Director: Anthony Mann, Charles Walters (uncredited)
Starring: Glenn Ford (Yancey 'Cimarron' Cravat), Maria Schell (Sabra Cravat), Anne Baxter (Dixie Lee), Arthur O'Connell (Tom Wyatt), Russ Tamblyn (William Hardy / The Cherokee Kid), Mercedes McCambridge (Mrs. Sarah Wyatt), Vic Morrow (Wes Jennings), Robert Keith (Sam Pegler), Charles McGraw (Bob Yountis), Harry Morgan (Jessie Rickey), David Opatoshu (Sol Levy), Aline MacMahon (Mrs. Mavis Pegler), Lili Darvas (Felicia Venable), Edgar Buchanan (Judge Neal Hefner), Mary Wickes (Mrs. Neal Hefner).
Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889
"At high noon April 22, 1889 a section of the last unsettled territories in America was to be given free to the first people who claimed it. They came from the north and they came from the south and they came from across the sea. In just one day an entire territory would be settled. A new state would be born. They called it Oklahoma." Oklahoma in Choctaw means "red people".
Sabra Cravat tries to tell her mother that she has to go with her husband and he's going to Oklahoma. Mother asks what's a lawyer going to do on a homestead?
Yancy is talking to the servants about how great Oklahoma is going to be. He says: "I tell you, there's never been anything like it in the history of the world. Imagine a whole territory settled in one afternoon. Whole cities springing up in one hour." Sabra comes into the kitchen and smiles at her husband's enthusiasm for the new land. She gives him a big hug.
There are two Conestoga wagons heading out for Oklahoma. Yancey drives the lead wagon, while Sabra follows in the second wagon.
At night they camp out. The next morning Sabra takes a bath in a pond. And up rides a group of three outlaws. They watch Sabra for awhile and then swoop down on her firing off their pistols as they go. They stop at the pond and taunt Sabra. That is, they do so until a shot whizzes by them. Yancey comes walking up to them with a rifle in his hands. When the gang leader sees Yancey's face, he recognizes the man with the rifle as his good friend "Cim". Then Cim recognizes the leader, known as William Hardy or The Cherokee Kid. Cim also knows the boys riding with The Cherokee Kid. Everyone shakes hands.
Cim tells Sabra that the boys are going to have breakfast with them, but Sabra is still fuming mad at the wild boys. She doesn't want to fix them breakfast or eat with them. So The Cherokee Kid, with his back to Sabra, apologizes for his and his men's behavior. Then he starts telling her stories about him and Cim and how he as a young boy followed Cim everywhere he went. Then the leader and his men jump on their horse and head out without any breakfast.
The Cravats continue on their way. They run into a man named Tom Wyatt. He and his family have been pulling a hand cart filled with their supplies all the way from Missouri, heading for Oklahoma. Cim tells Tom that he and his family can ride with them to the land rush. Then Cim and Sabra see the wife and eight kids come running up and down a ridge top. Tom Wyatt now drives the second wagon.
The two families arrive at the starting area for the land rush. When Cim arrives a number of old friends come over to greet him. He asks one of the men, Ike, if he's seen Sam Pegler? Ike replies: "There's 10,000 people down there and he's one of them."
Sabra is amazed that so many people know her husband. But she is not pleased, when a buggy full of prostitutes also know Cim. They shout hello to him. Cim tells his wife he will explain how he knows the ladies sometime later.
Cim finds Sam Pegler's wagon. Pegler is a newspaperman and his paper was known as The Texas Wigwam, but now Pegler has crossed out the Texas part of the name and substituted it with the word Oklahoma. So from now on, it's The Oklahoma Wigwam. Sam wants to help an Indian and his wife and baby as they are being harassed by some cowboys, but his wife tells him to stay out of it. The cowboys pull over the wagon with the use of their ropes. Pegler tries to intervene, but he is pushed down by one of the ruffians. Cim now intervenes. He beats up one of the cowboys and then forces another cowboy's hand in between some spokes of a wheel and threatens to break the man's arm.
At this moment the cavalry arrives and stops the fight. They look at the Indian's papers and then the officer tells the people that the Indians have just as much right as anyone to be here. He disperses the crowd. The man who almost got his arm broken is Bob Yountis. He comes over to Pegler and tells him: "You try to run that newspaper of yours up here the same way you did down in Texas, you're gonna get buried here." He takes his friend Millis and leaves.
