The Oklahoma Kid (1939)

James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Rosemary Lane, Donald Crisp,
During the Oklahoma Land Rush, the lawlessness is exacerbated by the McCord gang's feud with the Kincaids, who are trying to bring law and justice to the region.
  • 6.4 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Warren Duff, Robert Buckner, Edward E. Paramore Jr., Wally Kline, Jerome Odlum, Writer:
  • Lloyd Bacon, Director:
  • Producer:

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9 / 10

One Of My Favorite Classic Westerns

I may be in the minority here - at least with a couple of my classic-movie-buff friends, but I really liked this western. I thought it was one of the most interesting and entertaining classic westerns I've ever seen. Of course, having Jimmy Cagney in the lead didn't hurt. He's usually very entertaining and this is no exception. He plays his normal cocky self, but instead of gangster or something else modern-day, he was cowboy. To those too rigid fuddie-duddies who can't see their favorite actors trying different genres - too bad. Cagney as a cowboy?? Why not? He' still the same, great actor and entertainer. Same goes for Bogey.

Humphrey Bogart, as he so often was before he became a mega-star with Casablanca, played the bad guy. He looked like he had a bad toupee, too. I hope that wasn't his real hair!

This was fun to watch right from the get-go and also featured some excellent black-and-white cinematography (where is the DVD on this?), which made it all the better. At 82 minutes, this is a quick night of entertainment, but I liked that short running time.

7 / 10

Cagney and Bogie in a western

It's 1893. President Grover Cleveland proclaims the purchase of the Cherokee Strip from the Indians. It leads to a wild land rush and banditry. Whip McCord (Humphrey Bogart) and his gang rob a stagecoach transporting the Indian money. Jim "The Oklahoma Kid" Kincaid (James Cagney) follows them and robs them in turn. At a settler shindig, the Kid takes a liking to Jane Hardwick (Rosemary Lane) even though she's arm in arm with Ned Kincaid. McCord wants his money back but The Kid has other ideas. McCord cheats to steal a land stake and convinces the John Kincaid to exchange it for concessions in the new town of Tulsa.

This has Cagney and Bogie having some fun playing bad guys in a western. It's great when they are man to man facing off against each other. It should be that simple but it doesn't happen enough. This should really only about them two. There really is no need for anybody else. There are still a few great moments with the two screen legends and that's enough.

6 / 10

"The strong take it away from the weak and the smart take it away from the strong."

One of my favorite movie lines of all time is from The Oklahoma Kid where James Cagney expounds on his philosophy of life to Donald Crisp in a saloon as the land rush is starting.

The rest of the film is your usual fast paced Cagney film, just set out west instead of the big city. It was the first western for both Cagney and Humphrey Bogart. Cagney did a fine western in the Fifties Run for Cover and replaced Spencer Tracy in another one, Tribute to a Bad Man.

Bogey did one other western, Virginia City, and next to that Whip McCord of the panhandle is an Oscar winning part. I'm not denigrating his work on Oklahoma Kid, but Bogart used to cringe whenever Virginia City was mentioned and that chintzy Mexican accent he was forced to adopt for that film.

In Oklahoma Kid, he's the leader of a group of outlaws who've jumped the starting gun and put up a claim at the spot Hugh Sothern and son Harvey Stephens want to start a town. Rather than go to court which would tie them up for years, they agree to Bogart's terms to give him control of the vice industries of the town that would become Tulsa.

Bogart's actions are those of a what was called a Sooner, one who jumped the starting gun and cheated in the land rush. The term is what gave Oklahoma its state nickname of The Sooner state. Although I've never understood why the state nickname glorifies illegal activity.

So good and honest Hugh and Harvey just take it on the chin until the corruption gets way out of hand.

But Hugh has another son, a lone wolf sort of character that's taken the outlaw path. That be James Cagney who settles things in his own way, the way Cagney usually does in films.

The western after a period of doldrums in the early thirties when it was mostly B picture fare was making a comeback as a feature attraction. All the studios were starting to make them.

Warners had two big ones in 1939, this one and Dodge City. Errol Flynn in the latter scored better with the public than Cagney did, so Flynn got to do more westerns. Cagney and Bogey went back to the city streets except for Bogey's ill conceived visit to Virginia City.

But Oklahoma Kid is not a bad film and fans of the two stars will not be disappointed.

7 / 10

"Tell that little squirt over by the piano that I want to see him."

Interesting western with an offbeat Warner Bros. cast that's more at home in a gangster picture than a cowboy shoot-'em-up. Humphrey Bogart plays the villain, a stagecoach robber turned corrupt saloon owner. He wears a black hat so we know he's no good. James Cagney plays the cocky anti-hero, as quick with his guns as he is with his fists. He also shows how good he is with babies and even gets to sing! Rosemary Lane is the pretty girl who can't resist Cagney's charms. Donald Crisp is her father. Ward Bond, Harvey Stephens, Edward Pawley, and Charles Middleton are among the others in the cast. There's drama, humor, action, and romance. Yeah, it's admittedly a corny movie but pretty entertaining, especially for fans of the two leads. This won't be confused for a John Ford western but it's fun for what it is.

7 / 10

What a goofy yet subversive movie...

You are not sure who or what Cagney's titular Oklahoma Kid is at first. The first thing he does is rob from the robbers - Whip McCord (Bogart) and his gang - who have stolen some of the money given to the Indians in return for the two million acres that are the object of the Oklahoma land rush.

The day of the land rush the Kid is in an unoccupied bar, helping himself to a few drinks on the house when Judge Hardwick (Donald Crisp) walks in and starts conversing with him. It turns out the Kid has no use for land rushes or conventional capitalism whatsoever. As he says, the strong steal from the weak, and the smart (pointing to himself) steal from the strong. And the law seldom lifts a hand to stop it, he says. The Kid says he came from a family of "empire builders" and that he and his family parted ways years ago. Hardwick doesn't outright dislike him, but doesn't understand his viewpoint at all until later.

Meanwhile, Whip McCord and his gang have sneaked into land rush territory and staked out a claim ahead of the Kincaids, who wish to build a town based on law and order. All McCord wants in return from the group that was going to build the town is the ability to build saloons there and not be hassled. Reluctantly, the Kincaids and company agree. Well, as time progresses, McCord only gets greedier and soon civilized is grappling with uncivilized (McCord), and the Kid eagerly jumps into the fight. Why he does this, nobody can figure out, since there is a price on the Kid's head for past crimes. But the Kid does have a deep dark secret.

The funny thing is, in the end, the Kid seems to prove that to deal with the uncivilized you sometimes have to be uncivilized yourself. Whether or not Warner Brothers was trying to slip a pre war message in concerning the Germans I don't know, but the director was Lloyd Bacon and he was hardly a controversial director.

How is the film goofy? First, they have Tulsa being the town that the Kincaids found. Tulsa had been around a good long time by 1890, but Oklahoma City was founded in the land rush territory. Next there is the wardrobe. Not since the early sound westerns have I seen a wardrobe used as an obvious clue as to who the players are. The Kid is always dressed in grayish outfits, but Bogart as McCord is always dressed in all black, and in fact he is always wearing the SAME black outfit.

If you are looking for something different from the conventional western, I'd recommend this.