|THE GOOD EARTH (director: Sidney Franklin; screenwriters: novel by Pearl Buck/based the stage adaptation by Owen Davis and Donald Davis/Talbot Jennings/Tess Slesinger/Claudine West; cinematographer: Karl Freund; editor: Basil Wrangell; music: Herbert Stothart; cast: Paul Muni (Wang), Luise Rainer (O-Lan), Walter Connolly (Uncle), Tilly Losch (Lotus), Charley Grapewin (Old Father), Jessie Ralph (Cuckoo), Soo Yong (Aunt), Keye Luke (Elder Son), Roland Lui (Younger Son); Runtime: 139; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Irving Thalberg/Albert Lewin; MGM; 1937)|
|"It gets by with
great star performances, but the story
by Dennis Schwartz
It's adapted from the 1931
Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Pearl Buck.
The big-budget film was for a hefty $3
million, quite a sum for back in the day. It took
four years to tack together before released,
as revisions were ongoing. Sidney
Franklin ("The Dark Angel"/"Smilin'
Through"/"The Barretts of Wimpole Street")
directs it as an drawn-out epic, and bases it on
Donald Davis and Owen Davis' stage-adaptation of the
sprawling novel. Writers Talbot
Jennings, Tess Slesinger and Claudine West try to
bring it to life telling the story of a
Chinese farming couple whose lives are deeply
affected by poverty, greed, and nature.
We follow the
peasant marriage in China of kitchen
slave O-Lan (Luise Rainier)
and the farmer Wang (Paul Muni). The
hard-working couple raise three children, and
struggle bringing in the harvests and fighting
through droughts. Wang wisely buys more land for
cheap and eventually becomes rich. Not
satisfied, Wang deserts the farm and takes a
much younger second wife.
offers comic relief as the greedy uncle. Tilly Losch,
a dancer, plays a straight role as Muni's
second wife. Charley
Grapewin robustly plays the elderly father
film on peasant life in China, despite casting
both occidental and Chinese actors, never seemed
anything but artificial and plodding. It gets by
with great star performances, but the story
remains undramatic. It works for Hollywood as a
prestige film, as it tries its hand at history.
But if you are not predisposed to see a film
about Chinese farmers, I wouldn't go out of my
way to see this one.
The pic won Academy Awards for Luise Rainier as Best Actress and Karl Freund for Best Cinematography.
REVIEWED ON 4/18/2015 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