Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Tonight's Movie: Gold Is Where You Find It (1938)

GOLD IS WHERE YOU FIND IT is fairly standard Western fare concerning gold miners versus farmers in 19th century California, but it's elevated by a strong cast and is a polished Warner Bros. production.

Jared Whitney (George Brent) is an engineer directing a hydraulic gold mining operation which has the unfortunate side effect of flooding out local farmers. The farmers are led in a court battle against the mining company by Colonel Ferris (Claude Rains). Jared's love for Colonel Ferris's young daughter Serena (Olivia de Havilland) adds an element of ROMEO AND JULIET to the story.

The story is solidly entertaining, though it veers into hokum in a couple spots, and might be especially enjoyed by fellow Californians interested in the depiction of a controversial slice of state history.

de Havilland looks gorgeous in Technicolor; this was released the same year as one of her greatest films, THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD. In the early scenes she is natural and charming as the girlish "almost 17" Serena, who tends an apple orchard; in the crisis-laden final third of the movie, she melodramatically clutches her hands in front of her chest one time too many. Granted, the script didn't give her much more to do here, but she is such an excellent actress I think more could and should have been done with her scenes in the latter part of the film.

Similarly, Brent was captured in a couple spots with a rather goofy expression, though on the whole he's fine as the dedicated engineer who ultimately has to decide whether to side with his employers or the farmers.

Some of de Havilland's dialogue seemed to indicate at least one scene she shared with Brent was cut, which was borne out by the trailer; unless I blinked and missed it, the exterior scene where Brent tells de Havilland "Gold is where you find it" isn't in the final print.

The deep supporting cast includes John Litel, Margaret Lindsay, Barton MacLane, Tim Holt, Sidney Toler, Henry O'Neill, Gabby Hayes, Russell Simpson, Harry Davenport, and Moroni Olsen.

The movie was directed by Michael Curtiz, who also directed DeHavilland and Rains in 1938's THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD. The movie runs 94 minutes. It was filmed by Sol Polito, with location shooting near Weaverville, California. The movie's score is by Max Steiner.

GOLD IS WHERE YOU FIND IT has not had a video or DVD release but can be seen on Turner Classic Movies. The copy I recorded was not one of the better prints shown on TCM; I'd love to see a print with restored Technicolor.

September 2014 Update: GOLD IS WHERE YOU FIND IT is now available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

November 2014 Update: My review of the Warner Archive DVD can be found here.


Blogger Unknown said...

Well, here we are 2 yrs later and I'm still looking for this movie. It you have found a release on dvd, I would love to buy it. I am a big deHavilland fan.
Thanks for the musings of this great movie.

7:47 PM  

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