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This western begins with St. Louis resident Lutie Cameron (Katharine Hepburn) marrying New Mexico cattleman Col. James B. 'Jim' Brewton (Spencer Tracy) after a short courtship. When she arrives in "Salt Fork, NM" she finds that her new husband is considered by the locals to be a tyrant who uses force to keep homesteaders off the government owned land he uses for grazing his cattle--the so-called Sea of Grass. Lutie, has difficulty reconciling her husband's beliefs and passions with her own. Written by
Card at beginning: This story takes place for the most part against the background of the sea of grass - that vast grazing empire which once covered the western part of north America from the great plains to the rocky mountains, and beyond. See more »
This movie is tough to love. Partly this is due to the setting of the film (nothing but grasslands as far as the eyes can see), but most of it is because the two main characters are so flawed and unlikable. In some ways this unlikability is good, as too often Hollywood films of the 30s and 40s present people in a "black/white" fashion and people who fall somewhere towards the middle are seldom seen. However, such "gray" characters are tough to bond with or care about, so I can understand why the film makers generally avoided this. Katherine Hepburn seems like a good character through much of the film, but midway through it, she shows a self-centeredness that make it tough to really see the tragedy in her life. Her initially living with the cruel and lawless Tracy is unforgivable, but her having an affair and then leaving her kids (one the bastard) with Tracy and not seeing them for almost 20 years make her very, very tough to like. Tracy, on the other hand, does stay to care for his kids--but in a very self-serving fashion. He is an emotionally constricted and yet over-indulgent father. As a human being, he's a lot worse--killing or nearly killing farmers because he saw the plains as his own personal property. The central message that eventually these farmers contributed to the destruction of the plains is lost--Tracy's not fighting against the farmers due to any love of nature or a desire to preserve the land. No, he's just a greedy rancher that will do ANYTHING to keep the land without fences.
Despite the problems with the characters, the film is exquisitely filmed--with some of the more beautiful camera shots I've seen in a long time. This film is worth seeing, but not one I would recommend you rush to see.
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