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  • Out of the two dozen films I watched this past weekend, this was the one I enjoyed the most. It is early technicolor and seeing the magnificent redwood trees was great. Wayne Morris delivers in the role of the timberman who has 21st century conservation values of not cutting too much and reforestation. Bickford is okay as the greedy villain. Claire Trevor is in cohoots with Bickford at the beginning but switches sides near the end. Alan Hale is a joy in his role as Ox and a real scene stealer. I believe I caught my favorite - Clem Bevans - in just a few seconds of screen time and Jerry Colona was a saloon singer extraordinaire. Other familiar character actors included Russell Simpson, Frank McHugh, Donald Crisp, and John Litel. This film is a treasure trove of character actors.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Valley Of The Giants might well be considered a big technicolor commercial for the Save The Redwoods League which was founded in 1918 a decade after the action of this film was taking place. Warner Brothers put a few dollars into this production with location shooting in Eureka, California and some really nice cinematography of the forests there.

    The story seems to follow the plot of Rex Beach's The Spoilers. Substitute redwood trees for gold and you know pretty much what's going to happen. Timber tycoon Charles Bickford who is a rather shortsighted and ruthless individual plans to move operations from the old Northwest Territory to the forests of Northern, California. Where some see in those Redwood trees some of the oldest surviving life on the planet, Bickford just sees some quick profits and a lot of timber logs.

    Wayne Morris who is the biggest landowner in the area is the man to stop him. Claire Trevor who came west with Bickford and set up her saloon/gambling operation gets caught up in Morris and nature and switches sides. She's the usual good time girl with a heart of gold, a part she took a patent out on.

    Warner Brothers whose good films usually featured Alan Hale or Frank McHugh featured both in prominent supporting roles. In fact Valley Of The Giants also has folks like Donald Crisp, El Brendel, and a host more of recognizable faces from the studio days.

    It all builds up to an action filled climax and a real knockdown drag out fight between Bickford and Morris. Action fans will love Valley Of The Giants.
  • While an undistinguished piece of filmmaking, "Valley of the Giants" dovetails nicely with Warner Bros.' often cited theme of Resistance to Tyranny and Struggle for Justice, so often seen in films as diverse as "I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang," "The Adventures of Robin Hood," "The Life of Emile Zola" and "Confessions of a Nazi Spy," the unusual subject here being ecological devastation (also visited the year before in Warners' first all-three-strip Technicolor feature, "Gold is Where You Find It.").

    Interestingly, fourteen years later, when the studio remade the story as "The Big Trees," the original film's villain, Fallon ("Steve Fallon" in "Valley of the Giants." "Jim Fallon" in "The Big Trees") became the protagonist, tailored for the talents of Kirk Douglas, whose peerless aptitude for essaying misguided heels was already well established by the early 1950's.

    It should also be noted that character actor Harry Cording, a mainstay at Warner Bros. in the 1930's and '40's, appears in both versions. The Hale family are also represented in both films: Warners contact player Alan Hale ("Ox Smith") appears in "Valley of the Giants," while his son, Alan, jr plays "Tiny" in "The Big Trees."
  • Warning: Spoilers
    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.
  • SO many big names in this one -- 28 year old Claire Trevor, Frank McHugh, Charles Bickford, and the amazing Alan Hale. Really interesting (to me) that they were realizing how important the redwoods were, back in 1902, or at least making a film about it in 1938. Not many people cared about conservation and saving resources back then. The actual Redwood National Park wasn't actually established until 1968! According to wikipedia, they first tried to establish a park in 1911, but it didn't take. If you read the opening title cards, you'll know the plot... all about the timber barons trying to cut down the redwoods, many of which were on private property, or on homesteaded land. And all in glorious Technicolor, a year before Wizard of Oz. That explains why everyone's hair is dyed henna red... so it'll show up nice and red! and the fun Jerry Colonna singing songs. Wayne Morris is "Cardigan", the big land-owner here, trying to protect his land from the cutters. Morris was a decorated war hero, but died quite young at 45. It's a pretty good film. With some history thrown in.
  • This overproduced Big Trees Epic from Warners in 1938 is given the full production treatment: Technicolor, script by Seton Miller and a cast so immense that Charles Bickford is placed near the bottom of the on-screen cast list. But the actor at the center of this epic is Wayne Morris, who was a reasonably capable actor whose specialty was the Naive Young Stiff.... and a role like this calls for a sense of power and confidence that he does not not show in this role.

    As for the other actors, the pleasures of watching them is muted. Charles Bickford is given a limited range of emotion: he runs the gamut from greedy to mean and back again. Claire Trevor plays her usual hooker with a heart of gold, and the other actors, given their fourteen seconds of screen time each, cannot do much. Given my general level of irritation even the Technicolor winds up annoying me: the working loggers always seem to be wearing fresh-laundered, crisply maintained clothes.

    Director William Keighley was an effective director for the fast-moving Warner Bs, but he always seemed out of depth in these super-production. Look at stuff like BULLETS OR BALLOTS or the crisply turned farce of BROTHER RAT, not this.