Deciding to take a break from the pessimism of the last few films, I encountered a little-seen but enjoyable film that deals with the oil industry in a morally neutral way. Which I suppose by the basis of most Hollywood films is at least a step in the right direction. "The Stars Fell On Henrietta" is a story about Depression-era oil men and the fortunes they sought. Robert Duvall plays Mr. Cox, a down-on-his-luck prospector ambling from place to place in 1935. While hitching a ride to California, a stop in a small Texas town proves fortunate. While wandering around an open field, an almost supernatural force alerts Cox that there is a major reserve in the area. The trouble is, he doesn't have the $5,000 necessary to drill the land, so he tries to talk a local farmer into helping him. The man and his family smell a scam, but Mr. Cox seems so sincere that they begin to snoop around for oil themselves. They eventually all get back together, drill the well all with that mystical Americana filling the screen. Well, first off it was rather enjoyable to see a film that never once treated oil like it was an evil product that ruined lives, destabilized governments and got Billy Bob Thornton killed. In fact, to make up for "On Deadly Ground," Thornton shows up in this film as a likable oilfield worker who doesn't appear to want to kill Indians. It's amazing. There are some villains here, such as Brian Dennehy as Big Dave McDermot, an obnoxious oil baron who humiliates Mr. Cox. But he's not some crazed monster driven mad by the foul demon petroleum. He's simply a man who's appetites outweigh his common decency, and really he can be transplanted as a tycoon during any boom era in America (gold, railroad, banking) and still be the same character. The movie is not without some criticism for the industry, but not because of the nature of the product, but rather that old Hollywood chestnut about the little guy competing against the robotic, gluttonous nature of big business. Somehow, the movie seems to think that oil discovery was somehow more earnest and magical when when it was conducted by ornery ol' coots dancing around in open fields with their cats instead of with geologists, third-party agencies and environmental reports. And of course, Mr. Cox isn't motivated by money (which would make him just as bad as McDermot, apparently) but instead by the joy of discovery. All in all though, not a bad movie. And for once, the glory of the independent American spirit is shown to be something that business thrives on instead of vehemently opposes. Closing thoughts: You too can be an oil man if you have endless optimism and are willing to commit a few robberies along the way to finance your operations. Also, if you put your ear to the ground and hear the ocean, you might be sitting on top of a future gusher. –Stephen Payne, Editor, Oil and Gas Investor This Week;;