Cimarron Chronicles: A Land Rush Through the Eyes of Art Direction

Before delving into the brass tacks of “Cimarron,” it’s essential to express a few personal reflections. The rapid shift from silent films to synchronized talkies in just over a year is nothing short of awe-inspiring. It’s a testament to human ingenuity. Secondly, despite the film’s troubling portrayals of marginalized groups, it surprisingly emerges as a captivating piece of cinema history, with moments that left me laughing out loud. Lastly, I can’t help but believe that Yancey Cravat served as the blueprint for Elvis Presley’s persona, from the wavy locks to the cocky demeanor.

Now, to the artistic assessment. Max Rée’s creation of the 1889 Indian Oklahoma Lands is a world I would have enjoyed living in if it weren’t for the glaring prejudices and injustices depicted. The film brims with energy, much credit to cinematographer Edward Cronjager. The scenic design, a colossal undertaking for its time, merits top marks for believability. The land rush scenes whisk viewers into the excitement of claiming territory that wasn’t rightfully theirs. Director Wesley Ruggles wisely uses static aerial views to mark the passing years in Osage’s main market street.

What stands out most is the attention to detail. Hand-painted signs, battered barrels, and canvas tents fill the scenes, creating a vibrant and layered world. The transformation of the Carvats’ family home mirrors the town’s evolution, capturing the spirit of carving success in an uncharted landscape. The film’s rich, nuanced visuals, even in silence, convey its essential themes.

The Douglas DC2, prominently featured in the film, is a stunning example of the early days of commercial aviation. This sleek classic transport, rented from American Airlines, provided an exquisite backdrop against the rugged mountain landscapes. The plane’s interior, meticulously recreated on a soundstage, exudes luxury, riveted leather, and warm wood paneling, making it a highlight of the film’s set design. Even the intricacies of the cash register at Grat Gotch’s Hall of Chance add a layer of authenticity and delight to the scenes.

While “Cimarron” may have its shortcomings, particularly in its portrayal of marginalized groups, it excels in its scenic design. The film transports viewers to a bygone era, capturing the energy and excitement of a land rush, and providing a meticulously detailed world. For these reasons, “Cimarron” certainly earns its place as a captivating piece of cinema history, despite the blemishes. In our exploration of its scenic elements, it secures a solid seven out of ten scenic fitches.

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