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Considering that Hollywood's view of the South consisted of films like "L'il Abner" and "Swing Your Lady" during this era, the fact that "Swamp Water" turned out so good is a bit of a surprise. What's even more surprising is that this film about the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia was directed by a Frenchman, Jean Renoir.
The film is set along the edges of the swamp. Apparently the locals all are a bit afraid of going into the treacherous swamp and if they do, it's only in groups. Considering all the gators and snakes, it's easy to see why they avoid it! However, when Dana Andrews' dog gets lost there, he ventures into the swamp alone. Instead of dying or never finding his way back, he meets up with a wanted man (Walter Brennan). Despite Brennan being wanted for murder for the last five years, it soon becomes apparent he's too nice a guy to have killed anyone--and Andrews agrees to keep his whereabouts secret and become his partner in the fur trapping trade.
In addition to this major plot thread, several other seemingly divergent plot elements occur during the course of the film--and by the end they all come together. First, Andrews' mother has been allowing an old boyfriend (John Carradine) to spend time at the house when her older husband (Walter Huston) is gone on hunting trips. While she rebuffs Carradine's advances, you wonder why she doesn't tell him to leave---so it's obvious she' ambivalent about this. When the husband finds out she's been with another man, things get tense--but he has no idea who the man was. And, there is another plot involving two rough and nasty brothers (Ward Bond and Guinn Williams) who just seem to be up to no good! Finally, there is a blossoming love between Brennan's daughter (Anne Baxter) and Andrews.
So why did I like the film? Well, I appreciated how although the actors approximated accents of the locale, it was NOT exaggerated and the people were not made out to be a bunch of ignorant yokels. While I am sure the film would not be one recommended by the Georgia Department of Tourism, the film clearly is not offensive or overdone. The acting is good, the complex plot involving and interesting. While not exactly a great film, it did have some nice tense moments and was quite enjoyable.
By the way, despite the nice Midwest sort of 'perfect' accent, Dana Andrews was Mississippi-born! Interesting.
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