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Howard Da Silva
Sam Tucker, a cotton picker, in search of a better future for his family, decides to grow his own cotton crop. In the first year, the Tuckers battle disease, a flood, and a jealous neighbor. Can they make it as farmers? Written by
George S. Davis
"The Southerner" is a very good film starring Zachary Scott, Betty Field, Beulah Bondi, Norman Lloyd, J. Carrol Naish, and Blanche Yurka. It's the story of a man, Sam Tucker, working as a cotton picker along with his wife and parents. As his father lays dying in the field, he tells his son to own his own land. Sam quits his job and makes arrangements to work the land of his former boss, with the goal of ownership. He's not welcome by his closest neighbor (Naish) and the house on the land is nothing but a shack. The family nearly starves during the winter; the daughter can't go to school because she doesn't have a coat; his son falls ill with "spring sickness" (probably rickets). Nevertheless, Sam and Nona (Field) keep working, Sam knowing that working the land and feeling the sun is the only way he can live.
This is a very absorbing film. You not only see, but feel the struggles of the family and how hard they work no matter the odds, with strength and determination.
Betty Field was a good choice as Nona - she's plain and tired-looking, with a bright smile. The devotion she has to Sam and he to her is very touching. As a couple, she and Scott are very effective. Beulah Bondi is very good as the irascible, annoying, wizened grandmother either complaining or predicting doom and gloom. Naish gives an excellent performance as a jealous and unhelpful neighbor, and Norman Lloyd is appropriately slimy as his worker. It's always hard to relate the skinny Lloyd, who usually played villains, with the older, revered Dr. Auschlander in "St. Elsewhere" - he's had quite a career. As of this writing, he's 93 and still working.
Zachary Scott is okay as Sam but it's not a comfortable fit. The part required more warmth, more depth, and more internal grit; it's a Henry Fonda role. Still, for not being Scott's normal type of sophisticated or villainous part, he handles it well.
A good film, beautifully directed by Jean Renoir, who was nominated for an Oscar. There are some stunning cinematic moments as well. Worth watching for sure.
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