone (Sol Levy), Stanley Fields (Lon Yountis), Robert McWade (Louis Hefner), Edna May Oliver (Mrs. Tracy Wyatt), Judith Barrett (Donna Cravat, as Nancy Dover), Eugene Jackson (Isaiah).

Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889

 

 

Spoiler Warning: 

"A nation rising  to greatness through the work of men and women; new country opening; raw land blossoming; crude towns growing into cities; territories becoming rich states.  In 1889, President Harrison opened the vast Indian Oklahoma lands for white settlement.  2,000,000 acres free for the taking, poor and rich pouring in, swarming the border, waiting for the starting gun, at noon, April 22nd."

At nearly the last moment, Yancey Cravat comes riding up on his horse.  A woman hears a lot of fuss around Yancey and she decides to mossy on over to be on the side of Yancey.  She strikes up a conversation with Yancey.  She says her name is Dixie Lee.  She then asks him if he's going for a town site?  Yancey answers:  "No, I'm going for a quarter-section ranch out at the Little Bear Creek."  She responds that this is funny because she too is headed out for Little Bear Creek. 

The cavalry fires off its rifles and the great Oklahoma Land Rush begins.   The guys riding horses take the lead.  Then comes those driving buggies and then those driving Conestoga wagons.  Dixie Lee keeps close behind Yancey.  Some of the wagons break down or the horses get separated from the wagons.  Some people are running, some people are walking.

Yancey gets close to his property that he wants.  He goes down a gulley and then back up.  Dixie Lee tries to do the same thing, but her horse stumbles and she and the horse crash into the bottom of the gulley.  Dixie yells for help and Yancey gets off his horse and goes down into the gulley to rescue the damsel.  Dixie says the horse has broken its legs.  She heard them snap as they crashed into the bottom of the gulley.  She tells Yancey to shoot the horse.  With one shot, Yancey kills the horse.  When he finishes the job, he looks around and sees Dixie riding into his choice of land.  She gets off the horse and jabs her white flag into the earth indicating this land belongs to her. 

Other people ride into the Osage Townsite and grab themselves some free land.  Others just keep on going. 

Back home and at dinner, Yancey tells the extended family that in the Oklahoma Land Rush by nightfall there wasn't an acre left of the two million free acres available.  That girl, Dixie Lee, got the quarter section that he wanted.  His mother-in-law, Mrs. Venable, scolds Yancey:  "Yancey Cravat, you let that hussy in black tights have your claim after having been gone a whole month, away from your wife and child!"  Her daughter tries to soothe her mother, but she won't have any of that.  She yells at the young black boy, Isaiah, to continue his fanning of the diners.  Isaiah lays on a platform suspended over the dining table and fans away.  Yancey, in his own defense, says that if Dixie had been a man, he could have shot him, but you can't shoot a woman.  Mother-in-law asks:  "Why not?"

Mrs. Venable tells Yancey that now he must be content to settle down here in Wichita, Kansas, and run his newspaper and practice law.  Yancey objects:  "Don't you realize that this is a new empire? . . .  History made in an hour."  He adds that he's going back to Oklahoma and this time he's taking his wife Sabra and his boy Cim.  He kisses his wife on the lips. 

Mrs. Venable says she won't permit it, but she can't stop the family from going on a new adventure.  Isaiah is so excited about going with the family to Oklahoma that he falls off the platform and lands on his rear-end, squashing the huge cake on the table.  He gets off the table, gets down on his knees before Yancey and starts begging Master Yancey to let him go with the family.  The black cook chases the boy out of the room.  Yancey laughs at all this.  Yancey grabs his boy and says he's off to buy two freighters to take their belongings to Oklahoma.

At the table, a Venable woman moans:  "Why a Venable should ever marry such a man, a buffalo hunter."  Mother confirms it with:  "Quite right!"  Cousin Hewitt chimes in, asking what is Cimarron, anyway?  Mother says it means "wild, unruly".  It was Yancey 's idea of a name for his son, Cim.  Mother keeps bashing Yancey until her daughter tells her:  "I won't listen to you any longer."

The Cravat family is now on the road to Oklahoma.  With their two Conestoga wagons they set up camp for the night.  Yancey pulls out a heavy rug to put down on the grass.  When he opens up the rug, he finds Isaiah in it.  Isaiah immediately starts begging Yancey and the family not to send him back.  He says he'll really work hard for them.  Yancey decides to let him stay.  The husband tells his wife:  "There's Loyalty, Sabra, that money can't buy."

