Cimarron (1931 film)

Cimarron (1931 film) poster.jpg
theatrical release poster
Directed byWesley Ruggles
Produced byWilliam LeBaron
Louis Sarecky (assoc.)[1]
Screenplay byHoward Estabrook
Louis Sarecky
Based onCimarron
1929 novel
by Edna Ferber
StarringRichard Dix
Irene Dunne
Music byMax Steiner
CinematographyEdward Cronjager
Edited byWilliam Hamilton
Distributed byRKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • January 26, 1931 (1931-01-26) (Premiere-New York City)[1]
  • February 9, 1931 (1931-02-09) (US)[1]
Running time
124 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Box office$1,383,000[2]

Cimarron is a 1931 Pre-Code Western film directed by Wesley Ruggles, starring Richard Dix and Irene Dunne, and featuring Estelle Taylor and Roscoe Ates. The Oscar-winning script was written by Howard Estabrook based on the Edna Ferber novel Cimarron. It would be RKO's most expensive production up to that date, and its winning of the top Oscar for Best Production would be only one of two ever won by that studio. It is also one of the few Westerns to ever win the top honor at the Academy Awards. Epic in scope, spanning forty years from 1889 to 1929, it was a critical success, although it did not recoup its production costs during its initial run in 1931.[3]


The Oklahoma land rush of 1889 prompts thousands to travel to the Oklahoma Territory to grab free government land; Yancey Cravat (Richard Dix), his young bride, Sabra (Irene Dunne) and their son, Cim, cross the border from Kansas to join the throngs. In the ensuing race, Yancey is outwitted by a young prostitute, Dixie Lee (Estelle Taylor), who takes the prime piece of real estate, the Bear Creek claim, that Yancey had targeted for himself.

His plans for establishing a ranch thwarted, Yancey moves into the town of Osage, a boomer town, where he confronts and kills Lon Yountis (Stanley Fields), an outlaw who had killed the prior publisher of the local newspaper. Having a background in publishing himself, Yancey establishes the Osage Wigwam, a weekly newspaper, to help turn the frontier camp into a respectable town. After the birth of their daughter, Donna, a gang of outlaws threatens Osage, led by "The Kid" (William Collier Jr.), who happens to be an old acquaintance of Yancey's. To save the town, Yancey faces and kills The Kid.

Beset by guilt over his killing of The Kid, when another land rush appears, Yancey leaves Sabra and his children to participate in settling the Cherokee Strip. After his departure, Sabra takes over the publication of the Osage Wigwam, and raises her children until Yancey returns five years later, just in time to represent Dixie Lee, who had been charged with being a public nuisance, and win her acquittal.

Osage continues to grow, as does the Territory of Oklahoma, which gains statehood in 1907 and benefits from the early oil boom of the 1900s, including the Native American tribes, that Yancey supports, through editorials in his newspaper, after which Yancey once again disappears from Osage for several years. At the time, Sabra is vehemently anti-Native American, despite her son's involvement with an Indian woman. Years later, when Sabra becomes the first female congresswoman from the state of Oklahoma, she lauds the virtues of her then Indian daughter-in-law.

Sabra and Yancey are reunited one final time when she rushes to his side after he has rescued numerous oil drillers from a devastating explosion. He dies in her arms.

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