movie film review | chris tookey

Good Earth

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  Good Earth Review
Tookey's Rating
5 /10
Average Rating
8.27 /10
Paul Muni , Luise Rainer , Walter Connolly
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Directed by: Sidney Franklin
Written by: Talbot Jennings, Tess Schlesinger, Claudine West from Owen and Donald Davis's play from Pearl S. Buck's novel

Released: 1937
Origin: US
Length: 138


A Chinese peasant (Paul Muni) becomes wealthy but loses his patient, selfless wife (Luise Rainer).

Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Three years in the making and with two changes of director (the original one, George Hill, shot location footage in China but committed suicide in 1934; his replacement, Victor Fleming, fell ill and had to be hospitalized), this epic was a big, prestigious hit of its day, but has dated badly. The direction is pedestrian, at best; while the performances of Muni and Rainer, thought moving at the time, are jarringly unconvincing - as a few critics pointed out even on release.
The scenes which work best are the sacking of the palace, and the plague of locusts (the matte work here now looks primitive, but was outstanding for its time). The film was voted Number 2 in the Film Daily annual poll of US film critics (The Life of Emile Zola was first). Karl Freund won an Oscar for his cinematography. Executive producer Irving Thalberg died during production, and studio chief Louis B. Mayer put his name on the credits as a tribute: the only time it ever appeared on a film.
"Who wants to see a film about Chinese farmers?"
(Louis B. Mayer to Irving Thalberg; see also Thalberg to Mayer, warning him not to make Gone With The Wind )

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