The next night, husband and wife day dream about having a pretty little house in Oklahoma.  It will be their first real home.  All of a sudden, a group of outlaws come bounding down on the wagons.  Yancey puts his hands up in the air.  The gang leader holds a pistol to Yancey's back.  When the leader speaks, Yancey recognizes the voice.  He slowly turns around, while saying:  "This is the first time I ever fronted your iron, Kid."  The two men says howdy and shake each other's hand.  They start talking and Yancey says he and his family are headed for Osage.  The Kid is happy to hear about this, but say he has to hurry on because he's overdrawn at the bank at Red Fork.  Before the Kid rides off, Yancey asks him:  "Stay away from Osage, will you, Kid?"  The Kid says:  "Sure thing."

"The 'boomer town' of Osage  --  a population of 10,000 in six weeks."  The family from Wichita arrives in Osage.  The place is a bit wild and woolly.  The family sees a man kicked out of a saloon and then shot with a pistol.  Yancey says the Hispanic man is Esteban Miro, a half-breed and a bad hombre. 

For the night, the family stays at the Bixby Hotel.  The whole experience of the town has scared Sabra and she tells Yancey that she wants to go back to Wichita.  Yancey tells her to get a good night's rest and things will look better in the light of the morning. 

Yancey goes over to a saloon.  There he sees again Louis Hefner, one of the town 's leading merchants.  Then the bar tender calls Yancey over to the bar.  Yancey goes over and says hello.  On his right hand side is Esteban Miro and on his left is another tough guy, this one named Lon Yountis, who may have been the recent killer of the newspaper editor Paigler.  Yancey also meets a man who asks him for a job as a type setter.

Yancey and Sabra walk down the middle of the town street.  One of the tough guys associated with Yountis calls out to Yancey, but he calls him "Cim".   Sabra asks why did the man call Yancey "Cim"?  Yancey says some of the boys are probably up to no good.  They are the ones associated with the murder of Paigler.  Yountis shoots Yancey's white hat right off his head.  Yancey lowly calls the man "dirty scum" and retrieves his hat.  Yountis tells everyone around him to get inside the saloon.  They go inside.  All of a sudden, quick as lightning, Yancey pulls out his pistol and knicks the ear of bad man Yountis.  Yancey yells to him:  "Half-circle cut.  You'll find that's the Cravat brand."

Yancey and Sabra find a home, one big enough to house their printing press.  He puts up a sign for the newspaper:  Oklahoma Wigwam

Yountis and the boys start picking on the Jewish peddler.  They throw a rope around him and his donkey 's head.  They try to get the small man to drink, but he doesn't want one.  So they take the rope off him, but Sol starts to run away. They start shooting at his feet and he has to stop.  Yountis forces Sol to take a drink.  The bad man is enjoying his torturing another human being, that is, until Yancey shoots the whiskey bottle apart.  Yancey goes and rescues Sol.  He tells him to go on his way.  Now Yancey confronts Yountis.  He asks the jerk who killed Paigler?  Yountis tells Yancey to stick to his own lawn or the next shot will not be at the man's sombrero.  Yancey gives his reply:  a blood curdling Cherokee death cry.  The good man now walks away.  Esteban tells his buddy what that cry was and says it means it's either Yountis or Yancey. 

Sabra begs her husband to stop the search for the killers of Paigler.  She doesn't want to see him get killed too.  Yancey replies that he has to clean up the Paigler killing, or he, like Paigler, will be shot dead. 

Three upstanding citizens come to Yancey and ask him to preach for them next Sunday, seeing as how they have no minister as of yet.  Yancey is pleased to do some preaching.  He tells the men that there's only one place in town big enough for a temporary, part-time church and that's Grat Gotch's Hall of Chances.  In other words, it's the gambling saloon. 

Sunday morning the Cravat family goes to church.  Yountis is standing right outside the entrance to the tent saloon.  Sitting in the church, a Mrs. Tracy Wyatt introduces herself to Mrs. Cravat.  She says she was a school teacher back in Cairo, Illinois.  As she talks, the prostitutes come into the church in a group.  The madam is none other than Dixie Lee.  Tracy says those girls are from Red Fork. 

