Sutter's Gold (1936)

Genres - Adventure, Western  |   Sub-Genres - Biopic [feature]  |   Run Time - 69 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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Universal plunged into the clutches of its creditors with its expensive fiasco Sutter's Gold. Edward Arnold plays Swiss immigrant Johann Sutter, who seeks his fortune in the California of the 1830s. Against all odds, Sutter builds up a huge land empire, only to watch its explode when gold is discovered at Sutter's mill in 1848. Prospectors, speculators and claim-jumpers strip Sutter of his hard-earned riches, and he is forced to retire on a minimal government pension. While the film ignores the dicier facts about the real Johann Sutter, who was as much confidence trickster and philanderer as he was visionary, and while history is distorted to the point that Sutter's Fort is subject to an Alamo-style Mexican raid, there is nothing really wrong with this on an entertainment level. But it went way over budget and was too downbeat a tale to score with a depression audience looking for optimistic answers to its own financial problems. The failure was softened somewhat by the success of Universal's subsequent Show Boat, but it was too late for the studio's Carl Laemmle regime, which would be ousted by the end of 1936. That same year, incidentally, a German film about Johann Sutter, The Kaiser of California, was made, with Hans Albers in the lead.

Characteristics

Keywords

exploration, aristocracy, building, claim, conflict, desert, development, discovery, failure, family, fortune [wealth], fortune-hunter, gold, gold-rush, government, killing, land, refugee, sawmill, son, traveling, wife, worker