Flowing Gold (1940) Poster


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A routine plot about wildcat oilmen and a love triangle, all made palatable by the stars.
Arthur Hausner18 January 1999
Frances Farmer never looked lovelier in this adventure/drama about wildcat oilmen trying to beat the lease deadline and bring in an oil well. John Garfield once again is on the lam for a self-defense murder, hooking up with Pat O'Brien and Farmer's father (Raymond Walburn), and constantly apprehensive about the police looking to find him. You can guess what happens - a love triangle between Garfield and O'Brien for Farmer is inevitable. Some minimal comedy is provided by Walburn, Tom Kennedy, Cliff Edwards, and Edwards' fiancée, Jody Gilbert, but I greatly enjoyed some of the special effects, particularly the very exciting oil fire sequence near the end. At one point there's also a most impressive shot of a gusher coming in with the oil rushing towards the camera mounted on top of the derrick. I wondered how that was done without ruining the camera. Still, the stars make the movie worth looking into.
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Flowing cold
raskimono13 March 2004
This small box office hit stars two likeable actors and one of the most beautiful women to ever star in the movies in Frances Farmer. She had a tragic life which was properly portrayed by Frances look-alike Jessica Lange. John Garfield at this point in time was churning out the same character over and over again; id est, the hard-boiled rugged type who has more than his share of hard knocks in life. Thus, he is suspiscious of everyone, out for himself and on the run from the cops. That is how the movie begins in our search to find the flowing gold, oil. This movie is essentially a poor man's Boom Town, that box office Smash that starred Gable and Tracy, Colbert and Lamarr. That said, it has its own originalities and a truly exciting finale where Garfield drives a truck across a land slide. Never boring but it never amounts to much either.
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John Garfield makes Gold Flow where there's water
Enrique Sanchez4 March 2004
I'm one of those people that think John Garfield could do no wrong. If had been alive, I would have numbered among the 10,000-strong throngs at his stupendous funeral.

Sure, this movie has been done in many guises before. But how many remember the others? Why do we continue to watch a movie when we know precisely how it's going to end? Something else has to string you in. It has to be something you've never seen before and yet seems so familiar that you can't help but see it anyway.

I say: How many will remember what John Garfield could add - in bushels - to any simply wrought movie? Why, his charm and rough exterior could convince a lamb to go to slaughter.

Enough cannot be said about "Jules" as they used to call him. One in a million, they say. I'll say that to the Nth degree until they beat me down. No actor could relate to the common man like he did. Others were prettier, more dashing, taller or a dozen other things.

But no one, ever again, will be a John Garfield.
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here's mud in your eye
weezeralfalfa19 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Recently saw this film on TCM. Could have used a better title.1940 was the year of the oil gusher in Hollywood films, with MGM's highest grossing film of the year: "Boomtown", along with the present film. Nearly a decade later, another epic film about the early days of oil wildcatting: "Tulsa", would be released, this time in color. In contrast to the two early'40 films, a woman: 'sock in to 'em' Susan Hayward, was the dominant personality. All 3 films feature the excitement of discovering a gusher, and later an oil field fire. However, in contrast to the other 2 films, I don't consider the present film to have the pretense of being an epic treatment of the topic. Whereas the other two films incorporate generalized moral, legal and/or practical principles relating to the overall oil production business, the messages of the present film are more at the personal level. Most importantly, John Garfield's character, Johnny, represents a basically moral(if rough around the edges) working class man who was the victim of unlucky circumstances, resulting in a self-defense homicide, which the judicial system unjustly concluded was actually a malicious homicide. Hence, he is on the run from lawmen, after escaping from prison.Johnny needs a chance to redeem himself in the eyes of others and the law. He happens upon an oil well drilling operation. Having spent time doing such work, he inquired about a possible job. Pat O'Brien, as the foreman 'Hap', recognizes him from a wanted poster, but decides to size him up rather than turning him in for a reward.Johnny soon saves Hap from a possible fatal assault by a just-fired employee, thus cementing Hap's determination to help shield Johnny. Then, near the end of the film, Johnny interrupts his plan to escape to Venezuela with his new girl friend, played by Frances Farmer, to drive a derrick truck along a very dangerous road to a burning oil well belonging to his girlfriend's father. Although his feat was essential in putting out the fire, he is captured by waiting lawmen. His fate is not clear, but the implication is that his heroics may help the courts decide on leniency. This should, in the mind of the viewer, reactivate the question of whether the overall character of a person should be considered in determining how the justice system should deal with a serious transgression.

