The Southerner - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Southerner Reviews

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November 14, 2016
There was a lot of sincerity in this film about the life of the southern farmer, it's a gem.
½ May 15, 2016
Sam Tucker (almost sounds like a name a country-based folk song from the 30's or 40's would be about, not far removed from Dan Tucker) has worked the land for other people, but his uncle as he's dying tells him to work for himself. He takes his word more than just to heart, he goes for it and takes his family (wife, two kids, and the uppity grandma) to live in what is basically a shack on a farm where the land is not too expensive. Actually it's inexpensive for a reason: the well doesn't work so Sam has to go next door to the neighbor who doesn't really take kindly to a new family next door (Norman Lloyd is his, uh, son or nephew or something), and he tries to get into farming for cotton.

He doesn't have much money or things like tractors, but he's got two hands, a good body and two mules, right? He can make it work... maybe. And this is the scenario that drives one of the few English language films that Jean Renoir made over the years. He comes to this part of America - and, though uncredited, William Faulkner contributes to the script for some of that good ol' fried-Southern talk for authenticity, which is felt - and sees things in a way that is probably truer to the American spirit than some might think some French guy would make.

This is all about cutting out your own path and that "pulling yourself by your own bootstraps" mentality which has become a cliche (somewhat on the Right actually, or Libertarian at least) and not going for the path of least resistance, that thing called a "job" for someone else. While one might want to criticize Sam for doing such a hasty action, the drama from the film, which comes in both the personal (his son gets sick from, you know, not having a friggin' cow around at first, and from a lack of vegetables), and the more natural (a big storm and a flood will basically do one in if the cotton's just there and not farmed yet), feels like its own kind of organic criticism.

And yet Renoir never judges, and the characters who try to question Sam's motives sound reasonable enough like from his brawny, rowdy friend (who at one point gets into a bizarre, over the top but rather uproarious bottle-throwing fight with a bar owner in the local town, a memorable set piece by far). It's pure in its simple view of this man and how he wants to make a good life for his family, even if he is "gambling" so to speak with the land. There's this feeling to much of Renoir's filmmaking that emphasizes what good can come from this Earth that is farmed and the hard work that goes in to it; there's a few brief dips into religion - at one point Sam stops in his tracks and looks up and talks out loud praying to God, which is a fairly static shot but well acted enough - but mostly it's about having some kind of spiritual, even existential piece of mind: Sam knows the hassles and he knows the drawbacks, and if has to fight for it (and he does) he will.

There are caricatures, to be sure, like the old grandmother who spends most of the time complaining (in a move that might make John Ford cringe, she stays out by the vehicle as a storm comes in when the family first comes to the new house, and finally comes in reluctantly for her coffee), or a few of the townspeople or Lloyd's character (even the neighbor's daughter, with some off-and-on come-ons to Sam, is something of a type), but it never stops the film much dead in its tracks. There's a flow to this movie that, like several of Renoir's other films, has something closer to poetry than a hard-lined, traditional narrative arc that has to his A-B-and-C. There's ups and some major downs, and moments where Sam really does doubt himself, and by the conclusion there's this really wonderful moment where Sam goes from giving up to coming back around when he sees what he's accomplished.