Yancey starts the service with the congregation singing a song they all know, even if it is a bit secular.  He then passes the hat around for people to put their contributions in for the fund to buy a church organ.  Then Yancey starts his sermon.  The first two sentences are from the Bible, but there it ends.  Yancey says he is going to announce the name of the dirty scum that killed Mr. Paigler.  Yountis gets ready with his pistol to shoot Yancey.  Yancey proceeds to say he was going to reveal the name in the opening edition of his Osage Wigwam newspaper, but he has decided to name the murderer in the church.  As he is about to say the name, Yountis fires his pistol at Yancey but misses him.  Yancey fires two shots into Yountis, killing him instantly. 

As Yancey starts to leave the church, Dixie Lee says hello to him.  He mentions the land was supposed to be his and she tells him that she couldn't keep the land.  A vigilance committee, spurred on by the women of the community, forced her to leave. 

Back home, Yancey puts a sixth notch on his gun. 

1890.  Yancey and Sabra have a new baby girl, named Donna.   Sabra tells her husband that she is going to start a women's club in Osage to make the town a better place for Donna to live in.  There will be no saloons and no women like Dixie Lee. 

The Kid's gang of outlaws is shooting up the town.  They are going after the bank.  The residents of Osage start to fire back at the outlaws.  Yancey puts on his guns and goes outside to return fire on the outlaws.  Sabra asks where is her boy Cim?  Isaiah says he'll go find Cim and before she realizes it, Sabra sees Isaiah making his way toward Cim.  One of the outlaws shoots Isaiah.  Yancey shoots two of the outlaws dead.  He then shoots the Kid, who gets up and tries to make it to his horse.  Yancey walks behind the Kid.  The Kid shoots Yancey in the arm and Yancey shoots the Kid off his horse. 

After that's all over, everyone comes out of hiding and praises the work of Yancey Cravat.  They tell him there's a lot of reward money for killing the Kid.  Yancey just walks back home.  Sabra says now all their dreams will come true.  They will be able to buy a new press and Donna can go back east for her education.  Yancey says no.  He will not take any of the money.  He did not kill the Kid for money.  He killed the Kid because one of his bullets could have killed one of the family.  A little after this, Sol brings the body of Isaiah into the living room. 

1893.  In the paper the people read that Cherokee Strip is opening and they expect there will be more people attending this Oklahoma Land Rush than the first one, of 1889.  Someone in the crowd says they will be adding six million acres of land to "our" two.  President Grover Cleveland is expected to sign the proclamation soon. 

The townspeople ask Yancey it he's going on the coming land rush?  He says he has too much work to do.  Most of the guys just scoff at him. 

When Yancey sees Sabra again he tells her that he wants them to go on the coming land rush.  Sabra does not like the idea at all.  She doesn't want to start all over with still a new adventure.  Yancey usually can't stand a place after five years, and now it's been four years that they have been in Osage.  It must be moving on  time for Yancey.  Sabra says no, no, and then says let's not talk about it anymore.  Even so, it looks like Yancey can't stop himself from going.  The land rushers gather outside Yancey's house.  They want him to go with them.  Sabra again tells him she and the kids are not going.  So Yancey just says he will be back for them and takes off.  The man is just like an over-excited little boy. 

"Five years  --  no word from Yancey.  The Cherokee Run became history --  the nation thrilled at the Spanish-American War."

September 23, 1898.  Spain and the United States now confer on peace.  Cuban independence pledge by the U.S. -Philippine settlement under discussion. Demobilization continues.

Sabra is now the editor of the Osage Wigwam.  And Sol has a department store in Osage now. 

And now Yancey comes back to Osage.  He receives a  hero's welcome from the city residents.  He talks to the people for awhile, but then goes into see his family.  Yancey and Sabra hug and kiss each other.  He now talks to the children for awhile.  He then tells Sabra how much he missed her. 

Yancey gets upset when he learns that Dixie Lee is on trial and it looks like she's going to jail.  He talks to Sabra in private.  She explains that Dixie Lee is charged with being a public nuisance.  Yancey asks who's the defense attorney?  No one, since no one "decent" would take Dixie Lee's side.  But they hadn't figured on Yancey.  He will be Dixie Lee's defense attorney.  Sabra is upset with Yancey saying that he will make her a laughingstock of the community. 

In the trial, Yancey explains the unfortunate circumstances that brought Dixie Lee from being a young woman from a wealthy home down to a situation where she was helpless.  He then calls the defendant to the stand.  Her parents died when she was only 15 leaving her without anything.  She worked in the public library awhile, until she married a man whom she soon discovered had a wife and children already.  She never saw the man again.  And then her baby died.  She got a job as a schoolteacher.  Someone found out about her past and Dixie was forced to leave the job and the town.  This type of thing then kept happening to her over and over again. 

