The Good Earth - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Good Earth Reviews

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jjnxn
Super Reviewer
½ January 22, 2014
Long and slow but entertaining if you stick with it. Muni as was his usual practice when buried under makeup slightly hammy but less so than when he played Zola or Pasteur. He does what he can to humanize a basically thoughtless, selfish and reprehensible man although he is not for one instant believable as an Asian. Someone who isn't hammy is Luise Rainer in a beautifully judged performance that won a richly deserved Oscar. She makes the rest of the sometimes ponderous film worth watching.
Super Reviewer
September 16, 2010
If you can get over the fact that a lot of the actors are Americans made up to look like Asians, you will enjoy this movie. It's a drama, but it's also the exciting journey of a man and wife. I really thought it was going to be boring, but the beginning slowly drew me into the lives of the characters, and I loved Rainer's performance, her character is so beautiful. It's not the best movie in the world, for instance, it could have had actual Asian actors, and more stars, but it's a good movie the way it is and I recommend it.
dietmountaindew
Super Reviewer
July 23, 2008
"the good earth" is the earliest massive hollywood productions for oriental epic in exclusion of fu manchu series. it has great ambition to interpret the national spirit of china, its farming business under a bunch of stagy performances from caucasion yellow-face. and the issue has no relevance of its chinese authenticness but how old america views china.


it is a story about wang lung the farmer(paul muni), who marries a slavegirl in the big house named o-lan. and together they strive for their rocky future with mettle with their conventional chinese virtues. they've been thru harvest prosperity, drought, famine and the revolution of republic china as well as wang's illict affair with courtesan lotus.

mostly it depicts the condescending perspect of man's derogatory viewpoint on women which is actually true in ancient china, and women are merely usable products who help men to plow the rice fields and bring them extensions. without that, a woman could be considered worthless, and the dichotomy of benevolent saint and malevolent siren reflects on the two major female characters: o-lan, the slavegirl turning to the farmer's wife; lotus, the insidious temptress who drains men's wealth. eventually the conclusion would be good woman is like earth which provides everything with endless flourishments.

the earliest chinese star then anna may wong was keen to obtain the role of virtuous o-lan to alter her dreary image of malicious sirens in a bunch of negative orient-themed movies where she has to die "a thousand times" in the end. but the studio refuses to grant her that becuz of the racial segregation principle then: a caucasion male cannot make love or pair licitly with a oriental female on screen (so asian women are neither mistresses or villainy on screen), even as roles of yellow face. even the temptress lotus goes down to another actress with approved ethnicity despite the role lotus is literarily inspired by the oriental femme fatale image in wong's early silent pictures.

the point of making "the good earth" itself is a campy articce, so why bother to use a real chinese or not since the story won't present the real china anyway? as for anna may wong, she is thorough america-nourished american except her ethnicity, and she doesn't even conform to the corny chinese virtues of obediency or dependency on man anyway, further more she has never been with a chinese man for all her life at all. so in exclusion of her chinese outlook, there's not really any that much of traditional chineseness in her. so it won't be really a shame or a pity for her abscence as o-lan in this piece, but she would probably make an adequate lotus.

the title song for "the good earth" would be "the jasmine song" which has nothing to do with farming but a common folk song praising the beauty of jasmine flower in spite of its melodius smoothness. and in the scene of new infant birth, it's accompanied with the song celebrating the feng-yang drum which is my father's regional folk song in old china. so it would be highly phony to deem "the good earth" as a chinese epic, and even pearl s. buck who writes the original novel might have some bias for china. but it does bare some worthwhile process of collecting crops from the rice fields which i have never paid attention before. and the photography has its contrived oriental aesthetism under the helm of four directors, including victor fleming from "gone with the wind".

