Over the Hill (1931)

87, 89, 92 or 94 mins | Melodrama | 29 November 1931

Director:

Henry King

Cinematographer:

John F. Seitz

Editor:

Frank E. Hull

Production Designer:

Robert Haas

Production Company:

Fox Film Corp.
Full page view
HISTORY

The poem "Over the Hill to the Poorhouse" first appeared in Harper's Weekly , 17 Jul 1871. Included in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library is an adaptation with dialogue by Percy Hutchison of the silent film Fox earlier produced based on the same source; it is not known if any of this material was used in the final film. The earlier film, entitled Over the Hill to the Poorhouse , was produced by Fox in 1920; it was directed by Harry Millarde and starred Mary Carr and John Walker (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ; F1.3322). Var , noting that the silent film "was a furore in 1920, starting slowly and growing into a country-wide sensation," commented that the sound version was "an infinitely better piece of work." NYT cited the sound version as "an impressive example of the strides made in a decade in motion picture techniques." FD called Mae Marsh's portrayal "one of the outstanding performances of the ... More Less

The poem "Over the Hill to the Poorhouse" first appeared in Harper's Weekly , 17 Jul 1871. Included in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library is an adaptation with dialogue by Percy Hutchison of the silent film Fox earlier produced based on the same source; it is not known if any of this material was used in the final film. The earlier film, entitled Over the Hill to the Poorhouse , was produced by Fox in 1920; it was directed by Harry Millarde and starred Mary Carr and John Walker (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ; F1.3322). Var , noting that the silent film "was a furore in 1920, starting slowly and growing into a country-wide sensation," commented that the sound version was "an infinitely better piece of work." NYT cited the sound version as "an impressive example of the strides made in a decade in motion picture techniques." FD called Mae Marsh's portrayal "one of the outstanding performances of the year." More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Film Daily
22 Nov 31
p. 10.
Harrison's Reports
28 Nov 31
p. 190.
HF
4 Apr 31
p. 21.
HF
9 May 31
p. 24.
HF
10 Oct 31
p. 20.
International Photographer
1 Dec 31
p. 31.
Motion Picture Herald
31 Oct 31
p. 36.
New York Times
21 Nov 31
p. 20.
Variety
24 Nov 31
p. 17.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Henry King's Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
WRITERS
Scr and dial
Scr and dial
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
Asst cam
Asst cam
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus score
PRODUCTION MISC
Still photog
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the poems "Over the Hill to the Poorhouse" and "Over the Hill from the Poorhouse" by Will Carleton in his collection Farm Ballads (New York, 1873)
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Contented," words and music by James F. Hanley
"Allegory," words and music by William Kernell.
DETAILS
Release Date:
29 November 1931
Premiere Information:
New York opening: week of 20 November
Production Date:
early April--early May 1931
31 August--mid October 1931
Copyright Claimant:
Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
29 October 1931
Copyright Number:
LP2625
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
87, 89, 92 or 94
Length(in feet):
8,025
Length(in reels):
9
Country:
United States
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

In their farm house in a New York village, Ma Shelby prepares breakfast for her four children, Isaac, Tommy, Johnny and Susan, and then awakens them. The racket the boys make as they play and fight awakens their father, who spanks the eldest, Isaac. When a visitor chides Pa for not working, Ma sticks up for her husband, saying that he has a weak back and that he is waiting for a promised government job. At school, the teacher finds a drawing on the blackboard of Isaac kissing her. Isaac, who is "sweet" on the teacher, blames Johnny, who does not tattle on Tommy, the real culprit, and at home, Johnny receives a whipping from his father, which Ma, in tears, finally stops. Outside, Johnny's friend, Isabelle Potter, comforts him. Ma works late into the night sewing and ironing, and worries about a delinquent grocery bill. Years later, on Christmas Eve, Johnny, who now supports his parents, announces that he and Isabelle have finally become engaged. Susan and her husband, Ben Adams, a butcher, visit from New York City and bring Thomas, whose wife Phyllis has remained in the city. Isaac, now somewhat of a religious fanatic, and his wife Minnie are the last to arrive. After dinner, Pa meets two men for whom he has agreed to help transport some stolen liquor in a car that belongs to the paint company for which Johnny works. After Johnny walks Isabelle home, he hears gunshots and then sees his father drive past; Pa's cohorts have fired at some officers to create a diversion. When the car gets stuck in the snow, Johnny ... +


