Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.
USA, 1931. RKO Radio Pictures. Screenplay by Howard Estabrook, based on the novel by Edna Ferber. Cinematography by Edward Cronjager. Produced by William LeBaron, Wesley Ruggles. Music by Max Steiner. Production Design by Max Ree. Costume Design by Max Ree. Film Editing by William Hamilton.
Richard Dix brings his wife Irene Dunne and their young son to the newly opened Oklahoma territory in the late nineteenth century, his heart in search of adventure and his restless spirit constantly ready to wander. She endures forty years of waiting patiently at home, running his newspaper and eventually entering politics while raising their children as he follows his heart and goes elsewhere, which oddly the story does not indulge in and instead focuses on her life between his visits. Dunne has yet to reach the height of her powers as a dramatic actor at this point but it is still impressive to see how much command she has of the screen, but as with all movies from the early years of sound, the dialogue is stiff and the movement stilted, while the plot adapted from the novel by Edna Ferber plays out in a manner that is never particularly engaging. You can feel the grand themes that are common in the author’s work brewing here, particularly the attempt to demythologize the wild west. In this story it’s a place where adventurers were useless and impractical and the diligent and boring hard workers were the ones who created the nation, and in doing so created the corrupt business and politics that would in turn make for a country built on corporate greed. Such headiness is not actually felt here, for the production is not nearly sophisticated to handle such topics in any form better than as bland soap opera.
Academy Awards: Best Picture; Best Writing Adaptation; Best Art Direction
Nominations: Best Actor (Richard Dix); Best Actress (Irene Dunne); Best Director (Wesley Ruggles); Best Cinematography;