Cim introduces his wife to Pegler, who then calls over his own wife Mavis to meet Sabra. With Pegler also is Jess Rickey, a printer. Cim introduces Sabra to Jess. Now the group, along with the peddler Sol Levy, helps the Indian and his wife push the wagon back upright.
At night around the camp fire, Sam teases Cim about his having had so many different careers. Cim has been a gambler, a gunman and a lawyer. And now he wants to be a farmer/rancher. Sam gives him two months and Cim will be wanting to move on to something else. Cim says no he won't. He says he's really settling down this time.
Cim goes to get something, and Sam and Mavis tell her that they kind of raised Cim. And they were wondering if Sabra could mention to her husband the possibility of him gradually taking over The Oklahoma Wigwam from them. Sabra likes the idea. Cim overhears the conversation and he comes over to Sam and tells him that he doesn't like the newspaper business. He doesn't like having to be a constant crusader for various idea or causes.
Everybody is getting ready for the race. Tom Wyatt buys his way onto a faster wagon. He says he will find his family later. Dixie Lee comes over on horseback to see Cim. She tells Cim that she already knows the land that she wants.
The officer is about to drop the handkerchief . He drops it and the cavalry men fire off their rifles into the air. Everybody starts going. The men riding horseback leave the others behind. Dixie Lee keeps behind Cim. Poor Tom gets pushed off the wagon by two men.
A lot of men are thrown from their horses and lots of wagons break down. The Indian who was being harassed by some white men has a rope thrown around him and he is pulled off his wagon and dragged along the ground for while. Sam Pegler's wagon turns over on its side. On the ground, Sam is run over by another wagon.
Dixie Lee is still right behind Cim, but Cim and his horse make a jump over the gully near the property he wants. She yells out for Yancey to save her. Cim goes to look for Dixie Lee, and when he finds her, he sees her just finishing planting her white flag in the ground that Cim wanted. Cim starts to walk over to her, but she tells him not to come near her because she would as soon put a bullet in Cim as not. Cim laughs about the whole thing and then takes off on his horse.
Yancey returns to his wife and their wagon. Behind her is Sol Levy, the peddler, and then the printer, Jessie Rickey. Sabra asks Yancey what about their land? Yancey says he got to thinking that they are not really farmers, so why would they want any farm land? Then he hurries away to talk to the other men.
As the convoy of three Conestoga wagons rolls on, they come upon Sam and Mavis on the ground near their turned-over wagon. Yancey digs the grave for Sam's body. Mavis says over the grave that she is already lonesome without him.
Now people are coming in to register their land claims. Cim asks Jessie Rickey to stay and work with him on The Oklahoma Wigwam. Jessie agrees to that. Mavis is grateful that Cim will be taking over the newspaper. That's what she and Sam wanted all along. Mavis herself decides to go back home. She turns her wagon around and heads back.
Yancey decides to attend to some business. Sabra thinks this mean trouble and she begs him not to go. He tells her: "Honey, there's some things in this country a man has to do a woman just doesn't understand." She says she's afraid of what will happen to her, if something happens to him. So, Yancey gets off his horse and stays with Sabra.
Cim and Sabra settle down in an Oklahoma town under construction to be called Osage. The town has some bad guys in it. The Cherokee Kid and his crowd are here and so is Bob Yountis. The Kid says he can shoot the bottle out of one of his men's hand. Yountis says he has $50 dollars that the Kid won't make the shot. And Yountis will pick the man who will stand straight up with one bottle in each outstretched hand. He says: "Just one thing. I don't see any point in killing a white man." So, he goes over to the Jewish Sol Levy and grabs him. He then socks him. Sol tries to fight back but Yountis is too strong for him.
Sabra is behind Sol and the drunken Kid's shots could hit her. The Kid fires twice and the two bottles are broken. Sabra runs over to Sol. She is really upset and tells the Cherokee Kid off once again. Cim comes out of the newspaper office. He confronts Yountis asking if Yountis is the one who did the shooting? Yountis says no, but tells Cim not to let that stop him. The Kid admits that it was he who did the shooting. Yountis leaves and Cim grabs the Kid and pulls him into a building still under construction. He balls The Kid out, but offers him different options. He can work with Cim on the newspaper or Cim can send The Cherokee Kid back east to go to school. Cim says he promised The Kid 's father he would watch out for him. And that means that Cim doesn't want to ever see The Kid with that no-good crowd of his. But if The Kid wants to throw away his life, no one is going to care.
The Kid tells Cim repeatedly not to have any faith in him, please. He then calls out to his friends, laughs, says goodbye to Cim and runs back to his crowd.
