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||IMDB Rating: 6.3/10 from 514 votes
||Release: 21 February 1947 (USA) /
||Genre: Romance, Western
||Director: John Farrow,
||Stars: Albert Dekker, Anthony Quinn, Argentina Brunetti, Barbara Stanwyck, Barry Fitzgerald, Eduardo Ciannelli, Frank Faylen, Gavin Muir, George Coulouris, Howard Freeman, James Burke, Julia Faye, Ray Milland, Roman Bohnen
||Synopsis: "Wicked" Lily Bishop joins a wagon train to California, led by Michael Fabian and Johnnny Trumbo, but news of the Gold Rush scatters the train. When Johnny and Michael finally arrive, Lily is rich from her saloon and storekeeper (former slaver) Pharaoh Coffin is bleeding the miners dry. But worse troubles are ahead: California is inching toward statehood, and certain people want to make it their private empire. Written by Rod Crawford <[email protected]>
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Watch California - Alternative Versions.
This is a case where I feel like other reviewers have watched a
different movie called "California" than the one I saw. The picture I
enjoyed was a top-notch "A" western with an excellent cast, gorgeous
Technicolor cinematography, spectacular California scenery, lively
action, good pacing, and an intelligent, adult story.
At the top of the cast Ray Milland, Barbara Stanwyck, and Barry
Fitzgerald, were at the peak of their careers. All three had garnered
Academy Award honors within the past few years before "California's"
early 1947 release. Milland was coming off his best actor award for
Lost Weekend (1945), while Fitzgerald won best supporting actor for
Going My Way (1944) and also got a best actor nomination for the same
role! Stanwyck, a perennial bridesmaid of the Academy had received best
actress nominations for Ball Of Fire (1941) and Double Indemnity
(1944). "California" is a good showcase for their talents, each doing
what he or she did best -- Ray the mild-mannered but hard-edged tough
guy, Barry the lovable Irishman, and Barbara the hard broad who may or
may not be hiding a heart of gold. Good support and stalwart villainy
is provided by George Coulouris and Albert Dekker with a large cast of
other supporting players and extras.
Some people can't picture Ray Milland as an appropriate western lead
because of his British accent, even though it had became slight by the
late 1940's when he had be living in the United States for two decades.
But lots of people in the West would have had British and other foreign
accents. Remember, we were and still are a nation of immigrants.
Besides which Ray was imminently qualified to play westerns by his real
life experiences. Having served several years in a crack British
cavalry regiment in the 1920's, he was an expert horseman, and it shows
by the way he sits a steed in "California". And he certainly knew which
end of a gun the bullets came out of. A crack marksman, he helped his
regiment win several prestigious shooting matches in his army days.
Interestingly, he actually plays a professional trick shot artist in
another western, Copper Canyon (see my review).
John Farrow's usual efficient direction and Eda Waren's editing keep
the story moving along at a sharp pace. The script by Frank Butler and
Theodore Strauss provides an intelligent, adult story with literate
dialog. It gives an accurate, compelling picture of the California gold
rush and the gold fever gripping immigrants to the Pacific Coast, as
well as the movement for California statehood, a plot by the baddies
for an armed overthrow of the government, and a torrid love triangle.
As the intense, dark melodramas now known as film noir were at the
height of their popularity when this western was filmed, the script
endows the principles of the love triangle, Milland, Stanwyck, and
Coulouris, with shady pasts. Milland's character, it turns out has
deserted the Army. Stanwyck has been thrown out of every town she ever
parked in for being -- shall we say charitably -- a floozy. Coulouris,
villain enough as it is, has an even darker past as a slave ship
captain. And he is now going slowly off his nut remembering the cries
of the chained slaves and his fears they would rise up and get him.
Dekker, occasionally a leading man or second lead, but more often a
polished villain, is wasted here as Coulouris's former first mate and
brutish henchman. Since Coulouris is always a bit over the top, perhaps
"California" would have been better served if Dekker had had his role.
The script and Farrow's direction gives us just the right blend of
dramatics and action. A rousing, old-time, full-bodied score by Victor
Young helps move it along. Unlike other reviewers, I found the frequent
outbursts of singing by both on-screen characters and an unseen chorus
an asset to the picture, adding life and color and even historical
accuracy. Some in this history challenged generation may not realize
that in the days before people had television, computers, radio,
movies, or even phonographs, they had to entertain themselves. They
sang all the time, walking down the street, in their yards, in barber
shops, at socials, around campfires (as in "California"), and in
saloons. Even the meanest of saloons could usually scratch up some kind
The costumes, sets, firearms, gun leather, lamps and other
accouterments in "Callifornia" show an unusual degree of historical
accuracy for a western of this era. No one has a repeating rifle, all
muzzle loaders or crude breech loaders. Cap and ball revolvers are used
in the closeups at least -- never mind they were not the exact models
for 1849. You other gun nuts: in how many other movies have you seen a
Hall breech loader? Good effort in this department.
Ray Rennahan, who did the camera work, gets credit for the unusually
fine color cinematography, but with Natalie Kalmus on board as the
Techniclor consultant, superb color was insured. The Technicolor
Corporation required a consultant on every movie using their patented
process, and Mrs. Kalmus, ex-wife of the inventor of Technicolor, was
usually it. She was known around the studios as a bossy, irritating old
dame, who interfered in set designs, camera set-ups, costume color and
materials, prop selection, and virtually every other aspect of a color
filming. She must, nevertheless, have known what she was doing. Every
picture with her name on it will have muted, perfectly co-ordinated,
precisely lighted, and generally superior color. After all, the studio
technicians of the 1940's, as skilled as they were in black and white
filming, had little experience with color. They actually needed a
Natilie Kalmus, like it or not.
"California" in an A-1 Technicolor western, a visual treat and smooth,
exciting entertainment from Hollywood's finest era.
Tags for California Full Movie
, Anthony Quinn
, Argentina Brunetti
, Barbara Stanwyck
, Barry Fitzgerald
, Eduardo Ciannelli
, Frank Faylen
, Gavin Muir
, George Coulouris
, Howard Freeman
, James Burke
, Julia Faye
, Ray Milland
, Roman Bohnen
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