24 September 2009 | bkoganbing
Dwelt Some Miners, Not Fortyniners
Although she might admit to it now, but not back in her salad days, one of the reasons that Olivia DeHavilland's films are so well remembered from her days at Warner Brothers was the sheer expense of them. She did do her share of sound stage shooting, but as often as not Warner Brothers would cast her as the heroine in their expensive period costume dramas. She certainly did them well, though she wanted better parts. Even films like Anthony Adverse and Gone With The Wind added to her reputation. But these films and Captain Blood, Dodge City, The Private Lives Of Elizabeth And Essex and The Adventures Of Robin Hood are what we remember of her early period and one of the reasons she's better known than a lot of her contemporaries today.
One that was less known and I suspect because she did not have Errol Flynn as her leading man is Gold Is Where You Find It. This is a western feud story set in 1879 in California thirty years after the Gold Rush. It's not hard rock Fortyniners panning for gold out of the stream any more. Huge mining concerns are using hydraulics to create mudslides that are ruining the crops of landowners large and small. The biggest of these is Claude Rains whose grain crops like everyone else's is threatened by the mine owned by Sidney Toler whose foreman is Barton MacLane.
Into the lives of all of them comes mining engineer George Brent from the east and he makes an impression on all, on MacLane's skull and on the lives of Rains's children Olivia DeHavilland and Tim Holt. He gets caught right in the middle of the feud coming to a boil. Do we doubt where he's going to end up?
Michael Curtiz directed Gold Is Where You Find It with the usual Curtiz supply of action. There's a climax involving a battle between the miners and the farmers that's exciting and well done. The costumes and sets reflect a good eye for the period. In fact Curtiz probably decided all this needed was Errol Flynn and he got him next year for Dodge City.
Though she hated making the costume epics, these films have survived and part of the reason they have survived is Olivia DeHavilland is so darn good in them. Sadly this film is not out so one has to wait until TCM broadcasts it. It's worth the wait.