The Indian woman whose husband was being harassed and hurt by Yountis and his gang speaks to Cim outside the newspaper office. Cim tells his wife to keep his supper warm because he has to go out. He grabs his rifle off the rack and heads out.
Yountis and his boys are at it it again. They have a noose around the Indian's head. And they have set afire everything that the Indian owns. Now they hang the Indian. Yancey arrives a little too late. He goes to take the Indian down, but Yountis pulls his gun and tells Yancey he better not try to let the Indian down. He says the Indian stole one of his horses. Yancey yanks at the hanging rope tie and then whirls around like a demon and fires on Yountis, who falls into the fire of the burning Indian teepee. Yountis gets up to try to shoot Yancey, but Yancey shoots him again. And this time Yountis will be staying down.
While Yancey is away, Sabra starts the birthing process. Mrs. Wyatt gives Sabra some whiskey to relax her. They start laughing. Jessie, Sol and Tom wonder what the heck the women are laughing about.
Yancey comes home with the Indian wife and her baby. The guys motion for him to go into his bedroom. Yancey goes in and finds he is father.
Yancey watches as Tom drills for oil on his property.
There is now a $1,000 dollar reward for providing information that leads to the arrest or death of The Cherokee Kid. Yancey still has a soft spot for the young outlaw. And he feels a bit guilty for not taking the time to help The Kid when he was a youngster.
The Kid doesn't want to go into Osage because Yancey is there. But his gang member Wes Jennings keeps whining about not going into Osage. Wes is about to leave the gang, when The Kid relents and says they will rob the train going to Osage.
Dixie Lee comes into town. She goes into the newspaper office and tells Yancey that she needs a lawyer. Yancey says he's not much of a lawyer anymore. Dixie says she doesn't need much of a lawyer. She then tells him that she just wants Yancey to draw up some papers so she can sell her farm. Yancey says he can do that. She tells him to bring the finished papers to her when he has finished drawing up the papers from the information she had written down for him.
When Dixie Lee leaves, Sabra says that Dixie Lee has quite the nerve to ask for papers to be drawn up on land that should have been theirs in the first place. She is interrupted by gunfire and someone coming running into the office to say that they have The Cherokee Kid surrounded down at the railway depot. Their little boy Cim is about to be run over by a horse dragging a dead gang member down the street, but Yancey saves the day by dashing out and grabbing the boy in the nick of time.
The Kid and Wes now run to the Osage School House to make a last stand there. The school is in session and it's unlikely that the town residents would fire into the school house with the children and teacher inside.
Yancey decides to walk over to the school and talk with The Kid. Wes tells Yancey to drop his rifle on the ground or else. Yancey drops the rifle. Now Wes tells Yancey to get their horses over here. Wes yells for Sol to bring their two horse over to him. Sol does so. Wes tells Yancey to bring the horses close to the school. He then grabs a kid to use as a shield. He says he's getting out of here. The Kid tells Wes he isn't going anywhere with a child and grabs the kid away from Wes. Wes then shoots The Kid in the mid-section and The Kid falls to the floor. Meanwhile, Yancey jumps on Wes, knocking the gun from his hand. They fight for possession of the weapon.
Wes gets the gun, but Yancey grabs The Kid's gun. Both men fire their weapons, but Yancey's bullet hits its target, killing the bad guy Wes. Yancey yells for the kids to get out of the school house. They run out with their teacher. Now Yancey wants to say something to The Kid. The Kid tells him first that: "I told you not to have faith in me, didn't I?" The Kid dies.
The bodies of the three dead outlaws are put in nice suits, tied to three separate boards and their bodies are displayed in the picture windows of Johnson's Furniture Store.
Yancey is a hero in the town now and everybody and the newspaper men want to talk to him. But Yancey stays in his own bedroom. Sabra brings him three checks -- the reward money. Yancey takes the checks and tears them up. He says: "I don't take money for killing a man." Sabra is mad at him for throwing the money away -- money that could have given little Cim some security for once. Yancey is shocked at this statement and he asks Sabra: "You'd give our boy security by killing another man's son?" She says why can't her husband be practical just for once? She tells him that that was Cim's money he tore up.
Yancey tells Sabra maybe they just see things differently. He also says: "I don't know, maybe . . . Maybe you picked yourself the wrong man." Sabra asks him if she's the wrong woman? Yancey replies: "I can't please you." He goes into the other room to tell Cim goodbye. He tells him to obey his mother.
