Wild West pioneers

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German title Wild West pioneers
Original title Cimarron
Country of production United States
original language English
Publishing year 1931
length 131 minutes
Director Wesley Ruggles
script Howard Estabrook
production William LeBaron
for RKO
music Max Steiner
camera Edward Cronjager
cut William Hamilton

Pioneers of the Wild West (Original title: Cimarron ) is a western starring Richard Dix and Irene Dunne and directed by Wesley Ruggles from 1931 . The film produced by RKO was the first western to win an Oscar in the “ Best Film ” category . The film is based on the novel Cimarron by Edna Ferber .


In 1889, the US government released two million acres of land in former Indian territory for settlement as part of the Oklahoma Land Run . The adventurous Yancey Cravat takes his young wife Sabra and their son Cimarron with him to the new area to work as a newspaper publisher to help build state structures. As early as 1893, the restless Yancey left his family in search of new adventures. Sabra takes over the newspaper. When oil is found, Yancey returns to be elected governor of the area, but falls out with powerful investors who are trying everything to deceive the Indians. Yancey leaves home again. Sabra eventually goes into politics and is elected as a congressman for the newly formed state of Oklahoma.


In her epic novels, the author Edna Ferber described the societal and social changes in the USA over a longer period of time. The focus was usually on women who defend themselves with courage, bravery and determination against the misfortunes and challenges of the environment and fight for their place in society. Several of her works had already been made into films, such as So Big in 1925 with Colleen Moore or Show Boat in 1929. In Cimarron, published in 1929, she told the story of the state of Oklahoma against the backdrop of the marriage of Yancey and Sabra. The newly founded film company RKO bought the film rights for the then high sum of 125,000 US dollars. The casting of the main roles was not easy. Richard Dix was the biggest male star of the RKO and had shot westerns several times in the silent film. The studio bought the film rights primarily to have a suitable material for Dix. Fay Bainter was initially planned as a partner, but she fell out with the studio's head of production, William Le Baron. He then decided on Irene Dunne , who so far had only made one film, the musical Leathernecking . After the failure of her debut, Dunne had taken intensive lessons at a prestigious drama school for several months. To convince the producers of herself, she made a test shot on her own in which she aged from 16 to 56 with the help of the make-up department. The recordings eventually convinced Le Baron to give Irene Dunne the role. Over 5000 extras and 47 cameras were used for the scenes of the great conquest. At the box office, however, the film was only moderately successful and ultimately caused a loss of a good 250,000 US dollars.

For Irene Dunne, Cimarron was her breakthrough as an actress. In mid-1931 she was announced as the sole star above the film title in her film Consolation Marriage . Together with Richard Dix she directed the film Stingaree in 1934, directed by William A. Wellman .

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer produced a remake of the subject in 1960 with Glenn Ford and Maria Schell , directed by Anthony Mann . Due to the copyright consequences, the RKO film could not be shown on television for many years.

Theatrical release

The film cost $ 1,433,000, which it failed to return at the box office with grossing $ 1,383,000. The studio ended up making a loss of $ 565,000.


At the Academy Awards in 1931 , the film won in the categories:

  • Best movie
  • Best production design - Max Rée
  • Best Adapted Screenplay - Howard Estabrook
  • Special award for the makeup - Ern Westmore

There were also nominations in the following categories:

  • Best Director - Wesley Ruggles
  • Best Actor - Richard Dix
  • Best Actress - Irene Dunne
  • Best Cinematography - Edward Cronjager


  • Edna Ferber: Cimarron. Roman (original title: Cimarron ). German by Gertrud von Hollander. Unabridged edition. Goldmann, Munich 1981, 300 pages, ISBN 978-3-442-06374-1 .

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