In Old Oklahoma (1943): John Wayne in Tale of Oil and Rivalry

“In Old Oklahoma” (aka “War of the Wildcats”) reteamed John Wayne with Albert Dekker, with whom he had made “In Old California.”

Set during the era (circa 1906) in which black oils was discovered on the farmlands of Oklahoma, the tale centers on two friends who become rivals.

After serving major female stars of the 1940s, and getting second billing after Stanwyck, Dietrich, Crawford, and Claire Trevor, Wayne’s name was on top.

In tis tale, poorly helmed by Albert S. Rogell, Wayne plays Dan Somers, an honest cowboy who’s friends with the farmers and Indians. Dekker is Jim Gardner (a screen name more suitable for Wayne), a crooked prosperous oilman. Both men are in love with the dame woman, the schoolteacher and author Catherine Allen (Martha Scott), who has written a “scandalous” book. This competition makes things worse.

Dan, whom the Indians trust completely, is offered a valuable contract if he can deliver an oil shipment within a specific deadline. But Gardner stands in his way, having tied the only pipeline. Dan then decides to transport the oil in wagons, leading to a visually exciting climax, in which Gardner’s men interfere, forcing Dan to go through a brush fire that ignites many of the vehicles.

In a bravura stunt work, Dan unhitches the horses from one of the wagons and rides away before it plunges over the cliff and explodes.
Like all Wayne’s movies of the 1940s, the real climax is mano a mano punching with Gardner, at the end of which the corrupt businessman joins forces with Wayne and abandons his scheme to exploit the Indians.

Oscar Nominations: 2

Sound Recording: Daniel J. Bloomberg
Scoring: Walter Scharf

Oscar Awards: None

Credits

MPAA: PG
Running time: 102 Minutes.
Directed by Albert S. Rogell
Written By: Thomson Burtis, Ethel Hill, Eleanore Griffin

Cast

John Wayne as Dan Somers
Martha Scott as Catherine Allen
Albert Dekker as Jim Hunk Gardner
George ‘Gabby’ Hayes as Desprit Dan
Marjorie Rambeau as Bessie Baxter
Dale Evans as Cuddles Walker