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John M. Stahl
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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
This sound version of The Trail of the Lonesome Pine is actually the fourth and to date last version of this story. There were three silent films made from this novel by John Fox, Jr., including one done in 1916 by Cecil B. DeMille.
It's the story of a couple of Appalachian Mountain families who've had a decades old feud in which no one can quite recall how it all got started, but they sure do remember the latest outrage by the other crowd. There's a great temptation to treat this all humorously and it certainly has been done, I can recall Abbott and Costello's Comin' Round the Mountain with the same plot premise. But whole people's and whole nations act this way, who are we to judge the Tollivers and Falins of this story.
Sylvia Sidney and Henry Fonda are two Tolliver cousins, kissing cousins as they say in the mountains, distant enough to contemplate marriage. Into the picture comes railroad man Fred MacMurray who wants to build a railroad through the properties of both families. He interests Sylvia who starts to see that there is a whole world away from her family and their feud.
Of course when her little brother is killed the whole ugly business starts up again and it leaves tragedy again in both families.
The Trail of the Lonesome Pine has its place in film history as the first outdoor as opposed to studio film shot in three strip technicolor. Color which is now standard was a big gimmick back in the day and Paramount raked in good box office.
Fuzzy Knight plays another rustic character, kind of a Tolliver satellite and he sings a couple of songs written for the film by Louis Alter and Sidney Mitchell, Twilight on the Trail and A Melody from the Sky. The latter got an Academy Award nomination for Best Song, losing to The Way You Look Tonight. The former however got a recording by Bing Crosby. This is a perfect example of the connection of film, and radio, and the recording industry. Bing was Paramount's number one box office attraction and the Paramount executives no doubt prevailed on him to record the song and sing it on his brand new Kraft Music Hall Radio Show in the interest of publicizing The Trail of the Lonesome Pine.
Fred MacMurray and Sylvia Sidney were also with Paramount at the time and Henry Fonda was at that time under contract to producer Walter Wanger who filmed this story. Those were the days way before agents and stars being their own producers. Such cozy arrangements as these were more easily done then.
This last to date version of The Trail of the Lonesome Pine probably is too old fashioned for a remake. Still I think today's audiences might still enjoy it.
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