Charismatic bug-eyed character actor Ramond Walburn plays Frances's father, who owns the lease on the land being drilled. Along with Cliff Edwards and Tom Kennedy, he provides occasional comic relief. Raymond somewhat reminds me of Frank Morgan, who has a somewhat similar role in the first part of "Boomtown". I haven't seen other Frances Farmer films, but here she impresses me as a Tuesday Weld of her generation. ..Hap is in an ambiguous situation, wanting to protect Johnny, but concerned about the prospects for Frances as Johnny's girlfriend. Hap also has the hots for Frances's character, but is willing to step aside if she really is committed to Johnny and if he thinks Johnny might have a future outside of prison.

Both "Boomtown" and this film give the (no doubt correct) impression that main streets in frontier towns of this era often turned into a sea of mud. Thus, in "Boomtown", Gable and Tracy initially meet going in opposite directions on a narrow plank bridging a particularly deep muddy stretch on Main Street. In the present film, Garfield's and Farmer's characters initially meet when he is mocking her hopeless efforts to extract her car from a deeply muddy stretch of Main Street.
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Warner Brothers' answer to BOOM TOWN.
MartinHafer4 December 2009
Another reviewer was right, this film seems a lot like the Gable-Tracy film BOOM TOWN, but instead stars Pat O'Brien and John Garfield. Like BOOM TOWN, this one is about the oil business and guys who love to gamble on whether or not they can make a strike. Ironically, this movie debuted only one week before BOOM TOWN and I assume both films, while similar, were created completely separately and didn't influence the other--but it sure looks like they are the same general plot.

The film begins with Garfield looking for a job in the oil fields. However, he has a secret--he's a wanted man. Despite this, O'Brien is impressed with Garfield and feels he's an honest man, so he decides to give Garfield a break.

Later, Frances Langford comes along and takes an instant dislike for Garfield. If you are familiar with films of this era, this can only mean one thing--they'll be head over heels in love by the end of the movie! The problem is that O'Brien as well is interested in Langford--creating a dilemma. Will Garfield stab his buddy in the back to get the girl or will O'Brien be a regular guy and step aside? It's all predictable but fun--the sort of film which Warner Brothers did so well. Light fluff, of course, but enjoyable fluff.

So of the two films, which is worth seeing? Well, I'd say it was a toss-up--both are about equally good (but far from great), though BOOM TOWN might be a tiny bit better. Of course, I might just feel this way because Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert were in this film--two of my all-time favorites.
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not very good
kyle_furr2 April 2004
This movie reminds you of Boom Town, with Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy fighting each other sometimes and then being friends again. That was an "A" picture and this one is a "B" picture. This one stars John Garfield and Pat O'Brien as two oil workers, who both fall in love with Francis Farmer. Garfield is wanted for murder and running from the cops but O'Brien won't turn him in. Garfield and Farmer are always fighting with each other but it's pretty obvious that their in love. O'Brien is also in love with Farmer but he's too late. Their isn't too much else to the plot and this was one of Garfield's lesser films. Pat O'Brien is his usual self and Farmer's career went downhill after this film.
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Been there, done that
jaykay-1017 February 2003
It is difficult to believe that, even in 1940, this story was thought original enough to support an "A" picture. Many Westerns have utilized it, with slight variations; sometimes its characters are involved with coal mining; here they are oilfield roughnecks, but that's about as different as it gets. As for the casting, John Garfield is a bit softer than usual, Pat O'Brien a bit tougher, Frances Farmer unremarkable. There is some decent comic relief by Cliff Edwards and Tom Kennedy: good thing, because this conventional melodrama needs all the help it can get.
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Mud, Oil, Dust and Ukeles
dogwater-16 March 2014
A Warner Bros. gusher with the old, old story. Two heroes vie for one girl and only one can go home with her. John Garfield, a roughneck oil worker on the lam teams up with Pat O'Brien to bring in a well for Wildcat Chalmers, the treasured Raymond Walborn, and his daughter Linda, played by the very special Frances Farmer. Yes, its an old story and this studio made this movie time and again in various settings, but it never really gets old because of the Warner stars and the breakneck pace and energy. Cliff Edwards is along with his uke as "Hotrocks" and Granville Bates at his most sour. All three leads are superb, but especially Ms. Farmer, who at her best, was one of the most natural screen actresses of her day and very much her own woman. She's fascinating. Good, solid, satisfying movie.
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dougdoepke14 March 2010
Fugitive Garfield is befriended by oil field boss O'Brien, but ends up falling for his friend's girl, Farmer.

