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In 1931, Elizabeth Rambeau comes from England to live in California with her aunt and uncle of a winemaking dynasty, who are still wealthy despite 12 years of Prohibition. Object: marriage to the heir of another vineyard, to further consolidate holdings in the Valley. But John Rambeau, Elizabeth's illegitimate cousin, has other ideas about who she should marry, and sharply opposes patriarch Philippe's refusal to sell wine grapes to bootleggers. John's activities bring violence to the valley, and soap opera to the Rambeau family... Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Set during the last years of Prohibition, This Earth Is Mine tells the story of the Rambeau family of the Napa Valley, prominent wine makers who are having a rough go of it during those years. Family patriarch is Claude Rains who through arranged marriages has gained control of a good deal of the real estate in the valley.
Rains reminds me a whole lot of Melvyn Douglas in Hud, an honorable man, possibly too honorable. Even though Prohibition is killing his business, he's surviving on selling his grapes to make jelly and grape juice, he won't sell to bootleggers to make illegal wine. Not like he's got control over what happens to his grapes once they are sold, but Rains has an exaggerated and somewhat naive morality.
Those arranged marriages aren't always the happiest ones either. Kent Smith is married to daughter Dorothy McGuire an iron willed lady, but who was in love with Anna Lee the wife of a son of Rains and the two of them had a not so discreet affair that produced Rock Hudson. He's the black sheep of the family and his parentage is just not discussed in polite company.
But all that makes it OK for Hudson to get romantically interested in Jean Simmons the daughter of another son of Rains who is over in the United Kingdom. She's come to the USA to be the arranged bride of another landed wine family Francis Bethencourt who once considered the priesthood.
Hudson has no such scruples about who the grapes are sold to. He organizes some of the smaller growers to sell their crops to bootleggers and some of those who resist get the usual gangster treatment. All this threatens to tear the Rambeau family apart and that's without going into what's going on with Rock and Jean.
I compared Claude Rains to Melvyn Douglas in Hud and truth be told Rock Hudson's part was probably better suited to someone like Paul Newman. But I don't think either of them could have lifted this story above the soap opera level. This Earth Is Mine tries for an Edna Ferber epic like quality and misses.
But for those of you who like this sort of stuff you could have seen all this and more on the Eighties prime time TV soap opera Falcon Crest where they had a matriarch of a wine growing family, Jane Wyman, who weekly was involved in some machinations trying to control all the people around her.
This Earth Is Mine does boast some beautiful scenery of the Napa Valley and Henry King as director does do his best to breathe credibility into an unbelievable story.
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