20 user 9 critic

California (1947)

Passed | | Romance, Western | 21 February 1947 (USA)
2:11 | Trailer
Epic account of how California became a state, featuring a wagon train, the Gold Rush, a wicked saloon queen, and an evil profiteer.


John Farrow


Frank Butler (screenplay), Theodore Strauss (screenplay) | 1 more credit »





Complete credited cast:
Ray Milland ... Jonathan Trumbo
Barbara Stanwyck ... Lily Bishop
Barry Fitzgerald ... Michael Fabian
George Coulouris ... Capt. Pharaoh Coffin
Albert Dekker ... Mr. Pike
Anthony Quinn ... Don Luís Rivera y Hernandez
Frank Faylen ... Whitey
Gavin Muir ... Booth Pennock
James Burke ... Pokey
Eduardo Ciannelli ... Padre
Roman Bohnen ... Col. Stuart
Argentina Brunetti ... Elvira
Howard Freeman ... Sen. Creel
Julia Faye ... Wagon Woman


"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 <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The Fabulous, Fantastic West! WHERE A MAN'S PLEASURE COSTS HIM HIS GOLD TREASURE! (original print media ad - many caps) See more »


Romance | Western


Passed | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


One of over 700 Paramount productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. Television broadcasts were delayed until 1960 in order to protect Paramount's 1958 theatrical re-release which was still in wide distribution through 1959; its earliest documented telecast took place in Phoenix Friday 11 March 1960 on KVAR (Channel 12). At this time, color broadcasting was in its infancy, limited to only a small number of high rated programs, primarily on NBC and NBC affiliated stations, so these film showings were all still in B&W. Viewers were not offered the opportunity to see these films in their original Technicolor until several years later. It was released on DVD 8 May 2007 as one of 4 titles in Universal's Classic Western Roundup Volume 2, and, since that time, cable TV viewers have been afforded the opportunity of seeing it looking just like new, in glorious Technicolor, on the Western Channel. See more »


A number of the pistols used by characters appear to be cartridge revolvers, rather than cap-and-ball. See more »


Johnny Trumbo: No court would try you, Captain, because no one would hold that a black was a man. He was an animal which you beat and chained, and all he had to offer up against you was a prayer.
Pharaoh Coffin: Bilge, Mr. Trumbo, bilge. Most men love the chains they wear. They need a master the way they need their mothers. I've heard such talk from pulpits, "the meek shall inherit the earth." No, Mr. Trumbo, the earth belongs to the men who make the law, and the law belongs to the men who can lay it down.
See more »


Referenced in Shadows of Suspense (2006) See more »


Music by Earl Robinson
Lyrics E.Y. Harburg
Sung by chorus
See more »

User Reviews

Fails to Gel
20 August 2012 | by dougdoepkeSee all my reviews

The movie is a stab at an epic western that simply fails to gel. The best part is the "moving west" scenes of wagon trains convoying across the open southwestern terrain. These achieve an epic feel that the dramatics unfortunately fail to duplicate. The screenplay itself is pretty crowded, telling the story of California's becoming a state, no less. From settlers to gold rush to saloons to political intrigue, the story is traced out mainly through Milland, Stanwyck, and Coulouris, with Fitzgerald as a salt-of-the-earth anchor.

Now, that might work, except director Farrow has little feel for the material. The various parts come across in rather limp, unexciting fashion. It's as if he's content to simply film the script without bringing its many conflicts to dramatic life. Thus, the drama is conveyed in words instead of characters. Then too, Oscar winner Milland appears either miscast or uninspired. His role really calls for a bigger personality than Milland's generally low-key wagon master. (He may have viewed a western as a comedown after his award winning role in The Lost Weekend.) Stanwyck is of course Stanwyck even though she's dolled-up to suit Technicolor filming and crowded around by the packed screenplay . Too bad the guy who could have enlivened the action remains in supporting background, namely, the commanding Albert Dekker (Pike).

Anyway, I guess I now know why this epic western remains so obscure, despite its Paramount pedigree and marquee cast.

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Release Date:

21 February 1947 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

California See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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