The Green Pastures (1936)

90 or 93 mins | Allegory | 1 August 1936

Writer:

Sheridan Gibney

Cinematographer:

Hal Mohr

Editor:

George Amy

Production Designers:

Allen Saalburg, Stanley Fleischer

Production Company:

Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

The play on which this film was based won the 1930 Pulitzer Prize and ran on Broadway for five years and 1,779 performances. The Hall Johnson Choir sang portions of twenty-five spirituals in the film. The onscreen credits list Rex Ingram and William Cumby separately for each role they play. Although a HR production chart lists actor John Alexander in the cast, his appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. A NYT article notes that the cost of the film was in excess of $750,000. Newsweek indicates that Connelly was paid $100,000 and given a royalty guarantee for the screen rights to his play, and claims that it was the "highest price ever paid for screen rights." According to the file for the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, The Green Pastures was banned by censors in a number of countries, including Italy, Latvia, China, Palestine, Finland, Australia and Hungary. Censors in England reportedly inserted an explanatory foreword and eliminated many lines of dialogue. Contemporary sources indicate that the picture was one of the top moneymaking films of 1936 and was one of the top ten on the lists of both FD and NYT , as well as the National Board of Review's list of Best American Films. The play was presented on television three times during the ... More Less

The play on which this film was based won the 1930 Pulitzer Prize and ran on Broadway for five years and 1,779 performances. The Hall Johnson Choir sang portions of twenty-five spirituals in the film. The onscreen credits list Rex Ingram and William Cumby separately for each role they play. Although a HR production chart lists actor John Alexander in the cast, his appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. A NYT article notes that the cost of the film was in excess of $750,000. Newsweek indicates that Connelly was paid $100,000 and given a royalty guarantee for the screen rights to his play, and claims that it was the "highest price ever paid for screen rights." According to the file for the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, The Green Pastures was banned by censors in a number of countries, including Italy, Latvia, China, Palestine, Finland, Australia and Hungary. Censors in England reportedly inserted an explanatory foreword and eliminated many lines of dialogue. Contemporary sources indicate that the picture was one of the top moneymaking films of 1936 and was one of the top ten on the lists of both FD and NYT , as well as the National Board of Review's list of Best American Films. The play was presented on television three times during the 1950s. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
15 May 36
p. 3.
Film Daily
19 May 36
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jan 36
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Mar 36
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
16 May 36
p. 2.
Motion Picture Daily
18 May 36
p. 10.
Motion Picture Herald
2 May 36
pp. 16-17.
Motion Picture Herald
30 May 36
pp. 36-37.
MPSI
May 36
p. 12.
New York Times
17 Jul 36
p. 20.
New York Times
31 Jan 1937.
---
Newsweek
30 May 1936.
---
Variety
22 Jul 36
p. 17.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
Contr to scr const
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
Spec photog eff
Head gaffer
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Chorale mus arr and cond by
SOUND
Rec dir
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr clerk
Press agent
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play The Green Pastures by Marc Connelly (New York, 26 Feb 1930) and suggested by the book Ol' Man Adam An' His Chillun by Roark Bradford (New York, 1928).
DETAILS
Release Date:
1 August 1936
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 16 July 1936
Production Date:
early January--early March 1936
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
15 July 1936
Copyright Number:
LP6463
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
90 or 93
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
PCA No:
1915
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

One fine Sunday in the Louisiana delta, a black preacher, Mr. Deshee, tells Bible stories to his Sunday school class. In order to help the children visualize God and heaven, he describes them in terms of a Southern fish fry: De Lawd looks exactly like their preacher, and except for their wings, the angels look exactly like members of the congregation. De Lawd creates too much firmament one day, so he creates the sun and earth to drain it away. After realizing what good farmland he has made, De Lawd creates Adam and Eve to live on it. Sadly, De Lawd is disappointed by Adam and Eve's descendents. After punishing Cain for Abel's murder, De Lawd leaves the Earth alone for a while, but the next time he returns, he again finds a wicked world. Because he believes that Noah, a small town preacher, is an exception, De Lawd orders him to build an ark and then sends the rains down to destroy the rest of humanity. Soon, however, things have gotten bad again and De Lawd decides that man does not have enough to do, so he gives Abraham's descendents the land of Canaan and sends Moses to lead them out of Egypt. Moses and Aaron secure the release of the Hebrew slaves only after confounding the Egyptian pharoah with their magic tricks and killing his son. The Israelites reach the promised land, but De Lawd gets so disgusted with his children that he renounces them. Not even a delegation of angels can convince him to take them back. Yet a soft voice from Earth reaches De Lawd, and ... +


One fine Sunday in the Louisiana delta, a black preacher, Mr. Deshee, tells Bible stories to his Sunday school class. In order to help the children visualize God and heaven, he describes them in terms of a Southern fish fry: De Lawd looks exactly like their preacher, and except for their wings, the angels look exactly like members of the congregation. De Lawd creates too much firmament one day, so he creates the sun and earth to drain it away. After realizing what good farmland he has made, De Lawd creates Adam and Eve to live on it. Sadly, De Lawd is disappointed by Adam and Eve's descendents. After punishing Cain for Abel's murder, De Lawd leaves the Earth alone for a while, but the next time he returns, he again finds a wicked world. Because he believes that Noah, a small town preacher, is an exception, De Lawd orders him to build an ark and then sends the rains down to destroy the rest of humanity. Soon, however, things have gotten bad again and De Lawd decides that man does not have enough to do, so he gives Abraham's descendents the land of Canaan and sends Moses to lead them out of Egypt. Moses and Aaron secure the release of the Hebrew slaves only after confounding the Egyptian pharoah with their magic tricks and killing his son. The Israelites reach the promised land, but De Lawd gets so disgusted with his children that he renounces them. Not even a delegation of angels can convince him to take them back. Yet a soft voice from Earth reaches De Lawd, and he realizes that mercy can be earned through suffering. De Lawd then wonders if this means that even God must suffer, and his question is answered by the life of Jesus Christ. Sunday school is over, and the children file out into the countryside that looks so much like heaven. +

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.