GenreMusical, Western Music directorJerome Kern LanguageEnglish
WriterOscar Hammerstein II, George ONeil Release dateJuly 21, 1937 (1937-07-21) CastIrene Dunne (Sally Watterson), Randolph Scott (Peter Cortlandt), Dorothy Lamour (Molly Fuller), Elizabeth Patterson (Grandma Cortlandt), Raymond Walburn (Doc Watterson), Charles Bickford (Red Scanlon) Similar moviesPitch Perfect 2, Birdman, Frozen, Aladdin, Straight Outta Compton, Beauty and the Beast
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.
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. 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 Courland 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.
Irene Dunne as Sally Watterson
Randolph Scott as Peter Cortlandt
Dorothy Lamour as Molly Fuller
Elizabeth Patterson as Grandma Cortlandt
Raymond Walburn as Doc Watterson
Charles Bickford as Red Scanlon
Akim Tamiroff as Joe Varese
Ben Blue as Zeke
William Frawley as Mac
Alan Hale, Sr. as Walt Brennan
Irving Pichel as Mr. Stark
Stanley Andrews as Lem Moulton
James Burke as Stackpole
Roger Imhof as Pop Bowers
Lucien Littlefield as Mr. Lippincott
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." 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." Harrison's Reports called it "very good mass entertainment" with "delightful" music but a story that was "very weak." 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."
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.