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The Spanish Earth (1937)

Unrated | | Documentary, War | 20 August 1937 (USA)
A documentary showing the struggle of the Spanish Republican government against a rebellion by ultra-right-wing forces led by Gen. Francisco Franco and backed by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

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(English narration), (English narration)
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Cast

Credited cast:
Manuel Azaña ...
José Díaz ...
Himself (Parliamentarian)
Dolores Ibárruri ...
Herself (as La Pasionaria)
Enrique Lister ...
Himself (Republican Army)
Commander Martinez de Aragón ...
Himself (Republican Army)
Gustav Regler ...
Himself (German writer)
...
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Storyline

This documentary tells of the struggles during the Spanish Civil War. It deals with the war at different levels: from the political level, at the ground military level focusing on battles in Madrid and the road from Madrid to Valencia, and at the support level. With the latter, a key project was building an irrigation system for an agricultural field near Fuentedueña so that food could be grown to feed the soldiers. Written by Huggo

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Genres:

Documentary | War

Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »
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Details

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Language:

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Release Date:

20 August 1937 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

This Spanish Earth  »

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Orson Welles recorded the commentary written by Ernest Hemingway and receives on-screen credit, but Hemingway decided to use his own voice instead. It is not clear which version of the film uses Hemingway's voice; the most common print does use the more cultured voice of Welles, which seemed jarring to members of the Contemporary Historians production company--formed by Herman Shumlin, Lillian Hellman and Dorothy Parker, which produced the movie. Both versions are available. See more »

Quotes

Orson Welles, Narrator: We took no statements from the dead, but all the letters we read were very sad.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Sosialismi (2014) See more »

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User Reviews

So That's What Hemingway Sounds Like
26 July 2011 | by See all my reviews

The movie makes no conventional attempt to situate viewers at the outset. Instead we're plunged immediately into a series of images loosely organized around the theme of hard Spanish earth. However, the pastoral scenes soon give way to images of fighting men. But in the absence of explanation, viewers can't be sure if the soldiers are Republican or Falange (fascist). It's only after about 15-minutes, we find out these are people supporting the republic. Maybe Ivens or Hemingway is making a subtle point by withholding information, but the absence could be confusing to contemporary viewers.

The movie itself has some compelling images; however, I doubt that most go beyond generic war imagery of that time. One does, nonetheless, get a sense of the impact on the civilian population in the areas surrounding Madrid. In no sense is the film a survey of that bloody civil war as a whole. Instead, it's a narrow slice from the loyalist republican pov. But neither is the movie simply Stalinist agitprop, (the Soviets supported the elected government; Hitler and Mussolini the Falangist rebels; while the US and England remained neutral). Rather, a strong subtextual theme appears to liken support for the republic to bringing water to the dry Spanish earth, a not unreasonable pov.

It's also worth noting the anti-fascist side quickly became a cause-célèbre among artists and intellectuals disgusted by the US and England's refusal to aid a fellow democratic government. Thus the movie has a number of illustrious names attached to it. It's likely because of these names that I expected more than the overall result delivers. Nonetheless, the brief documentary remains a snapshot worth watching, even for those unfamiliar with the historical period.


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