7.7/10
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61 user 22 critic

The Good Earth (1937)

Passed | | Drama, Romance | 6 August 1937 (USA)
Although married Chinese farmers Wang and O-Lan initially experience success, their lives are complicated by declining fortunes and lean times, as well as the arrival of the beautiful young Lotus.

Directors:

, (uncredited) | 2 more credits »

Writers:

(screen play), (screen play) | 2 more credits »
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Won 2 Oscars. Another 2 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
... Wang
... O-Lan
... Uncle
... Lotus
... Old Father
... Cuckoo
Soo Yong ... Aunt
... Elder Son
Roland Lui ... Younger Son
Suzanna Kim ... Little Fool
Ching Wah Lee ... Ching
... Cousin
Olaf Hytten ... Liu - Grain Merchant
William Law ... Gateman
Mary Wong ... Little Bride
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Storyline

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>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

China . . . . Land of unrest . . . tomorrow they may Starve !

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

6 August 1937 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La buena tierra  »

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Box Office

Budget:

$2,800,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show more on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Color:

(Sepiatone)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

James Stewart, who worked as a contract player at MGM in the 1930s, tested for, and almost got, the part of Wang Lung. See more »

Goofs

During the drought some black vultures are seen on a roof. These are American birds which do not live in China. See more »

Quotes

Aunt: When a farmer buys silk robes and washes his whole body every day, there's a woman. That's sure !
Uncle: But a rich man may have two wives but the wife must cling to her husband. That is as it should be.
Aunt: That's right. A woman is allowed but one mistake.
Uncle: Of course. Now then, it is said: you may see a teapot with four teacups, but did you ever see a teacup with four teapots ?
Aunt: It is also said: do you ever see two spoons in the same bowl that do not knock against each other ?
See more »

Crazy Credits

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 »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Good Earth, Good Show, One of the Best of its Era
17 October 2003 | by See all my reviews

In the 30s and 40s, MGM had a penchant for (then) contemporary Chinese-oriented stories ('The Son-Daughter', 'Dragon Seed', 'Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo', etc.), and whether this was a preference, or whether there were just a lot of Chinese-design sets to keep occupied at the studio, the results were strangely moving. 'The Good Earth' is of course the finest of its genre, for any number of reasons.

From the very beginning of the picture, right after the lion's roar, we see the poignant tribute to Irving Thalberg, and we know that we are embarking on an important viewing experience. The scope of the story is very wide, and the filmmakers are up for the task. I was always struck by the abruptness of the final scene, but its power and beauty form an excellent example of the art achieved within the often cynical Hollywood film factory. And Lotus - the strangeness of her, and her dance, contrasted with the goodness of O-lan!

Aside from the oft-mentioned attributes of acting, photography and special effects, a major element in 'The Good Earth' is the score. Herbert Stothart may not be in the ranks of Hollywood's 'mighty handful' (Alfred Newman, Steiner, Tiomkin, Waxman, Herrmann), but his 'MGM-sound' scores regularly deliver the goods. True, Stothart had no hesitation in applying the syrup at first opportunity (one can imagine Louis B. Mayer positively ordering it), but in this picture, syrup gives way to sympathy. One of the pleasures of Hollywood's Golden Age films is that all the elements of a given film support each other, and great scores support not only the characters, but the entire film. Stothart's score is so sympathetic and so sincere, from the Main Title all the way through, and it enhances the story and the performances so naturally and at times transparently, that it must be considered a classic score. No great 'tunes' specifically, but plenty of effective mood, atmosphere and unabashed emotion. Many of today's audiences may find little to enjoy in such a combination, or they may be embarrassed by it, but I revel in it, as cinema such as this, which is delivered with such heart and good will is, especially in these times, nothing short of a gift.

The issue of non-Chinese playing Chinese characters has already been discussed on these pages, but I can only add: please, viewers, consider the film within the era that it was produced. The same kind of incongruity still happens today, perhaps not so much racially, but certainly culturally: Brad Pitt in 'Seven Years in Tibet', Keanu Reeves in 'Little Buddha', and other Americans getting plum roles in British-originated stories that become Hollywoodized, etc. When making 'Bhowani Junction', George Cukor considered using Indian actors, but vetoed any candidates in favor of familiar Hollywood faces. Never mind that in the 50s, as today, India had a huge film industry. It's just that those actors didn't fit into the Hollywood scheme of things. That speaks of box office more than political incorrectness. There is no doubt that fine actors like Philip Ahn should have gotten lead roles in pictures like 'The Good Earth', but at least we can enjoy them in supporting roles which carry a lot of weight in their own right. As time goes on, the context of past eras fades, while the films themselves, the really good ones, live on. There's plenty of opportunity for revisionist theses about issues like racial inequality in 1930s Hollywood, but for 138 minutes, it is compelling and moving to absorb onesself in the story and the atmosphere of 'The Good Earth'.


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