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1937 was not what you would call one of the greatest years in cinematic history, unlike 1939 or 1941, however it did produce one of the greatest films all time in Make Way for Tomorrow (1937). In the same year the very mediocre film The Good Earth was released and it earned Luise Rainer her second of two Academy Awards for her performance as O-Lan. Obviously you have to get past the hugely offensive sight of European American actors and actresses in yellow face but as a film from this era I would say it is not terrible. I would not urge anybody who is a casual film fan to watch this because it is a bit of a slog when viewed through a modern lens but if you consider the fact that it made significant advances at the time you can mine some appreciation out of it.
Married couple O-Lan, Luise Rainer, and Wang Lung, Paul Muni, struggle to survive after the event of a drought that drives O-Lan to kill their second child because they will not be able to support her. The family go to the city in order to find work but the drought later ends while they are there and they want to return but do not have the means to. Miraculously, O-Lan is able to pick up a large bag of diamonds which give her family the ability to return the farm they grew up on. The relationship between O-Lan and Wang Lung is threatened when he develops an obsessive attraction to Lotus, Lilly Tosch, who brushes off his affections as he neglects his devoted wife. After Lotus has an affair with their son he impetuously banishes him but a locust swarm causes him to return to his senses and fall back in love with his wife right before she passes away.
Like many films this movie chooses to portray a long suffering woman as it's protagonist while cutting a lot of slack for it's male protagonist who chooses to abuse her. I don't enjoy this plotline because it implies that a woman could only really be good if she experienced intense suffering, you often see women win Academy Awards for performances of this type, and that men should always be forgiven for their mistreatment of this sort of women. This film was also made in the 1930s and so it is obviously going to be more sexist than the average modern film of this type. If you don't want to see this sort of retrograde treatment of women then you should stay away from modern superhero films and probably this film.
Moving beyond it's obvious issues the film had some decent moments buried amongst the boredom of other scenes. I enjoyed watching Wang Lung get tortured while in the city, my feelings about the character were mostly negative, in addition to appreciating Rainer's work in early scenes despite the thick make up plastered onto her face which mostly obscure the expressions she makes. These were too few and far between to be truly rewarding but this did move the film above being a complete failure and I was looking for something to appreciate amidst some more difficult to watch films. I do realize that Jezebel (1938), which I watched last week, was a lot stronger than this film and I probably marked it too tough when considering the limitations of this time period. The difficulties of making a film during this period must be factored in when you elevate how well the film works and though I do not feel passionate about the story this film tries to tell I do appreciate it's attempts to produce a fascinating cinematic experience for the audiences of 1937.
If you want to see a great female performance from 1937 you could venture to watch Stella Dallas (1937) which features one of the best Barbara Stanwyck performances ever seen along with her work in The Lady Eve (1941) and of course Double Indemnity (1944). I think that Stanwyck would have been more deserving of the award than Rainer not only because she gives the best performance in the category but because Stanwyck, one of the best actresses of the 1940s, should have an Academy Award and faced stronger competition in later years.
such a racist movie with all these yellow faced cast. Albert Lewin, is the MGM producer in charge of casting this film.Lewin and MGM were unlikely to hire any Chinese-Americans for major roles. "In his reports on ... other Chinese actors," Hodges writes, "Lewin consistently argued that, despite their ethnicity, they did not fit his conception of what Chinese people looked like." What were they supposed to look like? This is Hollywood racism at its peak.
Are you out of your minds?? All white cast in yellow face? How is this even passable?
The best inspiring movie ever made! With the best movie character ever portrayed: Luise Rainer as O-Lan! And the best movie score ever composed!
While The Good Earth is an excellent film, it wouldâ(TM)ve been better with some changes. There is clear Asian misrepresentation in the film and would be better if done differently. As a filmmaker, this is something Iâ(TM)m conscious of and will take as a learning lesson. While something I create may be great to me, I should consider what may make it better and what may be frowned upon in the future. If something may seem fine now, it may be considered offensive or untasteful in the future and itâ(TM)s helpful for me to consider this to make my films have more longevity and progressive themes for its time. Of course, I canâ(TM)t let this hinder my filmmaking or overtake my creativity, because I simply canâ(TM)t please everyone and not everything will last forever.
This is the worst movie I've ever seen in my life. This sexist, racist film shouldn't have seen the light of day, let alone be Oscar worthy. After the full 2 hours and 18 minutes, I finished the film not knowing why I had watched it. It's dull and boring, and the lackluster wife, O-lan, simply lives for her husband. She has no individual purpose, no drive, and no motivation beyond helping her husband. At one point, she even offers to sell her daughter just so her beloved husband can go home, and he proceeds to repay her by buying himself a second wife. This movie isn't worth your time. Please don't watch it.
A prime example of why I so often don't like highly regarded oldies. Setting aside the goofiness of the Americans playing Chinese characters, it's just a dog's breakfast of a movie. The acting is really bad. Luise Rainer is particularly unbearable - and she actually won an Oscar. There are ludicrous plot turns, awful characters and characterizations. There are some redeeming points but all I can say is, man, I hope the book is much better. 3.9 out of 10
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.
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.
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.