Yancey gives an impassioned plea to free Dixie Lee and let her go.  She has suffered enough injustice.  The jury finds Dixie Lee not guilty. 

Sabra is still angry with Yancey.  She says he has undone all the things she worked so hard to accomplish in the town.  Yancey says:  "My only interest in Dixie Lee was to see that she got one less kick."  This now starts to soften Sabra's hardened heart and she reconciles with her husband. 

"By President Roosevelt's signature, the territory becomes the State of Oklahoma."

Oil. 

1907.  Cars are starting  to replace horses as a means of transportation.  In the newspaper is news that new gushers have been found on the Osage Reservation.  Bear Creek Pool is said to be the largest such yet struck. 

Donna is very spoiled.  She berates her mother for making a home-made dress for her.  She doesn't want the girls in the east to see her in such rags.  Sabra also has troubles with her son.  He grew up with an Indian girl named Ruby and now he wants to be with her all the time.  His going out with an Indian girl upsets Sabra.  Cim says that Ruby is the daughter of an Osage chief.  He follows this up with a statement that as soon as he is on his own, he is going to marry Ruby.  He then adds that dad already knows about this and it's alright with him. 

An influential citizen of Osage tells Yancey that he could throw enough votes his way so that Yancey could be elected governor.  And with Yancey in the governorship, they could fix things so that everyone could make some real money.  The rich man wants to take the oil rights of the Osage Indians away from them.  Yancey is offended by the man's brazen wickedness.  He makes it clear, he won't play ball with Pat Leary.  Leary gets angry and says he will ruin any chance Yancey may have of getting to be the governor of Oklahoma. 

Yancey goes into see his wife and tells her that the editorial he is writing condemns the new attempts to steal the oil away from the Osage Indians.  He also pushes for citizenship for all Indians so they can have the right to vote in their own country.  Sabra is very against these ideas saying that the white people will turn against Yancey. 

"With the fading glory of the pioneering days, Yancey, again stirred by wanderlust, had ridden away to newer fields, while Sabra carried on her work, alone."

1929.  It's the 40th Anniversary of the newspaper Osage Wigwam.  Sabra has not received any news about Yancey for quite some time now.  Her printer, Ricky, asks he if she has thought about which editorial she will choose for the 40th Anniversary?  Yes, she has.  She is going to reprint the editorial about the need for Indian citizenship from the 1907 file.  Yancey got a lot of praise for that editorial.  People started calling him the nation's leading editor.  Sabra adds that since then Congress has granted all that Yancey asked for.   

An invitation carries the following words:  "The Oklahoma Progressive State Committee requests the pleasure of your company at  a luncheon in honor of the Honorable Mrs. Sabra Cravat, Member of Congress, on the fourteenth of November Nineteen hundred and thirty."

Sabra is the guest of honor at the dinner.  She makes a nice little speech without any politics in it.  The only thing that makes Sabra sad about the evening is the continued absence of her husband. 

Mrs. Cravat is given a tour of the new oil facilities at Bowlegs. While she is there, an accident occurs and an old man saves the lives of several men by taking the brunt of an explosion.  Everyone wants to know the name of the hero.  The fellow says that the guys call him Old Yance.  Sabra thinks this must be here husband Yancey.  She runs to the accident site.  She gets right down in the mud to lift Yancey's head up.  He says a few complimentary words to her and then dies in her arms.  Sabra starts crying. 

There is an unveiling of a monument to commemorate the Oklahoma Pioneers.  The figure atop the tall monument is none other than Yancey Cravat himself. 

 

 

The novelist Edna Ferber modeled her main character of Yancey Cravat on Temple Lea Houston (1860-1905) in her novel Cimarron (1929).  Temple was the last-born child of Margaret Lea Houston and Sam Houston.  Temple was a well-known defense lawyer with a great flair for courtroom dramatics. He lived mostly in Texas, but in 1894 Houston moved his family to the cattle town of Woodward in the Oklahoma Territory. Wikipedia says:  "Cimarron derives its name from the Cimarron Territory. The Cimarron Territory was an unrecognized name for the No Man's Land, an unsettled area of the West and Midwest, especially lands once inhabited by Native American tribes such as the Cherokee and Sioux. In 1886 the government declared such lands open to settlement. "

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 

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