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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>
The Hays Office - which supervised every Hollywood script at the time - insisted on rewrites to remove contentious subject matter. In all, they demanded more than 20 rewrites. See more »
When Wang Lung and his family are waiting for the train, the locomotive that passes behind them has a number clearly visible on the front of the boiler. When the same train is seen approaching the crowds, the locomotive does not have a number and is not the same design. See more »
Liu - Grain Merchant:
Mr. Wang, two clever sons like these are the better half of your wealth.
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:
If I'm not too unworthy, I hope to win a degree in agriculture.
Liu - Grain Merchant:
Degree ? Agriculture ?
That's some kind of paper that will make it rain just enough, but not too much.
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Introduction played with opening credits: The soul of great nation is expressed in the life of its humblest people. In this simple story of a Chinese farmer may be found something of a the soul of china - its humility, its courage, its deep heritage from the past and its vast promise for the future. See more »
What Irving Thalberg did in making this film today would never be attempted again. Making a Chinese story with occidental players even if they are of the caliber of Paul Muni, Luise Rainer, Charley Grapewin, and Walter Connolly among others.
Perhaps it's partly because the story was written by a westerner, Pearl Buck who got a Pulitzer Prize for her novel in 1932. Ms. Buck, daughter of Chinese missionaries, probably brought China closer to the consciousness of America than any other person. Not the political struggles of China, but the lives and toil of the every day people we find in The Good Earth. Unfortunately later on, Pearl Buck became an apologist for the Kuomintang China of Chiang Kai-Shek in all its virtues and excesses. The rest of her literary output never matched The Good Earth.
In The Sundowners there is a great description of comparing China to Australia by Peter Ustinov. When asked the difference, Ustinov said China was very big and very full and Australia was very big and very empty. That's what you see in The Good Earth, China very big and very full of people, more than she can deal with at times.
The Good Earth tells the story of Wang Lung (Paul Muni) as a young man who purchases a wife from a large house where she was a slave. The woman O-Lan (Luise Rainer) bears him two sons and sees him through all the good times and bad they have, drought, famine, revolution, and a climatic locust plague.
Luise Rainer won the second of two consecutive Oscars for portraying O-Lan. She may have set some kind of record in that it has to be the leading player Oscar performance with the least amount of dialog. Everything she does practically is done with facial expressions, her performance could have been on a silent film with very minimal subtitles. I think only John Mills in Ryan's Daughter had fewer words and he was playing a mentally retarded man.
Muni is not always appreciative of how supportive she is in that male dominated culture. Rainer helps in the field, bears and raises the kids, does the housework. When Muni becomes a man of property he takes a Chinese second trophy wife who causes him a lot of grief. Still Rainer stoically bears it all. Still Muni is not a bad man and it's a tribute to the film and his acting and Buck's writing that you don't hate him and the culture gap is bridged.
We've got a group of oriental players now who do more than just Kung Fu movies. I'm surprised The Good Earth of all films has not been remade at this point. I'll bet the Chinese government would even let some American company do it on an actual location.
Till then we've got this great classic to appreciate and enjoy.
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