Happy as the Grass Was Green (1973)

PG | 105 or 107 mins | Drama | 1973

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HISTORY

The film’s title was changed for a re-release to Hazel's People , which was the title of the viewed print. Although the 30 Nov 1973 HR review, which stated that Globe Music was the distribution company, and the later 5 Dec 1973 Var review, which stated that no distributor was set, are contradictory, both reviews seem to be based on the same 27 Nov 1973 viewing in Hollywood. No other contemporary documents that confirmed the distribution company were found.
       A 26 Apr 1976 Box review of the film, under the title Hazel's People , listed a re-release date of Mar 1976. However, the 21 Aug 1978 HR review of Hazel's People did not refer to a 1976 release and mentioned that the 1973 release, which HR had reviewed on 30 Nov 1973, was “minimal.” The end credits contain a written acknowledgment, thanking the Mennonite community in Lancaster County, PA for their co-operation in the production. According to the studio's notes, the film was shot entirely on location in Lancaster, PA.
       As reported in the 1973 Var review, aside from Geraldine Page, Pat Hingle and Graham Beckel, the cast consisted mostly ofnonprofessionals from Lancaster County, PA. A studio press release reported that seventeen-year-old Rachel Thomas ("Hazel") was a Lancaster student who had previously performed in one school play, and the 1973 Var review mentioned that she was a Mennonite in real life. Beckel had appeared in a major role in The Paper Chase (See Entry), which had opened in Oct 1973. Onscreen credits state ... More Less

The film’s title was changed for a re-release to Hazel's People , which was the title of the viewed print. Although the 30 Nov 1973 HR review, which stated that Globe Music was the distribution company, and the later 5 Dec 1973 Var review, which stated that no distributor was set, are contradictory, both reviews seem to be based on the same 27 Nov 1973 viewing in Hollywood. No other contemporary documents that confirmed the distribution company were found.
       A 26 Apr 1976 Box review of the film, under the title Hazel's People , listed a re-release date of Mar 1976. However, the 21 Aug 1978 HR review of Hazel's People did not refer to a 1976 release and mentioned that the 1973 release, which HR had reviewed on 30 Nov 1973, was “minimal.” The end credits contain a written acknowledgment, thanking the Mennonite community in Lancaster County, PA for their co-operation in the production. According to the studio's notes, the film was shot entirely on location in Lancaster, PA.
       As reported in the 1973 Var review, aside from Geraldine Page, Pat Hingle and Graham Beckel, the cast consisted mostly ofnonprofessionals from Lancaster County, PA. A studio press release reported that seventeen-year-old Rachel Thomas ("Hazel") was a Lancaster student who had previously performed in one school play, and the 1973 Var review mentioned that she was a Mennonite in real life. Beckel had appeared in a major role in The Paper Chase (See Entry), which had opened in Oct 1973. Onscreen credits state that director Charles Davis was responsible for the story and screenplay that was based on Merle Good's novel, but a 1973 LAT review erroneously stated that Good adapted his own novel. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
26 Apr 1976.
---
Daily Variety
30 Nov 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
30 Nov 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
21 Aug 1978.
---
Los Angeles Herald Express
8 Dec 1973.
---
Los Angeles Times
2 Dec 1973
Calendar, p. 1, 26.
New Yorker
11 Sep 1978.
---
Variety
12 Dec 1973
p. 18.
Variety
2 Jun 1978.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
Story and scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Lighting
Asst cam
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dressing
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus supv
Mus ed
SOUND
Sd ed
Sd and re-rec
VISUAL EFFECTS
Opticals and processing by
MAKEUP
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Happy as the Grass Was Green by Merle Good (Scottdale, PA, 1971).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"The Seasons of Life" and "Fellow Man," music by William Loose, lyrics by Robert Gillies, vocal by Lee Darin
"Praise to God, Immortal Praise," music undetermined, lyrics by Anna L. Barbauld
"Spirit of God," music undetermined, lyrics by George Croly
+
SONGS
"The Seasons of Life" and "Fellow Man," music by William Loose, lyrics by Robert Gillies, vocal by Lee Darin
"Praise to God, Immortal Praise," music undetermined, lyrics by Anna L. Barbauld
"Spirit of God," music undetermined, lyrics by George Croly
"Silent Night, Holy Night," music by Franz Gruber, lyrics by Joseph Mohr, English lyrics anonymous
"Adeste Fideles (O, Come All Ye Faithful)," words and music by John Francis Wade.
+
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Hazel's People
Release Date:
1973
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 5 December 1973
Copyright Claimant:
Happy Production Company
Copyright Date:
15 June 1973
Copyright Number:
LP43963
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
CFI
Duration(in mins):
105 or 107
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

