A botch job by Sam Goldwyn, who exercised his power as producer by changing directors—from Howard Hawks to William Wyler—halfway through the shooting. Some sources hold that Wyler shot only the last ten minutes, working from Hawks’s script; others claim that Wyler reshot much of Hawks’s work. But the first part of the film, the best, is unmistakably Hawks, as Edward Arnold and Walter Brennan (in an early part, his first Academy Award performance) fight for the hand of Frances Farmer, against the background of the north-woods logging country. The Edna Ferber story (like her Giant) then shifts generations, and the action loses much of its scale. Farmer remains a wonder, in one of her few fully realized parts as an early and lusty version of the Hawksian woman (1936).
Political filmmakers everywhere could learn a lot from Jean Renoir‘s 1936 classic, made as his contribution to France’s Popular Front. Monsieur Lange (Rene Lefevre), a meek employee of a Paris publishing house, passes his spare time writing the adventures of “Arizona Jim,” a rugged American cowboy hero. His boss, Batala (a masterpiece of ham acting by Jules Berry), steals the rights to Lange’s stories and prints them. Providence steps in when Lange learns that Batala has been killed in a train wreck, allowing Lange and his coworkers to form a cooperative and publish the stories themselves. But Batala returns, dressed as a priest and demanding his cut. Jacques Prevert‘s screenplay has wit and economy, but it is the multiplicity of points of view implied in Renoir’s fluid direction that lifts the film from propaganda to art. In French with subtitles. 85 min.