High, Wide and Handsome

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High, Wide and Handsome is a 1937 American musical film starring Irene Dunne, Randolph Scott, Alan Hale, Sr., Charles Bickford, and Dorothy Lamour. The movie was directed by Rouben Mamoulian, and written by Oscar Hammerstein II and George O'Neil, with lyrics by Hammerstein and music by Jerome Kern. It was released by Paramount Pictures.

High, Wide and Handsome
High wide and handsome promo picture.jpg
Promotional poster
Directed byRouben Mamoulian
Written by
Produced byArthur Hornblow Jr.
Edited byArchie Marshek
Music byJerome Kern
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • July 21, 1937 (1937-07-21)
Running time
110 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$1.9 million


In 1859, Doc Watterson brings his traveling medicine show to Titusville, Pennsylvania. (In a deliberate nod to Kern and Hammerstein's classic musical Show Boat, which had been filmed with Irene Dunne the year before, it stars Irene Dunne as Doc Watterson's daughter Sally, with Doc in the mold of Dunne's Show Boat character's father, Cap'n Andy.[citation needed] In addition, Dorothy Lamour sings a torch song, much as Helen Morgan did in Show Boat.) When the medicine show wagon accidentally goes up in flames, Mrs Cortlandt and her grandson Peter invite the Wattersons and their fake Indian, Mac, to stay with them. Peter and Sally fall in love.

Railroad tycoon Walt Brennan wants to take over the land of several oil-drilling farmers, led by Peter Cortlandt. Brennan wants to use the land to build a railroad. The townspeople block the plan, assisted by a herd of circus elephants, and instead construct their own oil pipeline.



The movie includes the classic Kern-Hammerstein song "Can I Forget You?", as well as "The Folks Who Live On the Hill". Director Mamoulian saw to it (with Kern and Hammerstein's help) that most of the songs were firmly integrated into the plot of the film and advanced the storyline.


Frank S. Nugent of The New York Times wrote, "A richly produced, spectacular and melodious show, it moves easily into the ranks of the season's best and probably is as good an all-around entertainment as we are likely to find on Broadway this summer."[1] Variety reported that it had "too much Hollywood hokum" and that it "flounders as it progresses, and winds up in a melodramatic shambles of fisticuffs, villainy and skullduggery which smacks of the serial film school."[2] Harrison's Reports called it "very good mass entertainment" with "delightful" music but a story that was "very weak."[3] Russell Maloney of The New Yorker wrote, "Mamoulian's handling of the story leaves something to be desired (he's pretty preoccupied with apple blossoms and hillsides) but the general effect of the picture is pleasant."[4]

Writing for Night and Day in 1937, Graham Greene gave the film a poor review, characterizing it as "two hours of [a] long, dumb and dreary picture". Greene notes that the Hollywood aesthetics from director Mamoulian sets an unrealistic and thus improbable scene.[5]

The film was not a success when released, partly because it was shown in roadshow format, which caused it to lose more money than it normally would have.


  1. ^ The New York Times Film Reviews, Volume 2: 1932-1938. The New York Times & Arno Press. 1970. p. 1410.
  2. ^ "Film Reviews". Variety. New York: Variety, Inc. July 28, 1937. p. 16.
  3. ^ "High, Wide and Handsome". Harrison's Reports. New York: Harrison's Reports, Inc.: 126 August 7, 1937.
  4. ^ Maloney, Russell (July 31, 1937). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. New York: F-R Publishing Corp. p. 49.
  5. ^ Greene, Graham (26 August 1937). "Saratoga/High, Wide and Handsome/His Affair". Night and Day. (reprinted in: Taylor, John Russell, ed. (1980). The Pleasure Dome. Oxford University Press. pp. 163–164. ISBN 0192812866.)
  • Green, Stanley (1999) Hollywood Musicals Year by Year (2nd ed.), pub. Hal Leonard Corporation ISBN 0-634-00765-3 pages 70-71

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