Sunday, June 01, 2008

Movie review: Cimarron

This was an interesting movie. Newspaper editor, attorney and congenital wanderer Yancey Cravat arrives at the opening of the Oklahoma territory to stake his claim. Things don't quite work out the way he wanted, but eventually he returns to Kansas to pick up his wife, Sabra (Irene Dunn), and son Cim(arron) and move them to Oklahoma and a new life.

Sabra goes West with her husband, against the strong protests of her genteel Kansas society family, and braves the open trail and hostilities of the wild west town of Osage. Her major issue is her complete lack of tolerance for Native Americans, considering them less than human. Her husband's crusade to give them the same rights as white people infuriates her, even as she enjoys the luxuries that his increasingly popular paper and law practice can buy.

At first, I would have pegged Sabra as the antihero in this movie. She's intolerant, spoiled, and raises a spoiled brat daughter along with little Cim, who seems to inherit his father's racial open-mindedness. But an interesting thing happened:

Sabra grew within the movie. She grew up, out of her prejudices and need to sport the latest fashion. As she did, Yancey, for all his political influence, high moral ideals and education, is still very much a child. He lets his wanderlust break apart their family time and again, until finally Sabra is left holding up the newspaper, her family and even the fight for Native American rights.

I was considerably more impressed with this movie than I expected to be, although I honestly felt that the Native Americans whose suffrage was so important to both characters were underrepresented, and the one black character, a young boy named Isaiah, was so pitifully ignorantly written as to be an insult. He did, however, show himself to be extremely noble.

At any rate, it's a take-it-or-leave-it movie, and not in my top 100, but I'm not sorry I saw it.

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