At 131 minutes, this sprawling western was long on talk and short on action. Tracy, a tough cattle baron who owns a huge tract in the New Mexico Territory known as "The Sea of Grass," resents the intrusion of hundreds of homesteaders but loses a court case to keep them off the land. He
is married to Hepburn, a sweet St. Louis woman who has borne him a lovely daughter (played at various ages by Smith, Nugent, Gowland, and Thaxter). Obsessed with keeping the homesteaders out of his gray hair, Tracy eventually becomes more and more ruthless. When Tracy's actions become illegal,
Hepburn leaves him and goes to Denver. There she meets Douglas, an attorney who sided with the homesteaders. Because Douglas is the antithesis of what her husband has become, Hepburn finds herself attracted to the gentle lawyer and has a brief fling with him. Later, Hepburn returns to Tracy,
though she is pregnant by Douglas. As she is giving birth to a son, Hepburn admits that Douglas is the father. Nevertheless, Tracy takes Hepburn back into his life and attempts to provide a good home for the boy, who grows up to be Walker. Times passes, Tracy and Hepburn argue again, and she
leaves once more. Life is isn't easy for Walker, whose illegitmacy makes him a target for scorn. Fighting back, he gets in trouble with the law and is shot, dying in the arms of Tracy, the only father he has known. Thaxter, Walker's half-sister, persuades Hepburn to return home, and at the end of
the film Hepburn and Tracy are reconciled.
Tracy, returning to Hollywood after appearing in the unsuccessful Broadway run of Robert Sherwood's "The Rugged Path," underplays, Hepburn overacts, and the result is the least compelling film the two great stars appeared in together. (Reportedly they battled for the 75 days it took to make the
film.) Director Kazan attempted to breathe some life into the project, but he was, at this point, too inexperienced to make much of a difference. Shot mostly on MGM's back lot (though some location work was done in Valentine, Nebraska), THE SEA OF GRASS was put on the shelf for nearly a year. When
the studio finally did release the film, it was given a big media blitz, but moviegoers stayed away in droves.
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