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The Good Earth (1937)

Passed  -  Drama | Romance  -  6 August 1937 (USA)
7.9
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 3,107 users  
Reviews: 51 user | 19 critic

The story of a farmer in China: a story of humility and bravery. His father gives Wang Lung a freed slave as wife. By diligence and frugality the two manage to enlarge their property. But ... See full summary »

Directors:

, (uncredited) , 2 more credits »

Writers:

(screen play), (screen play), 2 more credits »
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Title: The Good Earth (1937)

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Won 2 Oscars. Another 1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Edit

Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Wang
...
...
Tilly Losch ...
Lotus
...
Jessie Ralph ...
Cuckoo
Soo Yong ...
Aunt
...
Elder Son
Roland Lui ...
Younger Son
Suzanna Kim ...
Little Fool
Ching Wah Lee ...
Ching
Harold Huber ...
Cousin
Olaf Hytten ...
Liu - Grain Merchant
William Law ...
Gateman
Mary Wong ...
Little Bride
Edit

Storyline

The story of a farmer in China: a story of humility and bravery. His father gives Wang Lung a freed slave as wife. By diligence and frugality the two manage to enlarge their property. But then a famine forces them to leave their land and live in the town. However it turns out to be a blessing in disguise for them... Written by Tom Zoerner <Tom.Zoerner@informatik.uni-erlangen.de>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

farmer | famine | slave | money | city | See All (253) »

Taglines:

China . . . . Land of unrest . . . tomorrow they may Starve !

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
Edit

Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

6 August 1937 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Die gute Erde  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Budget:

$2,800,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Color:

(Sepiatone)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

Chinese-born Anna May Wong desperately wanted the role of O-Lan. Being a close friend of author Pearl S. Buck helped. She tested for the role, but producer Irving Thalberg was unsatisfied. Also, since Paul Muni, a Caucasian actor, had already been cast in the lead, Thalberg knew he couldn't cast Wong as Muni's wife. The Hays Code prohibited actors of different races from playing husband/wife couples on film. (This was to avoid offending white audiences in the segregated American South, where there were laws against mixed-race marriages.) Thalberg offered her the "vamp" role of Lotus, but a distraught Anna May turned it down. See more »

Goofs

During one scene, Wang Lung beats his son for being with his second wife. As the son crawls away, it is obvious he was protected by wearing a thick pad on his back. See more »

Quotes

Liu - Grain Merchant: Mr. Wang, two clever sons like these are the better half of your wealth.
Wang Lung: They're stupid, worthless creatures. If anything was driven into their thick, brass skulls it was by beating them. I told their teacher to beat them. He beat them so well that this one's going to the university.
Liu - Grain Merchant: Indeed.
Elder Son: If I'm not too unworthy, I hope to win a degree in agriculture.
Liu - Grain Merchant: Degree ? Agriculture ?
Wang Lung: That's some kind of paper that will make it rain just enough, but not too much.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The type-style used appears to be lettering hammered into brass. Even the style of the letters seems to be from china or Asia. Note the style on "N" and "O". See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Good Earth, Good Show, One of the Best of its Era
17 October 2003 | by (WA State USA) – See all my reviews

In the 30s and 40s, MGM had a penchant for (then) contemporary Chinese-oriented stories ('The Son-Daughter', 'Dragon Seed', 'Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo', etc.), and whether this was a preference, or whether there were just a lot of Chinese-design sets to keep occupied at the studio, the results were strangely moving. 'The Good Earth' is of course the finest of its genre, for any number of reasons.

From the very beginning of the picture, right after the lion's roar, we see the poignant tribute to Irving Thalberg, and we know that we are embarking on an important viewing experience. The scope of the story is very wide, and the filmmakers are up for the task. I was always struck by the abruptness of the final scene, but its power and beauty form an excellent example of the art achieved within the often cynical Hollywood film factory. And Lotus - the strangeness of her, and her dance, contrasted with the goodness of O-lan!

Aside from the oft-mentioned attributes of acting, photography and special effects, a major element in 'The Good Earth' is the score. Herbert Stothart may not be in the ranks of Hollywood's 'mighty handful' (Alfred Newman, Steiner, Tiomkin, Waxman, Herrmann), but his 'MGM-sound' scores regularly deliver the goods. True, Stothart had no hesitation in applying the syrup at first opportunity (one can imagine Louis B. Mayer positively ordering it), but in this picture, syrup gives way to sympathy. One of the pleasures of Hollywood's Golden Age films is that all the elements of a given film support each other, and great scores support not only the characters, but the entire film. Stothart's score is so sympathetic and so sincere, from the Main Title all the way through, and it enhances the story and the performances so naturally and at times transparently, that it must be considered a classic score. No great 'tunes' specifically, but plenty of effective mood, atmosphere and unabashed emotion. Many of today's audiences may find little to enjoy in such a combination, or they may be embarrassed by it, but I revel in it, as cinema such as this, which is delivered with such heart and good will is, especially in these times, nothing short of a gift.

The issue of non-Chinese playing Chinese characters has already been discussed on these pages, but I can only add: please, viewers, consider the film within the era that it was produced. The same kind of incongruity still happens today, perhaps not so much racially, but certainly culturally: Brad Pitt in 'Seven Years in Tibet', Keanu Reeves in 'Little Buddha', and other Americans getting plum roles in British-originated stories that become Hollywoodized, etc. When making 'Bhowani Junction', George Cukor considered using Indian actors, but vetoed any candidates in favor of familiar Hollywood faces. Never mind that in the 50s, as today, India had a huge film industry. It's just that those actors didn't fit into the Hollywood scheme of things. That speaks of box office more than political incorrectness. There is no doubt that fine actors like Philip Ahn should have gotten lead roles in pictures like 'The Good Earth', but at least we can enjoy them in supporting roles which carry a lot of weight in their own right. As time goes on, the context of past eras fades, while the films themselves, the really good ones, live on. There's plenty of opportunity for revisionist theses about issues like racial inequality in 1930s Hollywood, but for 138 minutes, it is compelling and moving to absorb onesself in the story and the atmosphere of 'The Good Earth'.


28 of 31 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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