The titular call rings at the very beginning and very end, in between thereís the (monetary) rise and (emotional) fall of a Wisconsin lumber tycoon. The brawling lumberjack (Edward Arnold) razes the land, dreams of power, marries into an empire; men greet men with a holler and a mount, with women itís a more complex shell game (it involves spiked drinks and tossed metal trays). Frances Farmer as the hardened beer-hall tart ("What are you guys, missionaries?") is beguilingly stylized, with provocative slouch, slanted mouth, and proto-Bacall throat -- she first appears as part of the crowd, no big deal, then gets the close-up she deserves, singing "Aura Lea" under a parasol. Arnold is in love but business is more important, he weds the bossís daughter (Mary Nash) while Farmer settles for his Swedish pal (Walter Brennan). Decades pass. Arnold visits his widowed friend, the introduction of Brennanís daughter (Farmer also) hinges on a reverse tracking shot and a languid lap dissolve to register a memory (a ghost?) made flesh. (Like Vertigo, itís the story of a man who twice loses his beloved.) Howard Hawks directed most it and got sacked for rewriting Edna Ferberís plot, William Wyler reluctantly finished it. Itís not a hard guessing game: The early passages anticipate bits from To Have and Have Not and Red River, while the later ones (despite the occasional Hawksian gag, like Joel McCrea and Farmer falling for each other while stretching and folding taffy) are dominated by the fancy-gazebo style of The Little Foxes. Samuel Goldwyn took pride in smooshing distinctive artists into anonymous paste, though even he canít homogenize the strikingly divergent elements here. Indeed, the paratactic combination of formalist saloon jaunt, documentary (Richard Rossonís logging industry mini-movie), and stiffly posed soap-opera resembles not Cimarron or Giant but the Straub-Huillet of The Bridegroom, the Comedienne, and the Pimp. At the very least, it shows why Hawksí characters donít raise families. With Mady Williams, Andrea Leads, Frank Shields, Edwin Maxwell, and Cecil Cunningham. In black and white.
--- Fernando F. Croce