Yancey goes out to see Dixie Lee. He brings out her papers to her. He talks about his problems and his dissatisfactions. Dixie Lee kisses Yancey, but he gradually pushes her away from him.
Outside Dixie Lee tells Yancey she knows he has the itch to move on. After all, Yancey left her and now he's going to get rid of Sabra. Yancey replies that maybe she doesn't know him as well as she thinks.
Yancey and the family see the little Indian girl Ruby go to the Osage school on her very first day of school. The little girl goes into the school, but soon comes back. She tells Yancey: "They don't want me."
Yancey is turned down on his attempt to get the little Indian girl into the school. The head of the school board threatens that if Yancey writes about this rejection he and many others will pull their advertising from Yancey's newspaper.
The news is that President Grover Cleveland has proclaimed the opening of the Cherokee strip as of September 16. The number of acres is 6 million. Yancey wants to go. His wife wants to stay. Sabra thinks she has settled the issue, but she is underestimating her husband.
The men come for Yancey. Yancey rides out with them to participate in the Cherokee Strip Land Run. Little Cim says: "I want to go with my daddy!" He stays back with Sabra.
Sol lends some money to Sabra to start a business.
Yancey sends a polar bear rug to his son Cim from Alaska. Mother looks for a letter from her husband, but there is no letter. She is very disappointed.
Yancey has been away for some five years. Dixie moves into Osage. She has opened a place called Dixie's Social Club. Sabra sees her and decides to go and ask Dixie if she has heard from Yancey. She goes right up to the Social Club. Dixie lets her in. Dixie gives Sabra a hard time, but she does tell her that her husband joined the Rough Riders and now is in Cuba fighting in the Spanish-American War. Then Dixie tells her that Yancey didn't write her. His buddy Matt did. They talk some more. Sabra now warms a bit to Dixie Lee because of the amount of information the woman gave her.
Osage is ready to welcome back "Osage's own Rough Rider", Yancey Cravat, hero of San Juan Hill. The train comes in, but Yancey doesn't appear to be on the train.
Sabra waits for Yancey back home. She says she's going to give him a real piece of her mind when she sees him. Jesse comes back to tell Sabra that Yancey wasn't on the train. Sabra cries. Sol and Jessie leave the newspaper office. As she continues to cry, Yancey shows up. They hug and kiss.
Yancey apologizes to his son for being a neglectful father. Cim gives his dad a hug.
Tom Wyatt shows up yelling that he discovered oil on his property. And oil money transforms Osage. There are street cars on the streets and automobiles too. Even Yancey drives a car now.
One day Yancey comes running up to an upper class shindig and tells the people that the Indians have discovered oil on their reservation. Yancey delights in showing up the snooty upper class of Osage. But Tom Wyatt soon deflates his bubble. He laughs and says that he owns every drop of oil on the reservation. Tom is delighted by the news and tells Yancey to come have some champagne with him to celebrate his new oil fields. Yancey doesn't think that's something to celebrate and he turns down Tom's offer.
Yancey is so mad that he writes on the front page of his newspaper: "Wyatt Swindles Indians: Expose of Illicit Deals Involving Indian Oil Lands". Sabra and Jessie are extremely shocked by the headline and story, but Cim sides with his father. Yancey says he's going to get Wyatt out of the Indian oil fields and make those Indians millionaires. The story is picked up by almost all the newspapers in the United States through the Associated Press. Wyatt is very upset over this turn of events. He plans to fight back.
Indians come into Osage flashing their new clothes and cars to flaunt their new found wealth.
Meanwhile, Washington wants Yancey to come up and talk to them about becoming Governor of the Oklahoma Territory. Yancey is not sure about the offer. He says he doesn't get along with politicians.
Sabra finds Cim and Ruby, the now grown up Indian girl, acting like boyfriend and girlfriend. Sabra gets all upset saying that the women's club is coming over to their house and Cim is out here. She doesn't like Indians. She's saying that Cim is going to embarrass her by being with an Indian girl. Cim defends Ruby and her mother saying that today is a big festival day for the local Indians and Ruby's mother told her about that ahead of time. Ruby's mother grabs her daughter's arm and escorts her to the car where other Indians are waiting for them. Sabra now gets really furious at them. Cim reminds her that she told them they could go to the festival. She is completely unreasonable (but not by racist standards). She threatens Cim saying that she will throw Ruby out of their house if he can't stay away from the girl.
