The Good Earth (film)

The Good Earth (film)

Infobox Film | name = The Good Earth

caption = original film poster
director = Sidney Franklin Victor Fleming Gustav Machatý
producer =
writer = Pearl S. Buck (novel) Donald Davis (play) Owen Davis (play) Talbot Jennings Tess Slesinger Claudine West
starring = Paul Muni Luise Rainer Walter Connolly Tilly Losch Charley Grapewin
music = Herbert Stothart Edward Ward
cinematography = Karl Freund
editing = Basil Wrangell
distributor = Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
released = January 29, 1937
runtime = 138 min.
language = English
budget = $2,800,000 (estimated)
preceded_by =
followed_by =
amg_id = 1:20287
imdb_id = 0028944

"The Good Earth" (1937) is a film about Chinese farmers who struggle to survive. It was adapted by Talbot Jennings, Tess Slesinger, and Claudine West from the play by Donald Davis and Owen Davis, which was in itself based on the 1931 novel of the same name by Nobel Prize-winning author Pearl S. Buck The film was directed by Sidney Franklin, Victor Fleming (uncredited) and Gustav Machaty (uncredited).

The film starred Paul Muni as Wang Lung. For her role as his wife O-Lan, Luise Rainer won an Academy Award for Best Actress. The film also won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography for Karl Freund. It was nominated for Best Director, Best Film Editing and Best Picture.

Plot summary

Farmer Wang Lung (Paul Muni) marries O-Lan (Luise Rainer), a lowly servant at the Great House, the residence of the most powerful family in their village. O-Lan proves to be an excellent wife, hard working and uncomplaining. Wang Lung prospers. He buys more land, and O-Lan gives birth to two sons and a daughter. Meanwhile, the Great House begins to decline.

All is well until a drought and the resulting famine drive the family to the brink. Desperate, Wang Lung considers the advice of his pessimistic, worthless uncle (Walter Connolly) to sell his land for food, but O-Lan opposes it. Instead, they travel south to a city in search of work. The family survives by begging and stealing. When a revolutionary gives a speech to try to drum up support for the army approaching despite rain in the north, Wang Lung and O-Lan realize the drought is over. They long to return to their farm, but they have no money for an ox, seed, and food.

The city changes hands and O-Lan joins a mob looting a mansion. However, she is knocked down and trampled upon. When she comes to, she finds a bag of jewels overlooked in the confusion. This windfall allows the family to go home and prosper once more. O-Lan asks only to keep two pearls for herself.

Years pass. Wang Lung's sons grow up into educated young men, and he has grown so wealthy that he purchases the Great House. Then, Wang Lung becomes besotted with Lotus (Tilly Losch), a pretty, young dancer at the local tea house, and makes her his second wife. He begins to find fault with the worn-out O-Lan and gives her pearls to Lotus.

When Wang Lung discovers that Lotus has seduced Younger Son (Roland Lui), he orders his son to leave. Then a swarm of locusts threatens the entire village. Using a strategy devised by Elder Son (Keye Luke), everyone unites to try to save the crops. Just when all seems lost, the wind shifts direction, taking the danger away. The near-disaster brings Wang Lung back to his senses. He reconciles with Younger Son. On the latter's wedding day, Wang Lung returns the pearls to O-Lan before she dies, exhausted by a hard life.


Irving Thalberg envisioned casting only Chinese actors for the movie, but gave up the idea because of the general disapproval and racism of Hollywood at the time. Anna May Wong had been touted for the role of O-Lan. However, because Paul Muni was of European descent, the Hays Code anti-miscegenation rules meant his character's wife had to be played by a white woman. Many of the characters were played by Western actors made to look Asian with aid of new make-up techniques developed by Jack Dawn that were first used in this movie.

Because the Second Sino-Japanese War was in progress, the Chinese government threatened not to approve the movie if any Japanese actors were cast.

Thalberg died before the movie was completed. The film credits stated that this was his "last great achievement".

External links

*imdb title|id=0028944|title=The Good Earth

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