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The Well (1951)

Approved  |   |  Drama, Film-Noir, Thriller  |  10 September 1951 (USA)
7.4
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 406 users  
Reviews: 17 user | 9 critic

A small, racially mixed American town succumbs to violence and utter mayhem after a white man, who is suspected of kidnapping a missing black girl, is released by the white authority.

Directors:

(as Leo Popkin) ,

Writers:

(written for the screen by), (written for the screen by)
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Title: The Well (1951)

The Well (1951) on IMDb 7.4/10

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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Gwendolyn Laster ...
Carolyn
Richard Rober ...
Ben Kellog
...
Mrs. Crawford
George Hamilton ...
Grandfather
Ernest Anderson ...
Mr. Crawford
Dick Simmons ...
Mickey
Lane Chandler ...
Stan
Pat Mitchell ...
Peter
Margaret Wells ...
Schoolteacher
Wheaton Chambers ...
Woody
Michael Ross ...
Frank
Russell Trent ...
Chet
Allen Mathews ...
Hal
John Philips ...
Fred
Walter Morrison ...
Art
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Storyline

In a racially mixed American town, a 5-year-old black girl falls unnoticed into a hidden, forgotten well on her way to school. Having nothing better to go on, the police follow up a report that the child was seen with a white stranger, and rumors run wild. Before hapless, innocent Claude Packard is even found, popular hysteria has him tried and convicted. But Packard's troubles pale by comparison as ever more inflated rumors uncap the well of racial tensions and mob violence. And young Carolyn Crawford, forgotten by most, is still missing... Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

10 September 1951 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El pozo de la angustia  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Goofs

The gang who was chasing the young man down the street are closer to the car before the scene change of the car driving off. See more »

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User Reviews

 
Gripping Racial Drama
8 August 2010 | by (Claremont,USA) – See all my reviews

Okay, we all know how poisonous rumor can be. Just repeating something doesn't make it so. Mix in a common human liking for embellishment, along with a readiness to believe the worst about certain groups of people, and you get tinder for explosive situations. This movie makes the most of such ordinary human tendencies. The first half amounts to a textbook example of how such tensions can break apart an any-town community. More importantly, the filmmakers do it in expert fashion. First, a little black girl goes missing. Then rumor feeds on old racial grudges, fractures erupt into violence, and race war looms beyond what local authorities can handle. Note how the scenes build on one another, spreading to ever more people like a virus. This first half is about as intense and well edited as any film of the period.

The second half shows the community coming back together after the split. Happily, the races unite around a common concern to rescue the little girl from the well. This part's uplifting, especially when the movie shows individual skills combining across racial lines into an effective community action. But it also goes on too long, even after we've gotten the point. There's suspense here, but not enough to carry 45 minutes of drilling machinery. Nonetheless, the two halves do combine into a pretty powerful cautionary tale.

I like the way the filmmakers mix average looking actors (Osterloh, Engle) with the ordinary townfolk. That, along with location backgrounds creates the needed any-town atmosphere. Too bad IMDb is unable to identify these filming locations— they deserve credit. On the whole, it's a really well acted drama, Harry Morgan's hapless Claude Packard being a special standout. Note how deftly he moves from anger to sorrow in the confrontational office scene with his uncle (Kelley). Rober's excellent too, as the standup sheriff. Someone, however, should have told the comedic Ed Max (the milkman) that this was not a comedy.

There is one interesting angle to ponder. Suppose that initial scene of the girl falling into the well were eliminated. Then we wouldn't have the advantage of being able to judge the actions of the various individuals. For the movie's purposes, I think this first scene is required so that we can see how misguided the town's reactions are. Nonetheless, I think it's interesting to consider how our perceptions might alter were we unsure of the girl's fate at the outset.

It's also worth noting that the folks here-- producer Popkin, director Rouse, and writer Greene—are also the folks responsible for that powerful noir classic DOA (1950). Add that gem to this one and we get a very talented team of independent filmmakers. Too bad they came together at the tail end of the B-movie era. Also, their brand of social-conscience filmmaking was about to freeze up in the face of the McCarthy-ite chill of the early 50's. Nonetheless, the lessons of this movie remain as valid and telling as they were 60 years ago, plus making for darn riveting film entertainment.


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Needs Restoration and belongs on the National Historic Register of films Gunn
Gotta love the DVD cover on IMDB... eifert
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