The Southerner (1945)

91-92 or 96 mins | Drama | 18 May 1945

Director:

Jean Renoir

Writer:

Jean Renoir

Cinematographer:

Lucien Andriot

Editor:

Gregg G. Tallas

Production Designer:

Eugene Lourie

Production Company:

Loew-Hakim, Inc.
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HISTORY

The working titles of this film were Hold Autumn in Your Hand and Tuckers of Texas . An unidentified contemporary item included in the production file on the film in the AMPAS Library notes that the title of George Perry Sessions' novel was dropped as the film's title after a Gallup poll indicated that it created a misleading impression, or no impression at all. According to translated letters of director/writer Jean Renoir, as reproduced in a modern source, Down by the River was also suggested as a possible title for the picture. Renoir's second onscreen credit reads: "Direction and screenplay by Jean Renoir." The film opens with a brief offscreen narration spoken by Charles Kemper as the character "Tim."
       According to modern sources, when first approached about directing the picture, Renoir read Hugo Butler's adaptation and rejected it. With the help of his secretary, Paula Walling, he then rewrote the script based on his own interpretation of the novel. Walling is credited onscreen as dialogue director. Modern sources also claim that Nunnally Johnson, William Faulkner and perhaps John Huston contributed to the script. Faulkner became involved in the project after star Zachary Scott introduced him to Renoir, according to modern sources. Faulkner, who was under contract at Warner Bros. at the time, reportedly reworked the dialogue for the scene in which the "Tuckers" light the stove in their new house for the first time, and contributed to the scene in which "Sam" catches "Lead Pencil."
       HR news items add the following information about the production: Joel McCrea and his wife, Frances Dee, were first cast in the ... More Less

