God's Little Acre (1958)

110 or 112 mins | Melodrama | May 1958

Director:

Anthony Mann

Writer:

Philip Yordan

Producer:

Sidney Harmon

Cinematographer:

Ernest Haller

Production Designer:

Jack Poplin

Production Company:

Security Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

The onscreen title card reads: "Security Pictures, Inc. presents Erskine Caldwell's God's Little Acre ." God’s Little Acre was based on Caldwell’s controversial and best-selling 1933 novel of the same name, which, due to the story’s sexual content, was banned from many book stores upon publication and faced a court censorship battle. The complaint, filed by the New York Society of Suppression of Vice, was later dismissed by a New York City magistrate, which upheld the integrity of the novel. Upon the film's release, several reviews noted that its ending was considerably less somber than that of the book. In the novel, "Buck Walden" kills his brother, "Jim Leslie," for attempting to abduct Buck's wife "Griselda," whom Jim had molested earlier when their father, "Ty Ty Walden," came to him to borrow money. The book ends with Ty Ty wearily telling his daughters and Griselda that Buck has wandered off with a shotgun, presumably to commit suicide.
       According to information in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection in the AMPAS Library, on 3 Jan 1950 producer Anson Bond of Emerald Productions submitted a script of God’s Little Acre for PCA approval, indicating his intention to begin production within three months. On 17 Jan 1950, the PCA rejected the script, basing their decision on three major story details: the “sex affair” between “Will Thompson” and Griselda, his sister-in-law; the forthright description of “Shaw’s” daily sexual activity; and Jim Leslie making advances to Griselda while his wife lay ill. There is no indication that Bond or Emerald pursued production of the film further. ... More Less