In short, The Southerner has its flaws in some of the acting, but the execution of this story and how deeply felt it stays to what its trying to show about a rural section of American (or really world) life is admirable and exquisite in its way. Its art is plentiful even as it seems slight and conventional at times, which is a minor miracle especially for someone who's coming to this place anew.
½ February 18, 2015
Now I know where they got the character they modelled Granny of the Beverley Hillbillies from. This film shows what it was like to be a farmer in the days before social assistance and the indomitable spirit of those who persevered.
½ December 13, 2014
it has "grapes of wrath" in it
½ October 27, 2014
another tale of farmers
Super Reviewer
March 31, 2014
Jean Renoir's American tale is a fabulous exposition of life in the Depression for a man who does what he needs to do to survive. It remains a little known film unfortunately. It's strong performances ought to receive more acclaim.
December 21, 2012
Strong depression era film in which a family strives to make a living off their farm plantation in the southern United States. Sam Tucker (Zachary Scott) is husband who initiates the farming practise with the assistance of his wife, Nona (Betty Field), along with their two young kids. Unfortunately, two factors are against their building of the farm. One, the weather, for which they have struggle against of opposing elements of both flooding and drought. Two, they have to deal with the presence of the wife's bitter, generally immobile and stubborn mother (Beulah Bondi). The cinematography, as usual for director Jean Renoir's film, is the strongest asset, with setting superbly photographed by the camera, allowing us to feel that the time and setting is the 1930's. However, I wish that the movie progressed a bit faster and smoother than it did.
November 14, 2011
A strong, naturalistic portrait of a group of people not often given their due in the golden age of Hollywood, The Southerner follows a poor farming family through a year of trials, perseverance, and undying hope. Renoir presents the main characters without irony and with a focus on the land which both sustains them as well as frustrates their efforts. The story itself is simple and episodic, but Renoir is seeking to capture a time, place, and people, which he does quite well.
½ September 8, 2010
THE SOUTHERNER (1945)
Super Reviewer
½ July 6, 2010
Not sure if it was the terrible audio, but I liked this so much more after re-watching. The critical controversy about this when it came out was the question of naturalism, in the geography and in the performances. James Agee thought Zachary Taylor, from Austin, Texas, and Bondi were the authentic ones, and Betty Field was awful. Today, people seem to think Taylor is too doe-eyed and Bondi should have been on Hee-Haw. These performances contain their own contradictions. Parts of what Taylor and Bondi did are understated and perfect and contrast with moments which play more like theatrical tableaus. Norman Lloyd, in his role as a slavish hick peon, plays it like Harpo Marx in sackcloth and no props -- with just a little makeup he could be part of the family in Hills Have Eyes. Betty Field may clearly be un-Texan, but she is consistently charming while never playing to the camera, with an unglamorous, non-naive appeal. The style of the film itself compares to Bondi and Taylor. There are many moments, and many close-ups, that seem throwbacks to the upfront emotionalism of silent films. There are quick shots of the earth and the river that would fit within a modern documentary and not as antique inserts. At one point, Taylor leaves his wife crying in the dirt to go speak directly to God, Job-like. There are three angles of Taylor moving across the hot soil, quick shots, and suddenly he's delivering a languid soliloquy in a medium shot, his big eyes pointing up like in early Christian painting, with a blank backdrop for a bland sky behind him -- "Why'd you make it all so purty ..." Maybe the movie becomes beautiful since the audience has to draw out all the naturalism, physical and internal, that's there.
February 18, 2010
Thursday, February 18,2010

(1945) The Southerner B/W

Another film about about what it's like growing up during the 'Great Depression'. Story from an actual novel of the same name directed well by Jean Renoir. The film has a superficial ending which some could not accept, but again it's not based on real life and is very well made!!

4/4
Super Reviewer
January 17, 2010
A man and his family -- including a gripey old grandmother entertainingly played by Beulah Bondi -- buy land and try to make it on their own as cottton farmers in Texas. It's very similar to the Good Earth, in that the family endures hardships -- financial, family, health -- along the way to fulfilling their dreams, but The Southerner isn't quite as dark in tone. A little sappy at times, but still a decent film.
Super Reviewer
½ January 3, 2010
Good film from Jean Renoir about how much it sucks to be a farmer. The film is about a farmer and his family trying to grow cotton in Texas and all of their hardships. It's not as good as Renoir's french work, but is very compelling. Zachary Scott gives a very strong performance as the farmer who must work himself into the ground to make his farm work. The film is a little predictable and the print I saw wasn't the greatest, but still worth a watch with good acting.
April 16, 2009
i like : Jean Renoir anyway
The Southerner (1945) is a film directed by Jean Renoir, based on the novel Hold Autumn in Your Hand by George Sessions Perry. The film received Oscar nominations for Best Director, Original Music Score and Sound. Renoir was named Best Director by the National Board of Review, which also named the film the third best of 1945.

It stars Zachary Scott, Betty Field, J. Carrol Naish, Beulah Bondi, Percy Kilbride, Charles Kemper, Blanche Yurka, and Norman Lloyd.

Future director Robert Aldrich was an assistant director on this film.
December 8, 2008
12/08/08 Downloaded and watched it

Previously watched it on AMC or TMC, and fell in love with the story and couldn't wait to find a copy
Super Reviewer
July 11, 2008
nominated for best picture by NBR
June 6, 2008
Not surprised to see Faulkner as uncredited writer on this... Mixes brutality with lyricism in a way suggestive of Yoknapatawpha.
June 1, 2008
David Thomson's dictionary of film asserts that this is one of Renoir's masterpieces; I'm not so sure. Visual poetry to spare, to be sure, but it lacks the engagement with character that defines Renoir's French films.
July 13, 2007
I think I saw this...been awhile..
½ December 10, 2006
Extremely boring. Do not bother watching, absolute waste of time.
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