Sabra goes into her house all upset. There she sees that Ruby and her mother arranged for two Indian women to serve the white club women. Then when her first group of women come to the house, she sees Cim leave with Ruby.
Sabra wakes up Yancey at 3 in the morning. She wants him to go out and find Cim because he hasn't returned from the big festival yet. Yancey doesn't care if Cim is with the Indians. He refuses to go looking for Cim. Sabra, however, doesn't give up. She pleads with her husband to go. So, now Yancey brings out the telegraph that came from Washington. He knows this will take Sabra's mind off her boy. He holds it up before his face so she can see it. His scheme works.
Yancey and Sabra are in a fine Washington hotel. They find that they have been invited to the party, the Congressional New Year's Eve party. The two seem happier together now then before and Yancey says he's going to treat her better in the New Year as a reward for putting up with him for so many years.
Now Yancey goes upstairs to talk with a political bigwig, Lou Brothers. Lou introduces Yancey to some other bigwigs. But then the party is spoiled when Tom Wyatt comes into the room. Yancey smells something fishy about the whole set up. Tom says Yancey can be governor and, in return, Yancey will cooperate with Tom and his friends. Yancey doesn't act happy or angry. He just tells Tom that "we'll see".
Tom goes to the big party with Sabra. Sabra is ecstatic, which show she's very different from her husband.
While the couple dance, Sabra says how ecstatic she is about her husband becoming the governor. Finally, Yancey takes her aside and tells that he just can't do it. Sabra is very disappointed and angry. She gives Yancey an ultimatum of sorts. He either become the governor or she's through with him. She then tells him to go away and leave her alone, forever.
Years later. Sol is now the owner of a huge department store in Osage. Sabra wants to build an eight story office complex to run the Oklahoma Wigwam. Sol doesn't like Sabra's idea, but he goes ahead and loans her the money anyway -- some $200,000 dollars.
Sabra has the Wyatt's over to her house for dinner. Maybe her husband couldn't stand Tom Wyatt, but Sabra certainly can play ball with the wealthy man.
After the Wyatts leave, Cim and Ruby arrive. Sabra gives Cim a hard time. So Cim just comes right out and tells her that Ruby and he got married. And he has gotten a job in Oregon and they are leaving tonight. He then says they wanted to say goodbye to her. Sabra says: "You needn't have bothered. You go, you go, there's nothing to talk about." She walks away from her son. Cim goes over to get Ruby to leave. Sabra is now all alone without family.
It is the 40th Anniversary of the Oklahoma Wigwam. Tom Wyatt introduces the famous sculptor Jacob Krubechoff to Sabra. Tom and Sol say they want to honor the Oklahoma pioneers and they would like to have Sabra pose for the memorial statue as someone who embodies the great character of the Oklahoma pioneers.
For once, Sabra is deservedly humble. She says that both her husband and her son had to run away from her to be free. Neither of them will even write her a letter. No, that is not the person they want to honor as an Oklahoma pioneer. Jessie comes in asking if Sabra has chosen the anniversary editorial she will run for the anniversary issue. She has not decided. Tom says they can all go out and have a cup of coffee and talk. Sabra doesn't want to go, but they sort of force her into it.
When they go downstairs there is a surprise party for Sabra. And even Cim and Ruby are there. And now Sabra gets to meet her two grandchildren. Sabra now goes to the head of the tables. She sits next to Mrs. Mavis Pegler from so many years ago. They ask Sabra to give a speech. She is gracious enough to acknowledge that it was her husband that was the true embodiment of the real spirit of the pioneers. She admits that she drudged along with her husband and clung on to what he created. The speech is suddenly interrupted with the news that war has broken out in Europe. It's World War I.
After 11 years with no communication, Yancey finally writes Sabra a letter. The problem is that the death telegram reached Sabra before Yancey's letter reached her.
Sabra thinks about some of the highlights of her life with Yancey.
The sculptor finished the memorial sculpture with Yancey as the model for the pioneer.
The 1931 version of Cimarron and the 1960 version are very much alike. But there are many small changes introduced into the 1960 movie to make it not just a copy of the 1931 film. One modification is that the 1960 is more forthright in bringing out Sabra's racist attitude toward the Indians, while Yancey felt he always had to protect them. And the split between the couple is dealt with more openly. The moral difference between husband and wife are more clearly delineated with Sabra being the worst of the two. The acting was okay. I didn't care all that much for the two movies because the husband was constantly leaving his family behind because of his wanderlust and the wife was a racist and a bit of a snob. It's hard to root for characters like these.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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