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HISTORY

The film begins with the following spoken foreword: "This is the story of a Mississippi family, a family whose pioneer men and women had carved their broad plantations out of the wilderness itself. By 1860, their pleasant valley had become almost a state within a state, its people very willing to risk their lives on any chance, rather than to acknowledge the authority of any conscience but their own. These were the famous Dabneys of Levington." According the film's press book, Universal filmed portions of Tap Roots in the Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Mountains near Asheville, NC. The press book notes that as there were no real white oak trees near Ashton which met the film's requirements, the Universal special effects department in California constructed an artificial one, which was then shipped to the North Carolina location. Further, in order to match location shots with those made on the Universal back lot, twenty barrels of North Carolina red clay were shipped back to the studio in California. During the film's production, actress-singer Julie London eloped to Las Vegas with Jack Webb, later known as the star-producer of the radio and television series of Dragnet . The two were married until 1954. London later appeared on the NBC television series Emergency , which Webb produced from 1972 to 1977. According to HR news items, Universal borrowed London from Sol Lesser's company and Van Heflin from M-G-M for the film. A radio version of Tap Roots , with Van Heflin, Susan Hayward and Richard Long reprising their film roles, was broadcast by the Lux Radio Theatre ... More Less

The film begins with the following spoken foreword: "This is the story of a Mississippi family, a family whose pioneer men and women had carved their broad plantations out of the wilderness itself. By 1860, their pleasant valley had become almost a state within a state, its people very willing to risk their lives on any chance, rather than to acknowledge the authority of any conscience but their own. These were the famous Dabneys of Levington." According the film's press book, Universal filmed portions of Tap Roots in the Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Mountains near Asheville, NC. The press book notes that as there were no real white oak trees near Ashton which met the film's requirements, the Universal special effects department in California constructed an artificial one, which was then shipped to the North Carolina location. Further, in order to match location shots with those made on the Universal back lot, twenty barrels of North Carolina red clay were shipped back to the studio in California. During the film's production, actress-singer Julie London eloped to Las Vegas with Jack Webb, later known as the star-producer of the radio and television series of Dragnet . The two were married until 1954. London later appeared on the NBC television series Emergency , which Webb produced from 1972 to 1977. According to HR news items, Universal borrowed London from Sol Lesser's company and Van Heflin from M-G-M for the film. A radio version of Tap Roots , with Van Heflin, Susan Hayward and Richard Long reprising their film roles, was broadcast by the Lux Radio Theatre on 27 Sep 1948. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
3 Jul 1948.
---
Daily Variety
24 Jun 48
p. 3, 8
Film Daily
24 Jun 48
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
13 May 47
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
21 May 47
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
29 May 47
p. 19.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jun 47
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Aug 47
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jun 48
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jul 48
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Aug 48
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Aug 48
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Sep 48
p. 4.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
10 Jan 48
p. 4010.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
3 Jul 48
p. 4226.
New York Times
26 Aug 48
p. 16.
Variety
30 Jun 48
p. 10.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A George Marshall Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Addl dial
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
Makeup
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Tap Roots by James Street (New York, 1942).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
August 1948
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Philadelphia, PA: 14 July 1948
New York and San Francisco openings: 25 August 1948
Production Date:
3 June--mid August 1947
Copyright Claimant:
Universal Pictures Co., Inc. and Walter Wanger Pictures Co., Inc.
Copyright Date:
24 June 1948
Copyright Number:
LP1945
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
108-109
Country:
United States
SYNOPSIS