Two-fisted action film with a generous helping of pretty good comedy relief. Okay, you've probably seen it all before and can tick off the romantic subplot by the numbers. Still, it's hard not to watch since the action is so well done. Warner Bros. in particular recycled the plot in the following year's Manpower (1941). Nonethrless, the premise of good buddies falling for the same girl has built-in appeal that's hard to resist. Garfield and O'Brien do their macho thing as oil field roughnecks, while Frances Farmer of the perpetual-lovely-smile proves she's a true Hollywood rebel by refusing to pluck her eyebrows.

And get a load of that roaring, nightmare river, not a place to drop a fishing line unless you're angling for the Loch Ness monster. Heck, the riverside road doesn't even have a guard rail—no wonder the crane driver wants to bail. Studio special effects really did a great visual job with that one. In fact, the movie manages the look and feel of a real oil field minus the usual process shots, at least that I could spot. I guess that says something for the often overlooked role of producer, in this case the big enchilada himself, Jack Warner.

And get a load too of Jodie Gilbert as Tillie the man-eating barber or is it barberess. Either way, she'll make you rethink women as the weaker sex. If I were husband Cliff Edwards, I'd be hiring a bodyguard fast. Anyhow it's a colorful and amusing supporting cast, none of which to take seriously, much like the movie itself. The 80-minutes may not be Oscar bait, but the sum-total again shows how old Hollywood with all its flaws could still turn out good lively entertainment.
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"Terrifying--Their Lust For Oil! ... Thrilling--Their Love For a Woman!"
moonspinner555 March 2010
Oil-rig worker from Montana, on the run from police, finds himself out west; seems he's killed a man in self-defense and didn't argue too much when his fellow cell-mates made a break for it. A tough but friendly oil foreman takes him on, and together they work feverishly to strike a gusher or lose their lease on the land. An odd, somewhat dislocating mix of elements (noir, gangster drama, light comedy, romance) gets the film off to a convoluted start--even with self-assured John Garfield in the lead. Garfield is so casual about his toughness, his armor, that he walks through the picture almost gregariously, lightening the load. Pat O'Brien (with his large, handsome face, as if he were grandfather to George Clooney) is wonderful as John's first real friend, but Frances Framer is a walking question-mark as the love-interest. With her unhappy eyes and deep, husky voice, Farmer doesn't connect with the audience and never really gets into character, not that there's much of one (she welcomes a date with O'Brien but just as quickly falls for Garfield the same evening). The script, by Kenneth Gamet from a story by Rex Beach, is overly-complicated at the outset, but improves after it settles into a more conventional mode (the technical detail is a big help). The movie delivers a good time in the end, despite some outlandish circumstances and a bit of overplaying from the eccentrics in the supporting cast. **1/2 from ****
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Where's Jimmy?
WarnersBrother11 October 2014
Warning: Spoilers
I want to echo an earlier comment and say that this clearly was written for Pat O'Brien and James Cagney who had terrific chemistry (Ceiling Zero, Angels With Dirty Faces, The Fighting 69th, Torrid Zone and the sublime Boy Meets Girl).