In their farm house in a New York village, Ma Shelby prepares breakfast for her four children, Isaac, Tommy, Johnny and Susan, and then awakens them. The racket the boys make as they play and fight awakens their father, who spanks the eldest, Isaac. When a visitor chides Pa for not working, Ma sticks up for her husband, saying that he has a weak back and that he is waiting for a promised government job. At school, the teacher finds a drawing on the blackboard of Isaac kissing her. Isaac, who is "sweet" on the teacher, blames Johnny, who does not tattle on Tommy, the real culprit, and at home, Johnny receives a whipping from his father, which Ma, in tears, finally stops. Outside, Johnny's friend, Isabelle Potter, comforts him. Ma works late into the night sewing and ironing, and worries about a delinquent grocery bill. Years later, on Christmas Eve, Johnny, who now supports his parents, announces that he and Isabelle have finally become engaged. Susan and her husband, Ben Adams, a butcher, visit from New York City and bring Thomas, whose wife Phyllis has remained in the city. Isaac, now somewhat of a religious fanatic, and his wife Minnie are the last to arrive. After dinner, Pa meets two men for whom he has agreed to help transport some stolen liquor in a car that belongs to the paint company for which Johnny works. After Johnny walks Isabelle home, he hears gunshots and then sees his father drive past; Pa's cohorts have fired at some officers to create a diversion. When the car gets stuck in the snow, Johnny sends Pa home, saying that it would kill Ma if he were caught. The next morning, when Isaac brings his parents the news that Johnny is in jail and that an officer has been shot, Ma becomes hysterical and faints. Johnny, who is sentenced to three years imprisonment, urges Isabelle not to wait for him. After an upsetting dream, Pa plans to tell Ma the truth, but he dies before he can. Sometime later, Ma dreams that her family is still in the house. She is then startled to see Johnny, and he explains he has been released early for good behavior. Because he is ostracized in the small town, Johnny takes a job in Seattle and promises to send for Isabelle and Ma. Before he leaves, he arranges to mail Isaac money every month for Ma. After Isaac convinces Ma that it is best to close up the farm house, she goes to live with Thomas and Phyllis. Although Thomas invites her to stay as long as she likes, Phyllis, who is involved in an affair, objects. When Ma goes up to the roof where Phyllis is sunbathing with her lover to call her to the telephone, Phyllis berates her for snooping. After Phyllis gives her husband an ultimatum to choose between her or Ma, Ma goes to Susan and Ben, but Ben objects to her presence. Isaac, after receiving word that Johnny's engineering party is lost on an expedition to the North Pole, keeps the check sent for Ma for himself. Ma next comes to stay with Isaac, but because of Minnie's nagging, Ma goes to the poor farm, at Isaac's suggestion. When Johnny returns and learns that Ma is in the poorhouse and that Isaac did not give her the money he sent, Johnny fights him. He drags Isaac toward the poorhouse, as a crowd of townsfolk, who dislike Isaac, cheer. Isabelle finally stops Johnny by saying that it would break his mother's heart if she saw them, and Johnny sobs about his mother as Isabelle comforts him. At the poorhouse, Johnny asks a scrub woman about his mother before he realizes that she is Ma. He kicks her bucket away and carries her out, as she half sobs and half laughs. Soon, Johnny, Isabelle and Ma have fixed up the old house for Johnny and Isabelle's upcoming wedding. Although Johnny balks at inviting Isaac, Isabelle stops him from saying anything. Ma asks, "Isn't life wonderful?" as Johnny hugs them both. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.