Movie Review: The Oklahoman (1957)
” … in his Trigger-Squeeze he held the life and death of a gun-smoked town !”
The Oklahoman (1957)
Director: Daniel B. Ullman
Cast: Joel McCrea, Barbara Hale, Brad Dexter
Synopsis: A doctor stops in a small Midwestern town to bury his wife. He decides to stay there and start a practice,but soon runs into violent cattle ranchers.
Likable doctor John M. Brighton (Joel McCrea – The Most Dangerous Game, Foreign Correspondent) has a problem on his hands as he edges towards middle age in a small Oklahoman town five years after his wife died giving birth to their daughter while en-route to California. Two women have set their sights on him, you see. One of them is a sexy eighteen-year-old Indian squaw (Gloria Talbott – Desert Pursuit, The Young Guns) with a narrow waist, bronze skin and big, alluring eyes; the other’s an earthy, comparatively sophisticated and sensuous woman in probably her early thirties (Barbara Hale); the widow of a cattle rancher, she’s not short of a bob or two. If only, I couldn’t help thinking as I watched this solidly constructed B-western, I had to contend with such problems. I could happily spend years wrestling with both of them.
Of course, not everything’s plain sailing. Another cattle baron, the dastardly Cass Dobie (Brad Dexter – Fourteen Hours) has discovered that the local land is nothing but sod lying on a sea of oil, and he wants it all for himself. In the disputes that follow, the squaw’s dad, a fully assimilated native American with the unlikely name of Charlie Smith (Michael Pate – McLintock!, The Great Sioux Massacre), kills Dobie’s brother (Douglas Dick – Rope) in self defence, and Brighton feels compelled to get involved.
The Oklahoman is distinguished by its relatively liberal portrayal of Indians – living peaceably alongside the white man, they are all depicted in a positive light – and a fairly sober look at the topic of racism. This being a 1950s B-movie, the writing does little to explore the issues it raises with anything approaching the level of insight this kind of subject requires, but it still manages to hold the viewer’s interest even as it winds its way towards a thoroughly predictable climax.
(Reviewed 8th February 2012)