Yancey stands tall in the saddle, his Sauron-like eyes ceaselessly looking for the next adventure, the next defining moment in time. You could say that he likes extreme sports and back then, the extreme sport of choice was nationbuilding. To hear Cimarron tell it, the reason I’m sittin’ here in Oklahoma City was on account of Yancey and what he done.
He knows all the other nation builders. When he brings his family to the rough and tumble newly born town of Osage, his wife is scared stiff. He calms her. Marveling at the boomtown:
“Ah it’s a poser honey. All this in six weeks right up from the raw prairie.”
There’s a shot from the saloon and a proclamation: “Next time you come here, Chief, you go through the roof!”
“He shot him!” she cries!
[Humming cavalierly] "Esteban Miro, a half breed and a bad one." Yancey explains, "I didn’t think he had the brash. Must have some friends around town. Ah, but don’t you worry honey."
"Oh, hey look, sugar, they’ve named the streets already."
A lot of folks complain that Richard Dix gave a poor performance, but I disagree. Is he overacting? Most certainly. Is he too flamboyant? Of course! Dix wears the character of Yance like William Shatner does Captain Kirk - robust, dramatic - and ultimately hilarious. He’s the most entertaining thing in the story. He’s a selfish ass in his quest for thrills. He rides his wife hard and puts her away wet. Right as she adjusts to their first move to Osage, he wants uproot his paper, the "Oklahoman Wigwam", and his family and move on to the next front. When she refuses, he skedaddles, first to the land run and then to the Spanish American War. Years later, he wanders back in time to screw up her affairs and stays long enough for a few hundred cups of coffee and then is off again to who knows what.
Cimarron won best picture in '31, but is far from the best picture of that year. There's a good dozen, at least, that have weathered much better over the years. Still, this picture is worth seeing for a few big land run shots and to glimpse its bizarro world of 1931 progressive politics. I'd be curious to hear Mr. Copeland's take on this picture.