Farmer’s Daughter, The (1947)

“When someone asks you for your vote, you must be jealous of that vote. You must ask yourself, who is it I am voting for?”

Synopsis:
The Swedish-American daughter (Loretta Young) of a stalwart farmer (Harry Shannon) heads to the city to attend nursing school, but is swindled out of her savings by a lecherous acquaintance (Rhys Williams), and finds temporary work instead as a maid in the house of a congressman (Joseph Cotten) and his mother (Ethel Barrymore). Soon she becomes unexpectedly caught up in a world of politics, while falling in love with Cotten.

Genres:

Review:
In his Alternate Oscars, Peary lambastes the Academy for providing Loretta Young with an award for her title role performance in this H.C. Potter-directed film, calling her “upset victory” the “most boring choice ever made in the Best Actress category”. He argues that “despite being a lovely and warm presence in the cinema for twenty-six years (1927-53), she made only a half-dozen noteworthy movies, and wasn’t all that impressive in any of them.” Personally, I can understand why the Academy was entranced by Young’s performance here: her character is refreshingly feisty and independent, and — speaking as a Scandinavian-American myself — I believe she manages her Swedish accent quite admirably. With that said, the film itself leaves quite a bit to be desired. The first half is reasonably engaging, as we get to know Young’s Katrin Holmstrom and see how remarkably capable she is in just about every way; it’s easy to see why Cotten falls for her. However, once the film’s corny political elements come into full force, the screenplay becomes an unwelcome variation on Frank Capra’s overly simplistic portrayal of the corrupt Political Machine; I was immediately bored, and lost all interest in Katie’s fate.

Another minor quibble: While Young’s accent is just fine, why in the world weren’t the actors playing her three strapping Swedish brothers (Lex Barker, Keith Andes, and James Arness) given better coaching for their mixed-bag accents?

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Loretta Young as Katrin Holstrom

Must See?
No, though most film fanatics will be curious to check it out simply to see Young’s award-winning performance.

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One Response to “Farmer’s Daughter, The (1947)”

  1. A once-must, for its charming screenplay, direction and performances.

    Recently I’ve been posting here a series of responses about films that have left me indifferent about them in general. So it’s refreshing to post on something that makes me feel positive. I know I saw ‘TFD’ when I was a kid, and maybe only once then, but it was certainly pleasant seeing it again (especially on the heels of various Peary-listed titles that do little for me).

    I think ‘TFD’ accomplishes what the best films of this type aim for: popular entertainment that does not insult its audience. In fact, the script slyly sets us up nicely for its slam-bang final third. We do have to suspend some disbelief, of course – but it’s still nice to have the notion put before us that positive change *can* happen in government.

    Much care has been taken in the drawing of this cast of characters and they read believably well – we lean toward liking most of the people in the film and enjoy spending time with them. Overall, the film’s theme encourages us as people to be genuine/honest/determined souls and to find empowerment in the things that are best and most productive for ourselves and for our fellow men. I believe the film accomplishes this with a surprising absence of the kind of ‘corn’ often found in Capra’s films.

    It’s refreshing to see Cotten in a role as relaxed as the one he has here. I especially like the scene during Young’s election campaign, in which he takes the bull by the horns to let Young remember the power that rests in her belief in herself as a more-than-worthy candidate. Charles Bickford is also pleasingly effective as Young’s immediate superior in Cotten’s household. Even though their accents may be off, I find the three brothers a hoot (esp. in the unexpected ‘rousing’ climax). And what’s ever not to like about Barrymore…in anything?! šŸ˜‰

    And then there’s Loretta. No, this is not Oscar-worthy stuff she’s doing here. But it fills the bill, with nice modulation when that’s called for. (Her closest competition that year was probably Joan Crawford, for her work in ‘Possessed’. Voters may have thought that, since Crawford won two years earlier for ‘Mildred Pierce’, she was given her due. For my money, though, Crawford’s work in ‘MP’ is serviceable compared to her powerhouse turn in ‘Possessed’.)

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