The onscreen title card reads: "Security Pictures, Inc. presents Erskine Caldwell's God's Little Acre ." God’s Little Acre was based on Caldwell’s controversial and best-selling 1933 novel of the same name, which, due to the story’s sexual content, was banned from many book stores upon publication and faced a court censorship battle. The complaint, filed by the New York Society of Suppression of Vice, was later dismissed by a New York City magistrate, which upheld the integrity of the novel. Upon the film's release, several reviews noted that its ending was considerably less somber than that of the book. In the novel, "Buck Walden" kills his brother, "Jim Leslie," for attempting to abduct Buck's wife "Griselda," whom Jim had molested earlier when their father, "Ty Ty Walden," came to him to borrow money. The book ends with Ty Ty wearily telling his daughters and Griselda that Buck has wandered off with a shotgun, presumably to commit suicide.
       According to information in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection in the AMPAS Library, on 3 Jan 1950 producer Anson Bond of Emerald Productions submitted a script of God’s Little Acre for PCA approval, indicating his intention to begin production within three months. On 17 Jan 1950, the PCA rejected the script, basing their decision on three major story details: the “sex affair” between “Will Thompson” and Griselda, his sister-in-law; the forthright description of “Shaw’s” daily sexual activity; and Jim Leslie making advances to Griselda while his wife lay ill. There is no indication that Bond or Emerald pursued production of the film further.
       A 4 Aug 1955 HR item notes that producer Sidney [erroneously called Ed] Harmon was finalizing a deal with Caldwell, writer Philip Yordan and director Anthony Mann to produce the film. In Dec 1955, LAT noted that Caldwell, Yordan and Mann would co-produce the film and hoped to cast Spencer Tracy for the role of “Ty Ty Walden.” A 3 Apr 1957 Var article states that producer Harmon and Yordan maintained that they had not submitted a copy of the script to the PCA, had no intention of doing so and would ensure that the film received distribution with or without the PCA seal of approval. Correspondence in the PCA file indicates, however, that by May 1957, Yordan had submitted a script and was making alterations in accordance with PCA recommendations. Those changes included reducing the role of Jim Leslie from that of the novel and also excising his subsequent murder by Buck for his attempt to seduce Griselda.
       The Apr 1957 Var article mentioned above indicates that Mann and Harmon would be scouting for locations in Georgia for shooting. A 9 Aug 1957 HR item reveals that as a result of press and civic pressure in Atlanta, Mann and Security Pictures were denied permission to film in Georgia and would be searching for new locations in Louisiana, the Carolinas and Southern California. The item states that “(Atlanta) civic and business leaders and the press” feared that Caldwell’s story would portray the region in bad light. An Oct 1957 NYT article describes location shooting that took place just outside of Stockton, CA. The article relates that the Stockton Chamber of Commerce was extremely pleased with the location shooting of the William Wyler-Gregory Peck production of The Big Country (see above) and invited Mann to shoot in their city upon learning of his difficulties in Georgia. A 29 Aug 1957 HR news item added Sharon Lee to the cast, but her appearance in the film has not been confirmed.
       Despite the controversy surrounding it, the completed picture was released without incident, with the DV review describing it as “a ripe Georgia peach, bursting with earthy vigor.” The MPH praised the film for its “ring of truth and sincerity.” According to a 31 Mar 1958 DV article, the filmmakers had spent $75,000 shooting "alternate scenes" to be used for exhibition "below the Mason-Dixon Line," if audiences reactly negatively to the picture. The article detailed that the sequences, having to do with politcs, unemployment, the existence of brothels and the treatment of "Southern womanhood," would be made available to Southern UA exchanges, although based on favorable previews, Harmon doubted that they would be used. It has not been determined if the substitute footage was ever exhibited in the United States. The article did assert that Europeans would "get an entirely different view" of the picture--a "revealing one of curvaceous Tina Louise and a lengthened one of a rather intimate love scene." God's Little Acre marked Louise's motion picture debut. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
19 May 1958.
---
Daily Variety
5 Dec 1955.
---
Daily Variety
6 Mar 1958.
---
Daily Variety
31 Mar 1958.
---
Daily Variety
9 May 58
p. 3.
Film Daily
13 May 58
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Aug 1955.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Aug 1957
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Aug 1957
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Aug 1957
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Aug 1957
p. 3, 6.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Sep 1957
p. 17.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Oct 1957
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Oct 1957
p. 19.
Hollywood Reporter
9 May 58
p. 3.
Los Angeles Examiner
28 Jul 1956.
---
Los Angeles Times
5 Dec 1955.
---
Los Angeles Times
31 Jan 1956.
---
Los Angeles Times
23 Jan 1957.
---
Los Angeles Times
4 Apr 1957.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
17 May 58
p. 833.
New York Times
20 Oct 1957.
---
New York Times
4 May 1958.
---
New York Times
14 Aug 58
p. 23.
Variety
3 Apr 1957.
---
Variety
14 May 58
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
An Anthony Mann Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Lighting tech
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITORS
Ed assoc
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
COSTUMES
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Supv of prod
Assoc to the prod
Dial coach
Scr supv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel God's Little Acre by Erskine Caldwell (New York, 1933).
SONGS
"God's Little Acre," music by Elmer Bernstein, lyrics by Erskine Caldwell.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Erskine Caldwell's God's Little Acre
Release Date:
May 1958
Production Date:
11 September--late October 1957
Copyright Claimant:
Security Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
9 May 1958
Copyright Number:
LP10695
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
110 or 112
Length(in feet):
10,013
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
18931
SYNOPSIS

For fifteen years Ty Ty Walden has dug up his Georgia farmland with his sons Buck and Shaw in hopes of discovering gold that his grandfather promised was buried there. Shaw labors cheerfully and without question, seeking happiness in town with local girls while Buck works in frustration, consumed with jealousy that his pretty wife Griselda may still love her former beau, Will Thompson. One day, ice cream truck driver Pluto Swint, who is running for sheriff, visits the Walden farm hoping to work up the nerve to court Ty Ty’s youngest and flirtatious daughter, Darlin’ Jill. When Pluto learns about Ty Ty’s dream of discovering gold, he suggests that Ty Ty consult with an albino, as albinos are known to have special powers of divination. Ty Ty frets about digging up an acre of land he has dedicated to God, but eventually decides that the Lord would understand if he moved the acre closer to the main house. Convinced that he needs help digging, Ty Ty asks to accompany his sons on their weekly trip to Peach Tree Valley to see Will and his wife Rosamund, Ty Ty’s other daughter. After Buck orders Griselda to remain at home, the Waldens visit Rosamund, who scolds Ty Ty for continuing his vain quest. She then laments that Will spends most of his time drinking since being laid off from the bankrupt cotton mill. Arriving home drunk, Will nearly provokes a fight with Buck when he reminisces about Griselda. When Ty Ty asks for his help, Will maintains he is not a farmer and refuses to return with him. After ... +


