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"Wicked" Lily Bishop joins a wagon train to California, led by Michael Fabian and Johnnny Trumbo, but news of the Gold Rush scatters the train. When Johnny and Michael finally arrive, Lily is rich from her saloon and storekeeper (former slaver) Pharaoh Coffin is bleeding the miners dry. But worse troubles are ahead: California is inching toward statehood, and certain people want to make it their private empire. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"California" was an ambitious film from Director John Farrow and Paramount Pictures. In spite of its lavish Technicolr photography and a music score from Victor Young, it falls flat as a big budget movie.
The film is basically divided into three parts, the wagon train sequence, the arrival in California sequence and the fight for statehood sequence.
Wagon master Jonathon Trumbo (Ray Milland) is leading a wagon train of settlers to the promised land of California in the late 1840s. In one of the towns he meets "saloon gird;" Lily Bishop (Barbara Stanwyck) who is being run out of town by the ladies of the town. She asks to accompany the wagon train and wine maker Michael Fabian (Barry Fitzgerald agrees to take her along. When news of a gold strike in California reaches the wagons, the farmers catch gold fever and desert Trumbo and the train.
Later in California Trumbo arrives to find Lily in 'the employ" of ex slaver Captain Pharoh Coffin (George Coulouris) who has ambitions to take over the whole of California by blocking its bid for statehood. Trumbo recognizes Coffin and confronts him only to be beaten up by his brutish henchman Pike (albert Dekker). Although Lily loves Trumbo she still plans to marry Coffin (for his money of course).
The fight for statehood follows with Fabian representing the pro statehood side and Coffin leading the anti-statehood faction. Naturally, the pro statehood faction carries the day. Coffin attempts to force his will with arms, a blazing gun battle ensues and...................................
This movie, although it has its moments, plays more like a "B" movie, especially in the middle, than any thing else. One expects Zorro or The Cisco Kid to ride in at any moment. I mean a villain named Pharoh Coffin, come on. The shots of the wagon train are impressive (probably due to stock footage) and the shots of the landscape are equally appealing in glorious color. But the movie falls flat.
Ray Milland is not really that convincing as a hard nosed wagon master. Stanwyck, always better than her material, gives a good performance as the gold digging Lily. Coulouris' villain is melodramatic and fits more into a "B" movie than an "A" big budget feature. Dekker's brutish henchman is good, but he would have made a better Coffin than colorless Coulouris. Others in the cast include Anthony Quinn, Frank Faylen, Eduardo Ciannelli and Agentina Brunetti. To add to the "B" look of the film several "B" movie veterans appear in small supporting roles.
A better script, some casting changes and we could have had a much more memorable movie.
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