After being dismissed from The Adventures of Robin Hood for working too slowly, William Keighley was anxious to prove to the studio that he could turn out an outdoorsy "A" spectacle in minimum time.
True, Keighley had handled a similar theme in God's Country and the Woman, but that picture was lensed in his usual meticulous style and cost the studio a packet. True, it made money, but that was not the point. His working methods had been questioned. He wanted to show the studio bosses they were wrong. His being fired was unjustified. It wasn't his fault Robin Hood was over-budget. The blame lay with over-priced, unreliable actors like Errol Flynn, and that ace cameraman Tony Gaudio who took forever and a day to set up his lights. It was no mere whim that the very first thing Mike Curtiz had done on taking over Robin Hood was to absolutely insist on the meticulous but super-slow-working Gaudio being replaced by Sol Polito. So now, of course, Keighley also insisted on Polito and a cast of professional but cut-price players. No star temperaments, just actors who always knew their lines and could rattle them off on the first take.
So what we have here is a "B"-picture cast emoting in an "A"-picture action spectacle. No fancy camerawork or particularly stylish direction. Just good solid action - and plenty of it. Lots of crowd scenes, fights, a saloon smashed up, a real two-storey building burnt down, a real lumber train wrecked, a real dam dynamited, and lots of colossal redwood trees crashing to the ground. Big indoor sets, expansive outdoors locations, and lots of colorful extras milling about in almost every scene.
If the direction is little more than functional and the acting merely competent (though Alan Hale has a grand time as a rampaging lumberjack), the plot is fast-moving and the dialogue reasonably sharp. And the theme of course has an environmental edge which will appeal to today's greenies as well.
All told, an "A"-grade western, produced on a lavish and exciting scale.
Miss Trevor's fans will probably not toss their hats in the air, though she has a showy enough role. Morris makes a reasonably personable hero, Bickford a fairly menacing heavy, whilst McHugh provides some mild comic relief.
One of the highlights of the entertainment is Jerry Colonna's highly individualistic impression of "She's Only a Bird in a Gilded Cage".
And incidentally, despite the official cast list, that is definitely not Cy Kendall playing the sheriff (not in the version I saw anyway). Is Hewitt the land agent? If so, he's definitely not Addison Richards. If not, why isn't such a major role credited?
For me, early 3-strip Technicolor films are always interesting. This one is no exception. Unfortunately something seems to have gone wrong with the first seven or eight minutes of the current TV print. Bickford's hair is far too red, yet Trevor's red gown looks rather dull. Some of the greens are blurred. Fortunately, as Trevor steps along the street towards the second "Prairie Pullman", the colors suddenly come right and stay that way for the rest of the film. Great location scenery. And the vividly revealing color makes Trevor look properly in character too.