The working titles of this film were Hold Autumn in Your Hand and Tuckers of Texas . An unidentified contemporary item included in the production file on the film in the AMPAS Library notes that the title of George Perry Sessions' novel was dropped as the film's title after a Gallup poll indicated that it created a misleading impression, or no impression at all. According to translated letters of director/writer Jean Renoir, as reproduced in a modern source, Down by the River was also suggested as a possible title for the picture. Renoir's second onscreen credit reads: "Direction and screenplay by Jean Renoir." The film opens with a brief offscreen narration spoken by Charles Kemper as the character "Tim."
       According to modern sources, when first approached about directing the picture, Renoir read Hugo Butler's adaptation and rejected it. With the help of his secretary, Paula Walling, he then rewrote the script based on his own interpretation of the novel. Walling is credited onscreen as dialogue director. Modern sources also claim that Nunnally Johnson, William Faulkner and perhaps John Huston contributed to the script. Faulkner became involved in the project after star Zachary Scott introduced him to Renoir, according to modern sources. Faulkner, who was under contract at Warner Bros. at the time, reportedly reworked the dialogue for the scene in which the "Tuckers" light the stove in their new house for the first time, and contributed to the scene in which "Sam" catches "Lead Pencil."
       HR news items add the following information about the production: Joel McCrea and his wife, Frances Dee, were first cast in the lead roles, but were replaced at the start of principal photography by Scott and Betty Field because of creative differences between McCrea and Renoir. Scott, who himself was reared on a Southern farm, was borrowed from Warner Bros. for the production. According to modern sources, after McCrea and Dee left the production, United Artists wanted to pull out of its distribution deal with Loew-Hakim, until David Loew threatened to withdraw UA's right to distribute his other pictures. Much of the film was shot on various location in California, including the Arthur Ranch in the San Fernando Valley, the RKO ranch near Encino, Malibu, the banks of the San Joaquin River, and cotton fields near the town of Madera, twenty-five miles out of Fresno. Renoir noted in his autobiography that he had originally planned to shoot the picture in Texas, but was forced to stay in California because of wartime demands on transportation. Renoir added that because the cotton fields near Madera were owned by members of a conservative Russian sect that prohibited reproduction of the human face, the film company was compelled to purchase the land temporarily to avoid any conflicts. A Dec 1945 HR news item notes that the Jester Hairston Chorus was hired for post-production recording. HR news items add Grace Christy, Wheaton Chambers, Anne Cornwall and Sy Jenks to the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Although some reviews list Bunny Sunshine in the role of "Daisy," Jean Vanderwilt is credited onscreen. Modern sources credit Rex in the role of "Zoonie," the Tuckers' dog.
       The film received mostly favorable reviews. NYT reviewer Bosley Crowther commented: " The Southerner may not be an 'entertainment' in the rigid Hollywood sense and it may have some flaws, but it is, nevertheless, a rich, unusual and sensitive delineation of a segment of the American scene well worth filming and seeing." The Var reviewer, however, complained that the picture "may be trenchant realism, but these are times when there is a greater need. Escapism is the word." In early Aug 1945, Lloyd T. Binford, the chairman of the Board of Censors for Memphis, TN, banned the film because he felt it was a slur against Southern farmers. In response, Loew hired a lawyer to test the legality of Binford's ban, but the outcome of his actions is not known. Washington, D.C.'s Evening Star reviewer defended the film by noting that, as depicted, the sharecroppers' "plight is...the Nation's shame, not a sectional one," but added that the picture "cannot stand as a social document or a cinema of high dramatic integrity."
       As noted in his autobiography and letters, Renoir considered The Southerner one of his most satisfying American films. The picture received three Academy Award nominations: Best Direction, Best Music (Scoring, Dramatic or Comedy Picture) and Best Sound Recording (Jack Whitney). The National Board of Review rated the picture the third best of 1945 and voted Renoir as best director. The film also won the best picture award at the 1946 Venice Biennale. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
5 May 1945.
---
Daily Variety
2 May 45
p. 3.
Evening Star (Washington, D.C.)
12 Oct 1945.
---
Film Daily
8 May 45
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
17 May 44
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Aug 44
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Aug 44
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Aug 44
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Sep 44
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Sep 44
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Sep 44
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Sep 44
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Sep 44
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Sep 44
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Sep 44
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Oct 44
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Nov 44
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Nov 44
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Nov 44
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Dec 44
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Dec 44
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
2 May 45
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Sep 45
p. 12.
Los Angeles Daily News
2 Aug 1945.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
9 Dec 44
p. 2216.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
5 May 45
p. 2433.
New York Times
1 Oct 1944.
---
New York Times
27 Aug 45
p. 22.
Variety
2 May 45
p. 27.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Jean Renoir Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Dial dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
MUSIC
Mus score
PRODUCTION MISC
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Hold Autumn in Your Hand by George Sessions Perry (New York, 1941).
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Tuckers of Texas
Hold Autumn in Your Hand
Release Date:
18 May 1945
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Boston: 1 August 1945
New York opening: 25 August 1945
Production Date:
7 September--early November 1944
addl scenes 1 December--5 December 1944 at General Service Studios
Copyright Claimant:
Loew-Hakim, Inc.
Copyright Date:
10 August 1945
Copyright Number:
LP13428
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
91-92 or 96
Length(in feet):
8,270
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
PCA No:
10644
SYNOPSIS

As veteran picker Pete Tucker lays dying from heat stroke in a Texas cotton field, he urges his young nephew, Sam Tucker, a fellow picker, to find his own land to work. Sam takes Pete's advice to heart and, after discussing the matter with wife Nona, asks his boss, Ruston, for permission to rent a piece of his land that has been idle for several years. Equipped with only two mules and some cotton seed, Sam, Nona, their children, Jot and Daisy, and Sam's cantankerous grandmother move their meager belongings to Ruston's farm. The Tuckers are dismayed to discover that the farm house is small and barely livable and the water well, non-functional. Although Sam immediately offers to return to his old job, Nona concludes that if they can borrow some water from their neighbor, they can survive until spring. When Sam asks neighbor Devers for access to his well, Devers, a cynical, embittered man, grants it grudgingly and lets Sam know that his chances for success are slim. As autumn turns to winter, the Tuckers battle cold and hunger. Because she has no coat, Daisy is forced to stay home from school, until Sam insists that Granny sacrifice half of her wool blanket so that Nona can make Daisy a little coat. Then, after weeks of fruitless hunting, Sam finds an opossum to shoot, and the family enjoys a much-needed meaty dinner. Later, Sam and Nona work together to plow the overgrown fields and, in the spring, plant their seed in the fertile, muddy ground. At the same time, however, Jot contracts "spring sickness," or pellagra, because they have no milk ... +


