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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>
Special effects experts were unable to produce an authentic looking locust plague. Just as they were about to abandon the scene, they received word that a real locust plague was taking place several states away. A camera crew was rushed to the scene to capture it on film. See more »
When Wang Lung looks up and notices the second wind during the locus scene you can see a man walking in the background from left to right wearing normal clothes and a white hat and smoking what looks like a cigar. See more »
[must sell his land to feed his family but the buyers take advantage of him]
Thieves ! Thieves ! And well you know I must sell.
No ! Not the land. We'll not sell the land. We'll keep it. We'll go south and when we return, we'll still have the land.
But I've arranged it. I brought these men here. You MUST sell !
Is it your land ? Did you buy it bit by bit ? The land is our life... and it's better to go south... or die walking... than to give it to you for nothing.
See more »
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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