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A feud, the origins of which can barely be remembered, has been boiling for decades between two sheltered mountain families, the Tollivers and the Falins. With plans to build a railroad through both families' land and mine coal deposits beneath it, enterprising outsider Jack Hale (Fred MacMurray) inadvertently becomes entangled in the region's politics. He soon captures the attention of the beautiful June Tolliver (Sylvia Sidney) and quickly becomes involved in a love triangle with her and her cousin Dave (Henry Fonda) Written by
I bought a video of this film on Amazon.com after reading the 1908 novel by John Fox Jr. and enjoying it very much. I waited 4 whole months for Amazon to locate a copy and ship it to me. Then I settled down to watch it and almost fell asleep. I was disappointed after all that wait.
Sylvia Sidney and Fred MacMurray were terribly miscast as the leads June and Jack, Fred more so than Sylvia. Henry Fonda was very good as Dave, although his lines were hokey. The script was not true to the book at all; that was the main problem. All the protective tenderness the lead male Jack felt for the girl June, so beautifully portrayed in the novel, was totally missing in Fred MacMurray's performance. And then to top it off they had little Spanky from the Our Gang series in it as the little brother of June, his chubby face and coy demeanor were distractions from the main action of the story. The songs that were sung were annoying too; had no place in the story. It would have been better if they had spent money on a better musical soundtrack without characters singing all the time, especially in dramatic scenes. What were they thinking? (no doubt, of sheet music sales). Some outdoor scenes were beautiful filmed in color but that alone cannot hold the viewer's interest in the movie. Even the significance and symbolism of the Pine Tree in June and Jack's relationship wasn't portrayed in the film as it should have been.
Anyway, my advice here is to skip the film and just read the book and enjoy it. Since this story is in the public domain it could really be updated today and make a nice film. Maybe someday some studio or independent filmmaker will consider it. There were 4 silent versions and an animated version made prior to this film, so obviously the story is a classic one that can be enjoyed by new generations, if told well and with sensitivity and faithfulness to the book by John Fox.
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