After John Witmer, a New York City college student, is killed by policemen in a campus confrontation, his brother Jim and classmate Eric Mills accompany his body to his Pennsylvania Mennonite community. Jim and John’s parents, Menno and Anna, and their farmhand Ben, are at first uneasy with the sight of Eric, whose shoulder-length hair and mustache indicate his alien “hippie” lifestyle. Anna, a quiet and gentle woman, admits to Eric that she cannot understand the harsh ways of the city, and Eric, who feels perpetually angry and unsettled, cannot quite find the words to explain. When neighbors and extended family gather at the Witmers’ farmhouse to arrange for John’s funeral, Eric remains on the periphery, feeling conspicuous and out of place. As non-violence is one of the key principles of the Mennonites’ beliefs, the small community finds the manner of John’s death incomprehensible. When Eric, who respected and loved John, hears the group discuss whether church services are appropriate, he leaves the house in a rage and encounters Eli, an easygoing preacher with whom he has an immediate rapport. Eli advises Eric to be slow to judge them, because they are experiencing a difficult time. When Ben shows him an ill-informed newspaper article that suggests John’s behavior was criminal, Eric exclaims that John died trying to help a persecuted man. Inside the house, Anna’s self-righteous brother Rufus, a hypocritical businessman, insists that there should be no weakening of church standards just because John was a relative. Eli, seeking a compromise, suggests that they give John a simple graveside service in the family plot and everyone agrees. Later, at the burial, ... +


