The Sea of Grass (1947):

In the 1880s, St. Louis upper-cruster Katharine Hepburn travels to the New Mexico grasslands to be with husband Spencer Tracy, a ruthless cattle baron not above mobilizing armed goons to keep homesteaders out of the vast expanses of land he's fenced for himself. Kate eventually gets tired of playing second fiddle to the rolling grazing grounds (or, more precisely, the reels of stock footage thereof) Tracy so lovingly gazes at and takes off -- but not before a one-night frisson with her husband's nemesis, "practicing idealist" Melvyn Douglas, the fruit of which grows into hellraisin' cowboy Robert Walker. If Elia Kazan's later movies have too much of him in them, the early ones have almost nothing of him in them: this charitably forgotten sprawler-on-the-range, shot at MGM after his debut with A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, marked a predictably frustrating experience for the neophyte director. The Conrad Richter novel carries seeds for Kazan's repelled fascination with the American South (in Pinky, Baby Doll, East of Eden, Wild River), but every single one of his directorial decisions is vaporized by the studio's penchant for static luxury -- Hepburn never wears the same gown twice, no scene slogs by without frilly drapery, and the inside of a saloon has roughly the worn severity of a Beverly Hills beauty parlor. With Edgar Buchanan, Harry Carey, Robert Armostrong, Ruth Nelson, and Phyllis Thaxter. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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