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John and Mary sims are city-dwellers hit hard by the financial fist of The Depression. Driven by bravery (and sheer desperation) they flee to the country and, with the help of other workers, set up a farming community - a socialist mini-society based upon the teachings of Edward Gallafent. The newborn community suffers many hardships - drought, vicious raccoons and the long arm of the law - but ultimately pull together to reach a bread-based Utopia. Written by
Irving Thalberg, production chief at MGM, Vidor's home studio, would not back the project. Charles Chaplin was interested in the film and was able to secure a United Artists release for it. Unfortunately banks were reluctant to back a film with that subject matter. See more »
Don't worry Mary. I know things are hard now but we'll make it in the end.
But how, John? Who's going to save us?
Not who, Mary, what. The bread will save us, the bread.
See more »
OUR DAILY BREAD (United Artists, 1934), directed by King Vidor, is a follow-up/sequel to Vidor's own 1928 silent drama, THE CROWD (MGM, 1928) starring James Murray and Eleanor Boardman as the typical American couple, John and Mary Sims. In this sound go-round production, Tom Keene and Karen Morley, who somewhat resemble the original portrayers, step in as John and Mary Sims.
This time the setting takes place during the hard times of the Great Depression. John and Mary live in an apartment (possibly New York City) struggling to survive their daily existence. John searches high and low for any kind of job while Mary manages to talk the landlord into giving them a little more time to come up with the rent money. Hoping that their visiting Uncle Anthony (Lloyd Ingraham) can submit them a loan until John can obtain work, it is learned after a dinner that Uncle Anthony hasn't the funds to help them nor himself. The Stock Market had gotten to him, too. However, he offers the couple an old farm in the country that he doesn't want. Although John and Mary know nothing about farming, they accept his offer. It's only after John comes upon Chris (John Qualen), a destitute Swedish farmer whose truck has broken down, that John hires him as his farmhand. John then comes up with a great idea starting a commune for other depression victims to lend a helping hand, ranging from carpenters to blacksmiths. The farming community, with John as their leader, becomes a thriving success. Of the residents in the community, Louie (Addison Richards), helpful as a tractor driver, is very mysterious, especially when keeping only to himself. After the arrival of Sally (Barbara Pepper), a blonde floozy, she not only plays her radio music loud enough to hear in the next town, but arouses enough attention from John to go away with her. Situations arise when farm animals and crops of corn are dying due to a serious drought.
OUR DAILY BREAD is an interesting look of an American people of the Depression era striving together, uniting as one, with a positive outlook in life regardless of how dark things become. A forerunner to the now famous John Steinbeck novel, THE GRAPES OF WRATH (which later became a classic 1940 motion picture starring Henry Fonda, with John Qualen playing a strong supporting role, minus his Swedish accent), in a story about farmers losing their land and driving cross-country to fight unemployment. Steinbeck's book and movie adaptation goes more into darker detail than Vidor's production. There's drama, but plays on the lighter side, with moments of comedy "relief" usually by the supporting players of farmers. There's a memorable scene where farmers gather together for prayer, kneeling on the earth of soil, accompanied by a choir sounding music soundtrack. This religious-style musical soundtrack would be repeated again not only in the film's conclusion, but in fragments of other films as THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO (UA, 1934) with Robert Donat, and LES MISERABLES (20th Century, 1935) with Fredric March. While OUR DAILY BREAD is essentially an American film, there are times it has the outlook of an European production.
Karen Morley, formerly of MGM (1931 to 1934), stands out as a self-sacrificing and devoted housewife in one of her rare leading roles. Her confrontation with Sally (Barbara Pepper) doesn't comes off as strong as it should have been. Tom Keene, who found brief stardom in "B" westerns at RKO Radio (1931-1933), does what he can as the central character. He simply fails to live up James Murray's powerful performance in THE CROWD. Since the movie consists of a majority of unknown actors, from the leading actors down to the co-stars, including Nellie V. Nichols as Martha, Chris's wife; Henry Hall as The Carpenter; Bud Rae as the Stone Mason; and Bob Reaves as George Washington Hannibal, OUR DAILY BREAD could obtain an audience today only by word of mouth. Clips regarding the history and background of this production were profiled in the King Vidor segment from "The Men Who Made the Movies" (produced for PBS in 1973). As in "The Crowd," "Our Daily Bread," is highlighted by a memorable and compelling conclusion that makes up for some of the weaknesses found in both the plot and acting.
Broadcast history for OUR DAILY BREAD consisted mostly those on public television, first on the May 13, 1972, showing of the weekly series, "Film Odyssey" (WNET, Channel 13, New York), decades before turning up on classic cinema late show presentations during the after midnight hours, and finally on Turner Classic Movies cable channel where it premiered January 7, 2007. Since it's a public domain title, video distributions consist of various editions, including a slightly shorter print with inferior picture quality and/or sound reproduction, with the opening credit distribution by Astor Pictures (from 1940s reissue) rather than the original United Artists/ Viking Productions. The best video/DVD copies to obtain are the ones from either KINO Video or by locating an old 1980s copy by Embassy Home Video, that features a 10 minute segment that precedes the movie on how OUR DAILY BREAD came to be, narrated by the director himself, King Vidor. It's interesting to note that Vidor struggled to get a movie studio interested in distributing this project. He found one in United Artists, but had to mortgage his home or sell whatever he owned to finance the film. Vidor also mentions that he can be seen as one of the crowd of extras playing a laborer in the ditch digging segment near the end of the movie.
Reportedly a commercial flop when initially released in theaters, it has grown to become a minor film classic that was, as subtitled during the opening credits, "inspired by headlines of today." (***)
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