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I didn't expect much from this film, but it really intrigued me. So much so that I want to find a copy of the book by the same name, published in 1933, and read the entire story.
The film focuses on three Maine farming families, all interconnected in some way. First there is the newly arrived immigrant Janowski family. They were encouraged to move there by their son, Stan, who gave up a career playing the violin in favor of farming.
Then there is the family headed by Mark and his second wife Cora. For Cora, what's his is hers and what's hers is hers. Part of her attitude is caused by the fact that she and her daughter by her first marriage hate the farming country of Maine and miss the big city.
The third family is headed by Mil and George. Mil openly goes around complaining about how she hates this kind of life and how shiftless George is - and he really is lazy. Mil is always advising any grown girl who will listen to her not to marry a farmer, don't do what she did and get "stuck", go to the city, do something with her life! When George's laziness is the cause of a needed cow dying and he goes to Mark to borrow one of his cows, and this prevents Cora's oldest daughter from going to secretarial school, all hell breaks loose. As one kid says "Who would know one cow breaking its leg could cause so much trouble".
The complicating factor is that Jean Muir as Jen, Mark's daughter but not Cora's, is content with this life, even though it is a hard one. And she and the Janowski's son Stan begin to develop feelings for one another. But Jen does not want to end up like Mil and George, so she insists on more time for making a commitment. She wants Stan to be sure and have no regrets. Stan sees this as rejection. And then there is Cora's oldest daughter, on the prowl for any man that will take her out of this place she considers a frigid hell.
It really is a complex soap opera set in an unusual place. The one thing that does not quite fit in is the solution to their ruts and boredom that the unhappy members of these families think they will find in the city. The book was written about Maine farmers in the 1920's before the crash. By the time this film was released there were no jobs there, and if you owned food producing land you might lead a boring life, but you would eat.
I'd recommend it for any number of reasons, but primarily it was well acted and it was a rare lead part for Jean Muir. She was mainly a supporting player as was the rest of the cast, plus it is a rare look into a world of farm families in a remote place where so many of the individuals were unhappy and restless, when farm life was generally portrayed as happy in most other films of the 1930's and 40's.
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