CALIFORNIA—-elaborately produced but achingly familiar 1947 oater has lead being thrown this time over whether or not to add California into the Union. Ray Milland (as’ Johnny Trumbo’) is the good guy. Saloon proprietress Barbara Stanwyck (‘Wicked Lily Bishop’) is caught between Ray and the bad hombres, the shifty George Coulouris (given the cool-if-obvious villain name ‘Pharaoh Coffin’) and a hulking Albert Dekker. Lot’s of shootin’, able work in the settings, props and costume departments, but the end result is numbingly normal. Wagon train + Gold Rush ÷ gunfights = Statehood.
Dug up today for hard-core cowboy consumers or boosters of the brassy Babs, it did strong business back in the Truman times, coming in 16th among the years herd, earning over $8,580,000, mostly on the popularity of its leads. Hot off his Oscar from The Lost Weekend, Welshman-turned-Yank Milland might have seemed a toff choice for a western (this was his first) but prior emigrating to Hollywood he’d served four years in a crack British regiment, the Household Cavalry (Guard for the Royal Family) and was not only an expert horseman but a trophy-winning marksman (he also boxed and fenced).
Directed by hardcase John Farrow, with Barry Fitzgerald, Anthony Quinn (as ‘Don Luis Rivera y Hernandez’ (thanks, guys, for remembering there were a few Mexicans in Californy), Frank Faylen, James Burke, Eduardo Ciannelli, Roman Bohnen, Argentina Brunetti, Stanley Andrews. Stuck in the mob as well are hardy bit players Don Beddoe, Francis Ford, Philip Van Zandt, Frank Ferguson, Will Wright and Jeff Corey. 97 minutes.