As veteran picker Pete Tucker lays dying from heat stroke in a Texas cotton field, he urges his young nephew, Sam Tucker, a fellow picker, to find his own land to work. Sam takes Pete's advice to heart and, after discussing the matter with wife Nona, asks his boss, Ruston, for permission to rent a piece of his land that has been idle for several years. Equipped with only two mules and some cotton seed, Sam, Nona, their children, Jot and Daisy, and Sam's cantankerous grandmother move their meager belongings to Ruston's farm. The Tuckers are dismayed to discover that the farm house is small and barely livable and the water well, non-functional. Although Sam immediately offers to return to his old job, Nona concludes that if they can borrow some water from their neighbor, they can survive until spring. When Sam asks neighbor Devers for access to his well, Devers, a cynical, embittered man, grants it grudgingly and lets Sam know that his chances for success are slim. As autumn turns to winter, the Tuckers battle cold and hunger. Because she has no coat, Daisy is forced to stay home from school, until Sam insists that Granny sacrifice half of her wool blanket so that Nona can make Daisy a little coat. Then, after weeks of fruitless hunting, Sam finds an opossum to shoot, and the family enjoys a much-needed meaty dinner. Later, Sam and Nona work together to plow the overgrown fields and, in the spring, plant their seed in the fertile, muddy ground. At the same time, however, Jot contracts "spring sickness," or pellagra, because they have no milk or vegetables. Distressed by Jot's quickly deteriorating health, Nona takes him into town to see Doc White, who informs her that unless Jot is fed milk and vegetables, he will die. Sam asks general store owner W. Harmie, his widowed mother's suitor, to extend him some credit, but Harmie refuses. When Sam confides his problem to his best friend Tim, the citified Tim offers to get Sam a high-paying job at the same factory where he works. Sam is tempted, but finally refuses, explaining that only by working his own land can he call himself a free man. Jot's condition continues to worsen and, out of desperation, Sam goes to Devers for help. Although Devers has plenty of milk, he spitefully refuses to give Sam any. Devers' daughter Becky tries to sneak some milk to Sam, but Finley, Devers' cruel, slow-witted nephew, stops her. Sam returns home to find Nona crying from fear and exhaustion, and prays to God for guidance. Soon after, Harmie presents the Tuckers with a cow, and Jot is saved. The cotton then sprouts and the Tuckers plant a vegetable garden. One morning, however, Sam and Nona see Devers' pigs and cow trampling through their garden and conclude that Finley, at Devers' behest, herded them there. When Sam storms over to Devers' place and confronts him, Devers admits to wanting to ruin Sam, because he has plans to buy Ruston's land. Devers, whose wife and son died during his own lean sharecropping years, also admits that he resents Sam's unabashed determination and resourcefulness. The two men fight, and during the struggle, Devers tries to stab Sam. With help from Becky, Sam finally beats his rival and leaves, but Devers goes after him with his gun. Devers finds Sam at the river, fishing for Lead Pencil, an enormous catfish that Devers has been trying to catch for years. Momentarily forgetting his anger, Devers helps Sam snag the big fish and agrees to give the Tuckers his garden, in exchange for the fish and bragging rights. Later, as the cotton nears harvest time, Harmie and Mama Tucker marry. Their wedding is an especially sweet celebration for the Tuckers, as Jot is fully recovered, Daisy is excelling at school, and the crop is promising a good yield. Joy is soon replaced by sorrow, however, when a vicious thunderstorm ruins the cotton and almost destroys their house. After rescuing the cow from the flooded river and saving Tim from drowning, Sam, tired and discouraged, announces to his friend that he is quitting the farm. As soon as Sam sees Nona and Granny cleaning up the house with determined smiles, however, he changes his mind. Then, buoyed by the promise of spring, the Tuckers return to plow their land once more. +

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

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