Chronicle of the importance of cotton to the economy and culture of the American South.

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Cast

Uncredited cast:
... Eli Whitney (uncredited)
Frank Whitbeck ... Narrator (voice) (uncredited)
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Storyline

Cotton is one of the most important crops grown worldwide. What was once the land rich but dollar poor southern US and cotton are synonymous with each other, the crop itself originally imported from India. Despite the ease of growing cotton and the world demand for it, the labor intensive activity of separating the seed from the lint made it an expensive proposition until the creation of the cotton gin by inventor Eli Whitney in the late eighteenth century. Whitney was an unassuming schoolmaster when he created his deceptively simple but time and labor saving device, which revolutionized the cotton industry and led to great increases in the planting of cotton crops and production in the southern US. This increase had the unforeseen consequence of insufficient laborers to pick the cotton, which in turn led to an increase in the slave trade from West Africa, and the growing economic disparity between the rich cotton plantation owners and the poor slaves. The moral question of slavery ... Written by Huggo

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20 January 1940 (USA)  »

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(Western Electric Sound System)

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1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Included on a special edition home video of Gone with the Wind (1939). See more »

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Narrator: Cotton is the South.
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References Gone with the Wind (1939) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Solid Little History Lesson About The Old South
5 April 2011 | by See all my reviews

THE OLD SOUTH is a MGM pseudo-documentary dramatic short that was made in 1940 at the height of "pre release" GONE WITH THE WIND fever (although GWTW premiered in Atlanta in 1939, it did not go into release until well into 1940 and was not in full release until early 1941). The short tells the story of how the dirt-poor, land-rich American South zoomed into prosperity in the late 18th and early 19th century thanks to cotton, originally seeds imported from India which quickly flourished in the sunny, productive fields of the American South to create a worldwide demand for this American export. I disagree with the reviewer who says the film somewhat condones how the South became affluent via slavery. This short is quite unflinching in the ugly side of this American dream with slaves shown being captured and occasionally thrown to their deaths from ships to avoid the crew's possible arrest for being caught by the British as slave traffickers. A plantation owner is shown quite unsympathetically as he barks his demand for more slaves to work his fields. The movie seq ways into the growing outrage of the North over the South's slavery (one reader is shown throwing UNCLE TOM'S CABIN into the fireplace in disgust at it's revelations) which ultimately climaxed in the Civil War which devastated the South. The movie manages to end on an "up" beat as the South rebuilds it's cotton empire although one can't help but note the film shows black people still having to work as field hands in the late 19th century "new South". Despite a tasteless watermelon gag in one dramatic scene, this is a well made, rather solid little history lesson,


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