For fifteen years Ty Ty Walden has dug up his Georgia farmland with his sons Buck and Shaw in hopes of discovering gold that his grandfather promised was buried there. Shaw labors cheerfully and without question, seeking happiness in town with local girls while Buck works in frustration, consumed with jealousy that his pretty wife Griselda may still love her former beau, Will Thompson. One day, ice cream truck driver Pluto Swint, who is running for sheriff, visits the Walden farm hoping to work up the nerve to court Ty Ty’s youngest and flirtatious daughter, Darlin’ Jill. When Pluto learns about Ty Ty’s dream of discovering gold, he suggests that Ty Ty consult with an albino, as albinos are known to have special powers of divination. Ty Ty frets about digging up an acre of land he has dedicated to God, but eventually decides that the Lord would understand if he moved the acre closer to the main house. Convinced that he needs help digging, Ty Ty asks to accompany his sons on their weekly trip to Peach Tree Valley to see Will and his wife Rosamund, Ty Ty’s other daughter. After Buck orders Griselda to remain at home, the Waldens visit Rosamund, who scolds Ty Ty for continuing his vain quest. She then laments that Will spends most of his time drinking since being laid off from the bankrupt cotton mill. Arriving home drunk, Will nearly provokes a fight with Buck when he reminisces about Griselda. When Ty Ty asks for his help, Will maintains he is not a farmer and refuses to return with him. After Ty Ty and his sons return home, they discover that Pluto and farmhand Uncle Felix have brought Dave Dawson, an albino from nearby Swamp Corner, to help find the gold. Dave is unsure what is required of him but when Pluto explains that the gold hunting is much like looking for water, Dave takes a willow stick and is promptly led to God’s acre near the house. Buck points out that if the gold is indeed on God’s acre, then, per his father’s promise, it will go to the church. After a hasty prayer seeking God’s approbation, Ty Ty moves the acre down by the creek and begins digging by the house. In Peach Tree Valley, Will’s friends worry that Ty Ty will lure him into becoming a farmer, but Will assures them that he will never work the land, then goes to the empty cotton mill to decry its closure. The following day, Will and Rosamund visit the farm to help Ty Ty and the others. Pluto proposes to Darlin’ Jill, who rejects him, saying she may change her mind after the results of the sheriff’s election. When Buck becomes aware of Griselda and Will exchanging glances, he angrily sends his wife to the house. Meanwhile, Darlin’ Jill becomes fascinated by Dave’s uniqueness and that evening seduces him in a rowboat on the creek. After helping dig all of the next day, Will berates Ty Ty and the others for their foolish venture. That night Will meets Griselda by the well and the two declare their feelings for each other. The next day Ty Ty questions Dave about his powers, declaring that he only believes in what is purely scientific. Concerned over the family’s near destitution, Uncle Felix pleads with Ty Ty to give up his search and return to farming, but Ty Ty admits he is consumed by a fever for gold. Uncle Felix then suggests that Ty Ty go to Augusta to ask for a loan from his estranged, eldest son, Jim Leslie, who has married into wealth. Ty Ty agrees and takes Griselda and Darlin’ Jill along. Jim Leslie receives Ty Ty with scorn, scoffing at his father’s dream, yet nevertheless gives him money. Ty Ty is disgusted when Jim Leslie makes a crude pass at Griselda and declares he will pay back the loan to Jim’s wife. Back in Peach Tree Valley, Buck attempts to outdrink Will at a local bar and then starts a fight with his inebriated brother-in-law. Worried about Will’s obsession to restore the cotton mill, Rosamund pleads with Griselda to accompany them home to reason with her riled husband. After sleeping off his drunkenness, Will insists on returning to the cotton mill the next day. Concerned, Griselda accompanies him and as several townsfolk gather, Will breaks into the empty mill, turns on the lights and starts up the machinery. When Will refuses the guard’s orders to move away from the machinery, the guard panics and shoots him, stunning Griselda and the townspeople. At Will’s funeral a couple of days later, Buck is enraged when Jim Leslie eyes Griselda. When Ty Ty admonishes them not to fight, but to try forgiveness and to learn how to dream, Buck scorns his father. Jim Leslie then mocks the family for their backwardness, angering Buck, who attacks him. When Ty Ty intervenes, Buck lashes out with a club, but Ty Ty manages to prevent Buck from killing his brother. Stunned, Ty Ty at last realizes how his fantasy has nearly ruined his family. The next day Ty Ty resumes farming with a relieved Buck, Shaw and Uncle Felix. When Pluto wins the election, he and Darlin’ Jill become engaged, and Griselda and Buck attempt to begin a new life together. +

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

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