In 1860, "Big Sam" Dabney, the founder of the Dabney plantation in Levington, Mississippi, urges his granddaughter Morna to marry her military officer beau, Clay MacIvor, before he dies. Morna begins to feel her elderly grandfather's urgency when she realizes her younger sister Aven is also interested in Clay. Clay, however, feels that they should delay their wedding, as civil war is imminent. Learning that Mississippi plans to leave the Union upon Lincoln's election, Big Sam collapses and dies. Incensed by an editorial about his grandfather, Morna's brother Bruce is later stopped from challenging Keith Alexander, the rakish publisher and editor of The Mississippi Whig , to a duel by Tishomingo, Big Sam's Choctaw Indian friend. Keith rides to the Dabney plantation on the pretext of making amends and quickly runs afoul of Clay. Upon Lincoln's election, Clay leaves Levington for Washington, refusing Morna's pleas to marry. With Clay away, Keith begins his courtship of Morna. Meanwhile, Morna's father Hoab makes plans to annex Levington Valley from Mississippi and declare it a neutral area, and, though skeptical, Keith agrees to give Hoab his newspaper's support. Later, Morna is paralyzed in a horseback riding accident, so the illegitimate Keith, having fallen in love with her, writes his powerful father in Washington to request an emergency leave for Clay. Upon his return to Levington, Clay refuses to break his engagement to the invalid Morna, yet begins a romance with Aven. As the secession of the southern states from the Union begins, Hoab and his supporters rally to the neutral Levington, and Clay, a Confederate loyalist, is ordered to leave the valley. He ... +


In 1860, "Big Sam" Dabney, the founder of the Dabney plantation in Levington, Mississippi, urges his granddaughter Morna to marry her military officer beau, Clay MacIvor, before he dies. Morna begins to feel her elderly grandfather's urgency when she realizes her younger sister Aven is also interested in Clay. Clay, however, feels that they should delay their wedding, as civil war is imminent. Learning that Mississippi plans to leave the Union upon Lincoln's election, Big Sam collapses and dies. Incensed by an editorial about his grandfather, Morna's brother Bruce is later stopped from challenging Keith Alexander, the rakish publisher and editor of The Mississippi Whig , to a duel by Tishomingo, Big Sam's Choctaw Indian friend. Keith rides to the Dabney plantation on the pretext of making amends and quickly runs afoul of Clay. Upon Lincoln's election, Clay leaves Levington for Washington, refusing Morna's pleas to marry. With Clay away, Keith begins his courtship of Morna. Meanwhile, Morna's father Hoab makes plans to annex Levington Valley from Mississippi and declare it a neutral area, and, though skeptical, Keith agrees to give Hoab his newspaper's support. Later, Morna is paralyzed in a horseback riding accident, so the illegitimate Keith, having fallen in love with her, writes his powerful father in Washington to request an emergency leave for Clay. Upon his return to Levington, Clay refuses to break his engagement to the invalid Morna, yet begins a romance with Aven. As the secession of the southern states from the Union begins, Hoab and his supporters rally to the neutral Levington, and Clay, a Confederate loyalist, is ordered to leave the valley. He and Aven then elope, breaking Morna's heart. Though Dr. MacIntosh declares Morna's disability untreatable, Tishomingo begins Indian massage therapy, and months later, Morna begins to regain movement in her legs. Keith then makes his now honorable intentions clear, but Hoab warns him that Morna is still hopelessly in love with Clay. In the meantime, Clay uses his knowledge of the Dabneys' land to prepare for a Confederate assault on Levington, which includes blockading of the valley's supply lines to the Gulf of Mexico. As the rainy season begins, Keith heads south with three hundred men in hopes of bringing new supplies to Levington by mule trains. Tishomingo and Bruce, however, capture one of Clay's men, and learn that a Confederate attack upon the valley from the north is imminent. Knowing that Keith is twelve hours away, Morna rides to the Confederate camp to meet with Clay. Upon learning of Morna's plan, Tishomingo rides ahead to stop her, but is shot and killed by a Confederate sentry. Morna then seduces Clay, delaying the attack long enough for Keith's men to be recalled to Levington. The next morning, Morna tells Clay why she seduced him, but he, in turn, informs her that he used the time to move his cannons forward, realizing with her arrival that a surprise attack was impossible. As the Confederate attack begins, Keith orders his men to retreat into the swamps from the cannon fire. The Levington men are defeated nevertheless, but the sharpshooter Keith manages to kill Clay before the battle ends. Afterward, Morna returns to her family, and Hoab accuses her of disloyalty. Keith, however, states that her actions were heroic and openly proclaims his love. Finally realizing his responsibility in the destruction of the Dabney plantation, Hoab collapses and dies in his wife Shellie's arms. Keith then tells Morna that her family legacy will survive, as long as the tap root upon which Big Sam proclaimed his ownership lives on. +

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.