13 June 2007 | dglink
Great Stars in Entertaining Saga
Portraying a friendship similar to the one they shared in the earlier "San Francisco," Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy play two oilmen or wildcatters in "Boom Town," an entertaining saga directed by Jack Conway. Gable is the colorful Big John McMasters, a Rhett Butler from Texas, who lives large and romances big. Tracy is the more solid, down-to-earth Jonathan Sand, who is Gable's moral conscience, much like he was in "San Francisco." The pair meet cute while heading in opposite directions on a narrow board walkway across a muddy street. Despite a damp start, the two men bond, and their friendship endures for years through fights, jealousy, and competition over business and women, particularly Claudette Colbert. The mud is barely washed off their clothing when Gable unwittingly steals Colbert from Tracy, and the jilted platonic lover carries a torch for his lost love throughout the film. When not womanizing or swindling, Gable and Tracy make and lose several fortunes separately and together without breaking a sweat. Oil gushers, well fires, and fistfights, the action wanders all over the MGM back lot from Texas to South America to New York.
Gable anchors the film with his larger-than-life personality, while Tracy underplays in deference to his more charismatic co-star. Although re-teaming the Oscar-winning leads of "It Happened One Night" must have seemed like a brilliant idea at the time, Colbert, unfortunately, often seems out of place in "Boom Town." Her manners, poise, and dress do not mesh with the Texas oil fields or the South American hovels. She is on firmer ground as the well-dressed lady of the manor. The sight of perfectly made-up Colbert scrubbing clothes on a washboard with a big grin on her face strains the story's credibility. Although the enigmatic Hedy Lamarr has a flawless face and incomparable beauty, she rarely wrinkles her professionally applied cosmetics to show any trace of an emotion. However, she is certainly believable as the object of any man's lust and physically perfect as an "other woman." Fortunately, a fine cast of supporting players, such as Frank Morgan, Chill Wills, and Lionel Atwill, surround the leading stars and further enhance the lively proceedings.
First class production values, a fast-moving story, and appealing stars make "Boom Town" a solid entertainment, if not a masterpiece.