so allow me to put it this way, the pleasure of "good earth" would be the brass flatulency of vintage caucasion hollywood's eccentric perception on "the inscrutable orient". ABSOLUTE CAMP!
Super Reviewer
½ January 29, 2007
Holds fairly closely to Buck's novel. Sadly having most of the lead roles filled by non-Chinese actors such as Muni, Rainer, Connolly, and Grapewin shows the prejudices of the time. And yet Paul Muni and Luise Rainer were a couple of the most prestigious actors of the day. They bring the emotional heft of each scene to life as best they can, which is to say strongly. The Good Earth is kind of the flip side of the coin from The Last Emperor. The latter deals primarily with what goes on inside the palace walls, while the former is concerned with a family of peasants outside the walls. Both cover several decades of 20th century Chinese history, but Pearl S. Buck's tale does not feel like a history lesson. In this story one can observe some major events on China's timeline in the background, however it is about the common farmers and the love and trials of a husband and wife. Rainer and Muni excellently show how an arranged marriage in the old tradition can develop into a deep loving bond. Out of mother Earth a love can slowly grow like a tree.
Super Reviewer
½ September 9, 2013
Passable film with a bunch of white actors in makeup to look Asian. Getting beyond this insensitivity, Muni proves up to the usual job even if this is not a film that he will be particularly remembered for.
Super Reviewer
½ July 9, 2008
Beautifully photographed and a great adaptation of the book. A real find for students of film.
April 7, 2016
The Good Earth, thanks in part to its source material, is an emotionally effective historical drama, taking realistic but occasionally unexpected turns throughout the plot, and featuring an especially exciting climax, however the acting is problematic, especially by today's political standards, yet the substance of the script can make up for some of this - even by those same political standards. It comes down to being a much shorter and simpler alternative to Gone with the Wind, which is not a bad thing by any stretch.
February 11, 2014
Watching it now with non-Chinese actors playing Chinese people is a bit silly, but considering the time it was made, it isn't as a big deal. This is a story about appreciating what you have when you have nothing and appreciating what you have when you have everything. Luise Rainer won her second of back-to-back Best Actress Oscars in her emotional and brilliant performance as the humble and faithful wife O-Lan.

Grade: A-
August 12, 2012
From Pearl S. Buck's Pulitzer Prize-Winning novel comes one of the finest films Hollywood has ever done. A movie that does full justice to the novel. Recreated in detail,telling the sweeping saga of a simple chinese farming couple. With outstanding special effects,the film won Oscar for Luise Rainer as the everpatient wife of Muni,as did Karl Freund for his breathtaking cinematography.
May 12, 2011
**** (out of four)

One of the greatest films from the 1930's. "The Good Earth" is a higly emotional and devestating look at the plight of Chinese farmers who battle a huge drought that forces them to leave their lands for life in the big city.

One drawback is that Hollywood wasn't ready to cast actual Chinese actors in the leads. Despite this Paul Muni and Luis Rainer (who won a Best Actress Oscar) give rare and poignant performances. Though they are not Chinese, the are able to capture the essense and heartbreaking souls of the characters.

For a film from 1937 the spectacular scene of the invading locusts is a true revelation and highly memorable.
December 9, 2009
Ignoring the obvious racism of casting white actors to play the leads, I thought this movie did a marvelous job of telling an epic story. The cinematography was groundbreaking and the struggle felt genuine. Like a Chinese Gone With the Wind with more likable characters.
June 27, 2009
A truly magnificent filming of one of my favorite books. It's a great story, beautifully brought to the screen. Paul Muni and especially Louise Rainer give brilliant performances. Rainer won a best actress Oscar, and very deservedly so. Superb MGM production values.
½ November 20, 2007
Muni the ham in the hammiest of hamfests. May his stretch of "Book of the Month" adaptations be purged.
September 13, 2007
Movie is based on a book written by Pearl Buck who grew up in China... the lifestyle in China is very different from ours and Pearl brings you into that world totally and completely... this movie although not exactly like the book follows the heart of her story better than most.
½ June 8, 2007
Read the book (Well two chapters anyway) in high school & found the whole story utterly & mind-numbingly boring!!!!!
½ December 5, 2006
I saw this movie when Iwas like 9 years old. I love the story of this movie. As teen I read the book and it was even better than the movie. This is my all time favoritie.
November 22, 2006
Woohoo!!! I'm the first to review this movie! This was actually suggested to me by a friend. At first I was skeptical. It's 70 years old, and stars American actors trying to play Asians. Although it shows its age in parts, and the cultural aspects aren't exactly insightful, the story is timeless. There wasn't a single moment that I wasn't entertained with. For its time it was also quite a technical achievment. In fact, I would say this is still one of the best love stories ever put to film. Highly recommend it.
½ April 11, 2005
A truly magnificent filming of one of my favorite books. It's a great story, beautifully brought to the screen. Paul Muni and especially Louise Rainer give brilliant performances. Rainer won a best actress Oscar, and very deservedly so. Superb MGM production values.
April 7, 2016
The Good Earth, thanks in part to its source material, is an emotionally effective historical drama, taking realistic but occasionally unexpected turns throughout the plot, and featuring an especially exciting climax, however the acting is problematic, especially by today's political standards, yet the substance of the script can make up for some of this - even by those same political standards. It comes down to being a much shorter and simpler alternative to Gone with the Wind, which is not a bad thing by any stretch.
½ October 10, 2015
While a great black and white epic production, it's hard to get past the caucasians playing asians. All the major roles are played by caucasians and for me just weren't believable. I guess it's more a look at what Hollywood and society was like in general in the 1930's, that asian roles went to white actors and no one thought there was anything wrong with it.
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