Salt of the Earth (1954) - Rotten Tomatoes

Salt of the Earth (1954)

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Though it cannot help but lapse into dogma and didactics at times, Salt of the Earth is a powerful, persuasive labor-management drama. With the exception of five actors (including future Waltons star Will Geer), the cast is comprised of non-professionals, mostly participants of the real-life strike action upon which the film is based. Set in a New Mexico mining town, the film concerns the measures taken by the largely Hispanic union to improve working and especially living conditions for the poverty-stricken workers. Remarkably prescient, given that the film was made long before the women's movement, is the fact that it is the wives who keep the strike alive while their husbands are beaten and otherwise oppressed by the owners. Not that the miners wholeheartedly accept this; one of the script's many on-target observations shows the macho workers resenting their wives' intervention. The ultimate victory over the strikebreakers (led by Geer at his most odious) comes about as much from male-female solidarity as the workers' pre-set determination. Co-produced by the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelt Workers, Salt of the Earth was assembled under conditions of extreme duress by a group of Hollywood expatriates, all victims of the Blacklist: producer Paul Jarrico, director Herbert Biberman, screenwriter Michael Wilson and star Will Geer. "Freed" of the strictures of Hollywood pussyfooting and censorship, the film's auteurs are able to explore several subjects previously considered taboo. As a result, Salt of the Earth seems even fresher and more pertinent now than it did when given its extremely limited first release in 1954.

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Cast

Will Geer
as Sheriff
Rosaura Revueltas
as Esperanza Quintero
Juan Chacon
as Ramon Quintero
David Sarvis
as Alexander
Henrietta Williams
as Teresa Vidal
Ernest Velßsquez
as Charley Vidal
Ernest Velasquez
as Charley Vidal
Angela Sánchez
as Consuelo Ruiz
Clorinda Alderette
as Luz Morales
Charles Coleman
as Antonio Morales
Virginia Jencks
as Ruth Barnes
Clinton Jencks
as Frank Barnes
Frank Talavera
as Luis Quintero
Mary Lou Castillo
as Estella Quintero
Victor Torres
as Sebastian Prieto
E.S. Conerly
as Kalinsky
Elivira Molano
as Mrs. Salazar
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Critic Reviews for Salt of the Earth

All Critics (11) | Top Critics (3)

Salt of the Earth is a good, highly dramatic and emotion-charged piece of work that tells its story straight. It is, however, a propaganda picture which belongs in union halls rather than theatres.

October 16, 2007 | Full Review…

This is pretty amazing.

June 24, 2006 | Full Review…
Top Critic

The hard-focus, realistic quality of the picture's photography and style completes its characterization as a calculated social document.

March 25, 2006 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

One of the most daring "social problem" works in American film history, this movie, created by blacklisted artists, also shows the limitations of making a working-class film within the context of American culture.

November 26, 2006 | Rating: B | Full Review…

Kudos are in order for this extraordinary film for all it has to say that rings true about workers' rights, racism, and feminism.

July 25, 2005 | Rating: B | Full Review…

More than a typical Miramax/Tarantino extravaganza, it's films like this that establish the historical precedent and importance of truly independent American filmmaking.

December 2, 2004 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Salt of the Earth

"If I can't dance, I don't want to be in your revolution" - Emma Goldman In "Salt of the Earth," Esperanza(Rosaura Revueltas), who is married to Ramon(Juan Chacon), a mine worker, has grave doubts about the future while she is pregnant with her third child. A lot of that comes from living in a house owned by the company with inadequate sanitation, and not even being able to afford a small luxury like a radio. And that's not to mention him spending a lot of nights out with the guys. It is not only the low pay that Ramon and his fellow workers are angry about(getting paid less than their Anglo counterparts adds insult to injury), it is the danger of the job as the men are forced into the dangerous position of having to work alone. When an accident does happen, gravely injuring a worker, that is the final straw, as a strike is called. With a cast of professional and amateur actors, "Salt of the Earth" is a rousing and detailed call to arms that was far ahead of its time in not only attacking the racism of the mine owners, as Hispanic culture was in danger of being written over, but also telling the story from a Hispanic point of view which is not exactly common even in this more enlightened day and age. What's even more exceptional is recognizing the roles that women have played in strikes(one of the characters in the movie should have been a lawyer), and not only in support positions, either, but on the front lines of the picket. In fact, Mother Jones(1837-1930) was a fearless union organizer in her time.

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

½

It's worth watching simple for the history behind the making of this film. I really dug Rosaura Revueltas, too.

Patrick Dolan
Patrick Dolan

Super Reviewer

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