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Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Edward G. Robinson,
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Morna Dabney is engaged to soldier Clay MacIvor in the days before the War Between the States. Morna's grandfather Big Sam Dabney founded their Mississippi plantation near Levington, which thrives in the Deep South, but he remains loyal to the Union, as does his son Hoab, Morna's father. As Mississippi secedes, Hoab plans to withdraw the area around his plantation and remain neutral, and he gains support from local newspaperman Keith Alexander. Keith falls in love with Morna, whose fiancé Clay has joined the Confederate Army. Clay plans to punish the would-be neutral citizens of Levington by raiding the area, but Morna, with the help of her grandfather's Choctaw friend Tishomingo, attempts to thwart the attack. Morna sacrifices greatly to protect her home and the man she really loves. Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
Universal seem to have thrown a lot of cash at these sub 'Gone with the Wind' shenanigans but really should have paid more attention to the script. Although a potentially interesting idea - a small valley tries to stay neutral during the US Civil War - the movie concentrates almost exclusively on a vapid central romance lifted almost wholesale from that earlier Selznick classic.
Van Hefflin tries hard to inject the kind of dangerous humour that Clark Gable brought to Rhett Butler but Susan Hayward is hopelessly miscast as the young, flighty Southern belle. An excellent actress in the right circumstances, here she looks far too sensible for the role and resorts to a permanent wide-eyed stare to convey youth and innocence. She merely looks like a startled rabbit.
Elsewhere, what should have been the pivotal role of the valley's patriarch is simply not given enough screentime, thus reducing Ward Bond to the occasional ineffectual splutter and the climax to an empty, mechanical spectacle devoid of emotional resonance. Boris Karloff brings a touch of class to the role of the friendly native American retainer but Julie London is wasted in a thankless role.
Overall, it's the kind of picture that the studio must have presumed would make itself and this lack of commitment results in a significant lack of quality.
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