Saturday, November 01, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Gold Is Where You Find It (1938) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

GOLD IS WHERE YOU FIND IT (1938), one of the earliest feature films shot in three-strip Technicolor, has been released on DVD by the Warner Archive.

The first Technicolor film was BECKY SHARP (1935), released by RKO, followed by titles such as Paramount's TRAIL OF THE LONESOME PINE (1936) and GOD'S COUNTRY AND THE WOMAN (1937), a Warner Bros. release.

GOLD IS WHERE YOU FIND IT was shot in 1937 and released by Warner Bros. early in 1938; a few months later the studio also released the spectacular Technicolor adventure THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938).

GOLD IS WHERE YOU FIND IT focuses on the battle between hydraulic miners and farmers in 1870s Northern California. The story is so-so -- Californians will probably find it more interesting than most -- but the film is elevated by its deep cast and strong production values.

George Brent, who had also starred in the 1937 Technicolor movie GOD'S COUNTRY AND THE WOMAN, plays Jared Whitney, an engineer working for gold miners whose hydraulic mining methods are flooding out local farmers.

Jared falls in love with young Serena (Olivia de Havilland, who was about 20 when this was filmed), the daughter of a gentleman farmer (Claude Rains); Serena's father breaks up Jared and Serena's romance since he views Jared as the enemy.

Jared, of course, is a reasonable fellow and when the farmers win a court case he joins with them in a battle against the miners at the mining site.

There's a lot I like about this film, starting with Jared and Serena's charming relationship as they bond over her love for her apple orchard and he shows her a new way to irrigate her trees. Her anxious desire to impress him and his constant "Isn't she adorable?" expression are both quite sweet. I especially like their lighter early scenes together; later in the movie de Havilland has the tendency to handle melodrama by clutching her hands to her chest. That said, she's a lot of fun to watch, and the genial Brent is someone I'm always glad to see onscreen.

It's also very enjoyable watching a film with so many good actors, including Claude Rains, Margaret Lindsay, Tim Holt, Harry Davenport, and Barton MacLane. There are many more notable character faces in the film including Sidney Toler, Clarence Kolb, Willie Best, Russell Simpson, Henry O'Neill, and Gabby Hayes.

Since I first saw this film over five years ago, I've become quite a fan of Tim Holt, who plays Serena's initially immature brother, Lance. It was fun to circle back to this, having seen Holt in many films in the intervening time. Lance is a substantial role, and Holt does quite well in it. I was also impressed that in a scene where Lance jumps his horse over a low fence it is clearly Holt on the horse.

One of the film's biggest drawbacks is the way the plot tends to jump around, leaving threads trailing off into nowhere, whether it's the abrupt introduction of Lindsay as de Havilland's aunt -- the viewer must piece together in a dinner scene that she's married to Rains' brother, played by John Litel -- and what's with the married Lindsay's jealousy of de Havilland's relationship with Brent? One has the feeling there was originally more to Lindsay's character than ended up in the final film.

Likewise, the development of the Brent-de Havilland relationship is somewhat truncated; de Havilland has dialogue which seems to indicate a scene was cut and, indeed, there is a de Havilland-Brent scene in the trailer which is not in the final movie, as well as at least one still of yet another scene not in the film.

GOLD IS WHERE YOU FIND IT was directed by Michael Curtiz and filmed by Sol Polito. Location shooting took place near Weaverville, California. The film runs 94 minutes.

A side note, I wonder if any other actress was in as many color films in the first half decade of the Technicolor process as de Havilland? In addition to GOLD IS WHERE YOU FIND IT and ROBIN HOOD, she appeared in DODGE CITY (1939), THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX (1939), and of course GONE WITH THE WIND (1939).

While many scenes in GOLD IS WHERE YOU FIND IT look lovely, some of the scenes in this DVD print are noticeably soft. The film would benefit from restoration; perhaps that will happen at some point, given the film's significance as a fairly early Technicolor movie.

The DVD includes the trailer.

Other recent de Havilland Warner Archive releases which have been reviewed here are WINGS OF THE NAVY (1939) and GOVERNMENT GIRL (1943).

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered at the Warner Archive website.


Blogger barrylane said...

I saw Gold Is Where You Find It about fifteen years ago and enjoyed it tremendously. George Brent, Tim Holt and the beautiful Technicolor all stand out -- however the Warner Archive artwork
on the dvd package is atrocious and unnecessary as you have shown by putting up an alternative, of which I am certain, there are many.

8:07 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Glad you also enjoyed the film. I must agree that I'm a bit baffled why this cover art was chosen, although I like the colorful setting of the word "Technicolor"! Fortunately most of their covers are very attractive. :)

Best wishes,

6:28 PM  

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