Boom Town (1940)
Release Date: August 30,1940
Directed by: Jack Conway
Gable is “Big John” McMasters and Tracy is “Square John” Sand, or as Big John calls him right from the beginning, “Shorty”. They are two wildcatters out west trying to strike oil. They pool their money and smarts and soon hit it big. Putting a snag in their festivities is the arrival of Elizabeth or “Betsy” (Colbert), Shorty’s sweetheart from back home. She arrives to see him but falls in love with Big John instead, and they are married the night they met.
A year passes and when Shorty thinks that Big John is not treating Betsy right, the two men come to blows and flip a coin to decide who gets the oil rigs. Shorty wins and Big John and Betsy hit the road. The film follows them through the years as Big John and Betsy have a son and strike it rich, first in Oklahoma, then in New York. Shorty also strikes it rich but soon loses it all. When the two men meet again and decide to let bygones be bygones, their friendship and working relationship is tested again when Shorty discovers Big John is having an affair with the elegant Karen VanMeer (Lamarr).
Motion Picture Magazine, November 1940
If more pictures like “Boom Town” were turned out Hollywood would be enjoying a boom of its own, Sam Goldwyn wouldn’t be sounding off pessimistically periocally for “Boom Town”–a thrilling melodrama–has all the ingredients necessary to satisfy every type of audience–a magnificent cast, an excellent story, splendid pictorial effcts and superb direction. The cast, headed by Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Claudette Colbert and Hedy Lamarr, also includes such talented names as Frank Morgan, Lionel Atwill, Chill Wills, Marion Martin, Minna Gombel, Sara Haden, Joe Yule, Horace Murphy and Frank McGlynn, Sr.; the screenplay by John Lee Mahin is based on James Edward Grant’s story and Harold Rosson and Jack Conway are responsible for the photography and direction. “Boom Town” is the story of men and women–their passions and their pleasures–against the dramatic background of an Oklahoma oil city. In close-up Spence and Gable are partners and friends with interruptions–for Spence’s gal, Claudette, marries Gable–during the fighting era of the oil boom. In addition to its dramatic value “Boom Town” also offeres educational value.
Silver Screen Magazine, November 1940
Super Super Special. And here is your biggest box office hit since “Gone with the Wind.” Not only does it have one of the greatest casts in cinema history–imagine Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Spencer Tracy, Hedy Lamarr, Frank Morgan–but it has one of the grandest stories. You have no idea how thrilling oil fields can be. The story is about the oil fields in Texas and Oklahoma, and about a couple of two-fisted wildcat operators, Big John McMaster and Square John Sande, played to the hilt by Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy. Both guys make and lose a couple of fortunes during the course of the picture, which all goes to show there is nothing stagnant about the oil business. After their first run-in, Gable and Tracy become staunch friends–though outwardly, what with one thing and another, they are bitter enemies. When Tracy’s girl (Claudette) comes out to the boom town to visit him she and Gable fall in love and marry at once–which breaks up the partnership. Gable finally attains great financial success, and goes to New York to be in on the bigtime. Hedy Lamarr, one of those luxurious sirens of the city, begins to get in some dirty work on Gable, when suddenly Tracy blows into town–and to save the happiness of the woman they both love, he sets out to ruin Gable. The picture ends with both of them broke and happy. Claudette hopelessly in love again and the partners in a wildcat operation in California. All five of the stars are excellent, couldn’t be better. In the supporting cast are Lionel Atwill, Marion Martin, Minna Gombel, and Chill Wills.
Watch the re-issue trailer:
“Shorty, do you mind backing up and letting me by?” first line
“You know I wouldn’t turn my back on a lady!”
“Hey Whitey, I’ll be back down like a spring breeze. Don’t let those apes steal all your peanuts.”
“Looks like we got company, Shorty.”
“Hey wait a minute, little man! I was pulling oil out of the ground when your ma was giving it to you for your health”
“If I thought that much about a girl I’d…It’d have to be a girl like you. I’d want her right where I could take a hold of her and tell her.”
“Hey! Come down here. I make up my mind quick. I made it up when I first saw you I guess. You aren’t ever going to leave.”
“Oh, you are my gal. Well, wildcatting it is. And our house will be wherever we are. If there’s oil at the North Pole, we’ll live in an igloo and you won’t freeze to death either.”
“Tell Mr. Sand he can ram his $50 a day up his nose! I don’t need the work.”
“What’d you expect, stranger? A bald head and a bread basket?”
“You slaphappy windbag!”
“When you whistle for me, I’ll whistle back with a blowpipe!”
“I’ll fly a kite down your windpipe!”
“You’re just a crooked old jerk!”
“This is an old time bar room fight–the man that hits first wins and that’s me!”
“Back-dooring me, that’s what you’ve been doing–sneaking in my back door! Well, you’re not going to get away with it!”
“You’re not getting away from me. You know that, don’t you? I’m not blaming you, baby, but you aren’t walking out with him or anybody else, understand?”
“Sand! He told me all about it. I had to give him a licking to show him that’s out! You’re my girl, see, and you always will be. Even if I have to lick you to prove it!”
“I’m getting tired of your face, sonny.”
“Came from some old guy named Ketterman.” last line
Behind the Scenes:
Rita Hayworth was considered for the role of Karen Vanmeer.
Gable added a few lines and events to the script from his days working in the Oklahoma oil fields in the 1920’s.
Carole Lombard made a point to visit her husband on set on the days he was filming with Lamarr, always, as observers pointed out, “looking like a million bucks.”
When filming the fight scene between Gable and Tracy, Tracy’s stunt double accidently punched him square in the jaw, breaking his false teeth and cutting up his lips. He was out for three weeks to heal and the film was shot around him until he returned.
Gable’s first scene upon his return to the set was a love scene with Colbert. She kissed him so hard his temporary dentures cracked.
Upon completion of this film, Gable accompanied Lombard to Napa Valley while she did location shooting for her film They Knew What They Wanted.