Instead we get O'Brien, nearing the end of his Warners career with John Garfield who was just becoming one of the Studios biggest Stars, along with Francis Farmer as the love interest. It seems no one is willing to be critical of Farmer because of the tragic occurrences of her off-screen life, but I just plain don't care for her in this, partially because the Director gives her a hollow role and partially because she has zero chemistry with Garfield. In one rather unfortunate scene she and Garfield are riding in an open car and it is painfully clear that she is taller than Garfield...it looks like he needs a booster seat!

Having said all that, it is a good if formulaic A-, it's pure Warner's from beginning to end, has a great supporting cast and it's great fun to watch. A good solid 6 and for Warner's fans an 8. But you can't but wonder what Cagney would have made it.
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Fairly Routine Oil Field Film
atlasmb21 May 2014
At only 81 minutes in length, "Flowing Gold" is no sweeping drama, like "Giant". It's the story of one wildcat oilfield crew who are trying to bring in the well that will change their lives.

It's a rough life, filled with dangers and hardships, but the crew's camaraderie keeps the film light. The requisite love story, which fizzles more than sizzles, also provides some relief from the gritty drama of the drill.

John Garfield plays the lead--a guy always on the run from the authorities, who is wanted for murder in another state. He's a tough guy with a chip on his shoulder who, maybe, just needs someone to believe in him.

Not much new ground is covered here. And most of the action is predictable. The cast does about as much as it can with the script they are given.
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Two Stars Caught In A Programmer
David (Handlinghandel)12 April 2005
John Garfield, the quintessential New Yorker, as an Oklahoma oil driller? Beautiful Frances Farmer with close-cropped hair in denims and checks? What in the world was anyone thinking of? The supporting cast is good. Farmer is OK and Garfield is good. When they're together, they actually resemble each other physically. Maybe my imagination and maybe it was their similarly good bone structure.

Probably they knew each other from the Group Theater but great drama this sure is not.

Garfield died tragically young. Farmer's career, as has been well documented, was cut very short by her mother's intervention and her horrifying lobotomy.

What a shame that one of the very few Farmer movies still shown and one of maybe ten or 15 with Garfield has to be something so dull and routine as this.
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Bringing In The Big Gusher
bkoganbing4 March 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I'm sure that Jack Warner didn't realize there would be no more buddy movies with James Cagney and Pat O'Brien when Flowing Gold was before the cameras. With John Garfield substituting for Cagney, Flowing Gold is another of their buddy films, this time with Garfield and O'Brien being oil roughnecks. But O'Brien would be leaving Warner Brothers the following year and the cycle would end with Torrid Zone which came out before Flowing Gold in 1940.

O'Brien and Garfield are working for oil wildcatter Raymond Walburn who is modeled on Frank Morgan's role in MGM's Boom Town. He's got a sure thing oil lease, but Walburn's rival Granville Bates fights him at every turn. It's not clear just why Bates has it in for Walburn, but suffice to say he does.

Ray also has a beautiful daughter in Frances Farmer who Garfield is panting after. But Garfield also is a fugitive on a murder rap and he's got to be discreet in many ways, which is definitely not his style.

Now if you don't think the guys are going to bring the big gusher in on time you haven't seen too many films like these.

Garfield and Farmer have a reunion of sorts here, they both were members in good standing of the Group Theater in New York. Farmer had a torrid affair with Clifford Odets who wrote Golden Boy where Garfield scored his first big success on stage. Over there they did work of great social significance which Flowing Gold will never be characterized as.

Several reviewers and the Citadel film series book, The Films Of John Garfield all say that Flowing Gold was Warner Brothers hurried answer to Boom Town which was given the MGM full star treatment and budget. There certainly are similarities, but Boom Town if you watch it is an ode to unbridled capitalism, it's one of the most rightwing films ever made in Hollywood. We see the stars Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Claudette Colbert, and Hedy Lamarr moving the world of high finance and oil politics as well as getting down and dirty in the oil fields. True to Warner Brothers reputation as the working class studio, Flowing Gold has no such pretensions.

Flowing Gold is your routine action programmer the kind Warner Brothers just grinded out by the dozen at that time. All the stars do well here, though Garfield and Farmer would have wished for something better.
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