Swamp Water (1941)

Swamp Water (1941)

“I’m trying to find out if there’s anyone in the world that can speak the honest truth.”

Synopsis:
While looking for his dog in the Okefenokee Swamp of Georgia, a hunter (Dana Andrews) living with his father (Walter Huston) encounters a fugitive (Walter Brennan) falsely accused of murder five years prior. Soon the pair begin a thriving trapping partnership, and Andrews provides money to Brennan’s bedraggled daughter (Anne Baxter). Meanwhile, Huston’s partner (Mary Howard) refuses to reveal the name of her stalker (John Carradine); Andrews’ fickle girlfriend (Virginia Gilmore) tires of waiting for her beau to return home from his lengthy trips to the swamp; and Andrews begins to wonder about a pair of locals (Ward Bond and Guinn Williams) acting suspiciously.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Anne Baxter Films
  • Dana Andrews Films
  • Deep South
  • Falsely Accused
  • Fugitives
  • Jean Renoir Films
  • John Carradine Films
  • Walter Brennan Films
  • Walter Huston Films

Review:
French director Jean Renoir’s first American film was this atmospheric flick taking place deep in the heart of swampy Georgia, featuring locals with dialects as thick as pea soup.

The cast of characters are believably limned, and the storyline is reasonably compelling, with plenty of tensions brought to bear in this tale of a falsely accused man (Brennan) whose sole goal in life — beyond survival — is to rejoin society and care for his daughter (Baxter).

There are a couple of unexpected twists, including an early one between Brennan and Andrews that really takes one by surprise (didn’t expect that!), and a much later one (also in the swamps) that’s shockingly gruesome. Despite a few obvious studio sets, the film holds a strong sense of place and the cinematography is fine. Watch for several actors from John Ford’s stock, including a number from the same year’s (inferior) Tobacco Road (1941). Best performance by a relative unknown: Mary Howard as stoic “Miss Hannah”.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Atmospheric cinematography

Must See?
No, though it’s worth a one-time look.

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One thought on “Swamp Water (1941)

  1. First viewing. In overall agreement; not must-see. “Reasonably compelling” is the operative phrase. Aside from what has already been said, what’s noticeable here to a degree is Renoir’s direction – in the sense that he’s responsible for some nicely nuanced / restrained work from actors like Andrews, Brennan, Baxter and Carradine (in particular).

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