The Good Earth - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Good Earth Reviews

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½ September 16, 2016
Rural China, 1930s. A farmer, Wang (played by Paul Muni), is given a small plot of land by his father. Soon after he marries O-Lan (Luise Rainer) in an arranged marriage. Things go well: not only does he buy more land but he and his wife have three children. Then famine strikes the land and they are forced to move to the city, doing anything to stay alive. It looks like Wang and his family have to start all over again.

An interesting social and moral tale, based on Pearl Buck's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Quite epic in its span and scale. The main theme of life's vagaries, rolling with them and recovering from them is well told. The theme of legacies and succession was also done well. The moral themes - greed, theft - were touched upon but not explored too well nor extensively.

Solid work by Paul Muni in the lead role. Luise Rainer deserved her Oscar for playing O-Lan - she is fantastic in the role.
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.
April 1, 2015
Starring Paul Muni and Luise Rainer. Irving Thalberg did right by Pearl Buck with this faithful adaptation of her novel about a Chinese farming family. Through his vision, persistence and no small amount of money, Thalberg was able to produce an amazing facsimile of the grueling hardships faced by the simple farming family, including famine, revolution and swarms of locusts. Thalberg died suddenly before the production finished, and a special Academy Award was named in his honor. Directed by Sam Wood.
February 14, 2014
The Good Earth is a well-acted and well-crafted cautionary tale about the perils of greed.
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-
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.
January 10, 2014
Another Amazing movie I stumbled upon.... Black N white but the story is colourful... Enjoyed it !!!
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.
½ August 5, 2013
In contemporary world, this film looks very weird in a way that non-Chinese actors are playing the roles of Chinese peasants speaking English. But back to the 1930s, The Good Earth was a pioneer in terms of rebuilding the image of Chinese people. Having long been labelled intelligent, hardworking but evil and wicked, just like Dr. Fu Manchu, The Good Earth started to portray Chinese virtues, such as humbleness, filial piety, bravery and optimism. At the same time, it discloses some more dark sides of Chinese people, such as avarice, fickleness and the authoritative gene. The positive image presented to the US audience somehow improved their image of Chinese. What's more, the accurate depiction of life in villages and the close encounters of natural disasters allow Western audience to know the real Chinese traditions, cultures and lifestyles. As a Chinese, I must say the film's revelation is pertinent especially taking the era it depicted into account, thanks to Miss Pearl Buck's great novel. Luise Rainer is great as O-Lan, who presented the virtues of a traditional Chinese woman vividly, especially when she was in destitute and later abandoned. Paul Muni was also great as Wang Lung, a character we both love and hate, which is also a faithful incarnation of Chinese male.
Super Reviewer
½ May 2, 2013
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.
½ January 2, 2013
What a shame! It seems that the Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Actress awards of 1937 all went to three wrong films: "The Life of Emile Zola," "Captains Courageous," and here we are, "The Good Earth." Generally odd, ugly drama in which recalls a farming couple (Paul Muni and Luise Rainer) who start off successful in the Chinese agriculture industry, but end up in trouble, and at times split up, when a revolution occurs. This film just doesn't work by today's standards. Rainer's performance, the second of two in a row which netted her an Oscar (the other for "The Great Ziegfeld," another highly dated movie), is okay and actually memorable. Muni's performance is also memorable, but for all the wrong reasons. He comes over as an American actor in Chinese-inspired makeup acting like a drunk cowboy. Muni ruins the whole film thank to his performance. Some of the supporting cast also treat the film as if it were an American western. I also was not a fan of the locust scene (not because it was gross, but I just not did find them burning the insects to death appealing). Good it is not!
October 13, 2012
A forgotten but brilliant epic. The story is wonderful, sprawling and tender. Both the leads, Muni and Rainer are fantastic.
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 11, 2012
5 0f 5 stars for me on this one. Riveting movie and an outstanding interpretation of the book.
March 1, 2012
an MGM A picture the locust swarm is still pretty cool for 1937.
½ December 3, 2011
I thought it was great
October 21, 2011
I'm sorry, but watching this was dull, boring, and just plain awful. It has plenty of questionable things that happen with no explanation for why things are the way they are, terrible acting, and a long lasting life of a woman who looked like a zombie for near half of the film.
July 26, 2011
Looks like a pretty OK movie, even if it seems a little long.
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.
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