After John Witmer, a New York City college student, is killed by policemen in a campus confrontation, his brother Jim and classmate Eric Mills accompany his body to his Pennsylvania Mennonite community. Jim and John’s parents, Menno and Anna, and their farmhand Ben, are at first uneasy with the sight of Eric, whose shoulder-length hair and mustache indicate his alien “hippie” lifestyle. Anna, a quiet and gentle woman, admits to Eric that she cannot understand the harsh ways of the city, and Eric, who feels perpetually angry and unsettled, cannot quite find the words to explain. When neighbors and extended family gather at the Witmers’ farmhouse to arrange for John’s funeral, Eric remains on the periphery, feeling conspicuous and out of place. As non-violence is one of the key principles of the Mennonites’ beliefs, the small community finds the manner of John’s death incomprehensible. When Eric, who respected and loved John, hears the group discuss whether church services are appropriate, he leaves the house in a rage and encounters Eli, an easygoing preacher with whom he has an immediate rapport. Eli advises Eric to be slow to judge them, because they are experiencing a difficult time. When Ben shows him an ill-informed newspaper article that suggests John’s behavior was criminal, Eric exclaims that John died trying to help a persecuted man. Inside the house, Anna’s self-righteous brother Rufus, a hypocritical businessman, insists that there should be no weakening of church standards just because John was a relative. Eli, seeking a compromise, suggests that they give John a simple graveside service in the family plot and everyone agrees. Later, at the burial, Eli says only good things about John and urges the mourners to try to understand John’s death in the same way they struggled to understand the accidental death of Simon, a third Witmer son who died a few years ago. Afterward, Rufus expresses his disapproval of Eli’s words, claiming John was not deserving as he was not “saved,” but Eric, relieved that John was given proper respect, thanks Eli and meets his seventeen-year-old daughter Hazel. Afterward, Jim takes Eric for a walk through the fields where he spent his childhood and recalls something John used to say, about being “as happy as the grass is green.” He explains that Hazel and John would have married had John not left the community. Trying to reconcile the enigma of John, who loved people so fiercely, yet felt hate, Eric says that John hated the bad things that are done to people by others. They conclude that John was impatient to change the world into a better place. When Eric sees Hazel again, she asks if he really is a hippie and Jim later tells him that Hazel tests people for weakness and likes a challenge. At a barn-raising, Eric is impressed with the hardworking Mennonites, but also witnesses how the young people taunt Sara, a young woman whose father committed suicide. When Eric asks about the difference between the Amish and the Mennonites, Jim says that the religion keeps breaking into splinter groups, some wanting to be more modern and others wanting to keep their traditions. On the day before he is to leave, Hazel surprises Eric with an invitation to dinner. There, Eric tells Eli about John’s life in New York, how he worked to clean up slum areas and involved himself in antiwar marches and protests. He explains that John was killed protecting a man who went AWOL, when police and FBI agents surrounded his building, broke into his apartment and started shooting. At the family’s nightly worship ritual, Eli mentions Eric in prayer and as he leaves, Eli tells him that God loves him and never to settle for less. That night, touched by Eli’s wisdom and harboring feelings of infatuation for his daughter, Eric returns to their house and tearfully relates his mixed emotions to Eli, who suggests that God is calling him. The next morning, when Jim leaves, Eric stays behind at the Witmers and helps with the farm. He shaves off his mustache and cuts several inches off his hair, and tries to explain to Ben why his comrades were so angry with the system. After Eric lives with the Mennonites for a while, Eli asks him to say a few words at the church service. Although at first tongue-tied, Eric blurts out how he wants to be accepted, saying that where he had previously known darkness, despair and hatred, he now feels light, hope and love. After the service, the community welcomes him, Hazel invites him to a hayride and Rufus gives him a job at his highly successful fruit and vegetable store. While working there, Eric realizes the extent of Rufus’ bigotry, and Anna admits that her brother has always sought worldly pursuits and now attends a more modern church. When several of the young people gather to assist a couple with a new baby, Eric again witnesses the ostracization of Sara, whom he tries to comfort when he finds her alone crying. Shortly before Christmas, Eric accepts an invitation to speak at the church Rufus attends, along with three other “converted” hippies, but soon after, discovers that Rufus charges rent to a Puerto Rican family of summer workers who live in his rundown chicken coop behind the store during the winter. Incensed, Eric talks to Eli, confiding that the peace he has been feeling is draining away. When he talks of the conditions in which the Puerto Ricans live, Eli agrees that it is bad, but that it is sometimes too much to expect that others will change. Seeing Eric’s agitation, Anna gently suggests that he can do more good if he is not clouded with anger. At the church service, Rufus parades three converts in front of the congregation, who, according to his wishes, tell dramatic stories of their former degradation. However, from the pulpit, Eric accuses the congregation of needing to feel superior and reminds them of the Christmas message of brotherhood and love. Astonishing everyone, he walks out of the church to his car, where he finds Sara waiting. Although she declares she loves him, Eric suggests that she does not love him in the way she thinks. Sara then tells him about her father, a gentle man who could never talk about his feelings, and Eric observes that she is needed in the community because of her strength and honesty. When he returns for the Christmas holiday, Jim tells Eric that Eli confronted Rufus about his treatment of the Puerto Ricans, found them jobs and knocked down the sheds. Later, Sara attends a neighborhood gathering with her mother and faces down the crowd’s disapproval. At the Witmers' Christmas gathering, Jim and Eric realize the changes within them. Jim says that he plans to remain with his family and Eric now realizes he belongs on the “outside,” where he can do the most good. Before leaving, Eric visits Hazel and, although they share an attraction, they agree they belong in different worlds. Eli tells Eric that he has been an inspiration to him, that he found love here and will never settle for less. When Jim accompanies him to the train station, Eric takes one last look at the fields and Jim predicts that it will be green again in the spring. +

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

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