In Tulsa, after a rancher dies during a feud with a major oil company, his daughter, driven by revenge, starts digging for oil herself.
The film tells a story about the Tulsa, Oklahoma oil boom of the 1920s and details how obsession with accumulating wealth and power can tend to corrupt moral character. The tale begins with the death of rancher Nelse Lansing, who is killed by an oil well blowout while visiting Tanner Petroleum to report that pollution from Tanner’s oil production has killed some of Lansing’s cattle. Lansing’s daughter, Cherokee, initially in an effort to punish Tanner for her father’s death, acquires drilling rights on her land; she meets Brad Brady, a geologist who wants drilling to be limited in order to minimize oil field depletion and to preserve the area’s grasslands.
Jim Redbird is a native American who has long been drawn to Cherokee and upon being persuaded by Brady that cattle men can live and work alongside oil men, buys into her oil business and becomes wealthy. As Cherokee succumbs to power and greed and partners with the ruthless Tanner, Jim renounces his holdings. Overcome with anger after a humiliating meeting with Tanner, Cherokee and some of their legal and governmental associates, Jim accidentally starts a fire in a derrick trailing pool. The film received its Oscar nomination for the resulting extravagant scenes of the rampaging flames. In its aftermath, in recognition of the destruction caused by improper oil drilling, and how money and power can corrupt even those who love the land, the oil drillers and the geologist vow to start over and to ensure conservation is their top priority.
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