- Directed by Albert S. Rogell
- December 6, 1943 (US)
In the early part of the 20th century in Oklahoma, a cowboy fights for oil lease rights on tribal lands against a greedy and treacherous oil baron as a schoolteacher steals both of their hearts.
This film, no matter which name you choose to call it, is a fun John Wayne Western comedy from early in his career. The story relies a lot on coincidence but it is comedic coincidence so I’m more than willing to give it a pass. Despite being nearly 80 years old many of the jokes still work.
John Wayne is local cowboy Dan Somers who faces off against local oil baron Jim Gardner (Albert Dekker). Gardner isn’t all mustache twisting evil but rather just underhanded. He’s willing to screw people over but does not appear to be the murderous type. The murdering in this film comes from former henchmen trying to get back in his good graces. His nemesis Somers is charming and cocky and goes up against Gardner as much to best the devious businessman as to win the heart of the woman they are both drawn towards.
Our two central male figures are vying for the heart of schoolteacher turned author Catherine Allen (Martha Scott) who was forced to leave her small town because the book she wrote is rather scandalous. Our three central characters all intersect when Dan, a former sergeant in the military, flags down a passing train because his horse died and he was wandering in the desert. Catherine is immediately drawn to Dan but goof ups on his part create a bit of a hindrance to the two connecting and she gravitates towards the charming and wealthy Gardner.
Dan, in an effort to win Catherine’s heart, tries several avenues of varying success before he finds himself forced into being a business rival of Gardner who is using tough tactics to get local land as well as come out on top in his oil business. This all intersects with an oil lease on Indian land that the tribe offers to Dan because of his significantly more generous terms than those of the devious Gardner. The only thing that helps him is he happened to serve with President Teddy Roosevelt (Sidney Blackmer) in Cuba.
There are twists and turns with a few false starts along the way as Dan and Catherine get closer. The excitement mounts as Dan works his best to get around through determination and will the underhanded mechanizations of the villainous oil baron.
There is nothing deep here in the narrative. It is just a fun and light Western comedy with plenty of smiles and a few good laughs. The story is entertaining, and the film will satisfy you if you’re just looking to enjoy yourself. This was meant to be pure entertainment from a time when such things in films were possible.
War of the Wildcats (or whatever you choose to call it) is an entertaining and still enjoyable older film. I will give us an if you want but it is something you should want as you will finish it with a smile on your face.