Southerner, The (1945)

Southerner, The (1945)

“All you farmers is just the same. Gamblers! That’s what you all are, to a man.”

An aspiring farmer (Zachary Scott) and his wife (Betty Field) and two kids attempt to turn a ramshackle property into a viable homestead, despite the protests of their irascible “Granny” (Beulah Bondi), the lure of a friend (Charles Kemper) promising steady money in a factory job, and a bitterly stingy neighbor (J. Carrol Naish) who is reluctant to see the family thrive.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Betty Field Films
  • Beulah Bondi Films
  • Farming
  • Jean Renoir Films
  • Survival
  • Zachary Scott Films

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “simple, poetic film by Jean Renoir” is a “well-intentioned, tender picture in which Renoir once again expresses the need for family and neighbors to stick together through crisis”. He highlights the “lovely visuals”, but points out a few flaws as well — including the fact that “Renoir’s treatment of his characters is a bit too precious at times” and Bondi “overdoes it” as “cantankerous Grandma”.

While Peary states that “the hardships are predictable”, I disagree; the challenges facing any family attempting to make a living off the land are substantive enough to highlight — especially in an era when most of us remain so oblivious to the tremendous work and luck involved in farming. Peary also argues that Renoir “doesn’t include enough shots of work being done” (I disagree):

… and that “Betty Field was probably miscast” (I disagree yet again) — though he does concede “her sparkling eyes alone give the picture a needed dose of kindness.”

While this isn’t must-see viewing for all film fanatics, they will likely be curious to give it a look — and of course fans of Renoir’s oeuvre will want to seek it out.

Note: TCM’s article cites an extensive quote from Renoir’s memoirs, in which he describes his fondness for this film (and also, perhaps, his overly “precious” approach):

“What attracted me to the story was precisely the fact that there was no story, nothing but a series of strong impressions — the vast landscape, the simple aspiration of the hero, the heat and the hunger. Being forced to live a life restricted to their daily material needs, the characters attain a level of spirituality of which they themselves are unaware… What I saw was a story in which all the characters were heroic, in which every element would brilliantly play its part, in which things and men, animals and Nature, all would come together in an immense act of homage to the divinity.”

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • A poignant portrait of survival and grit

Must See?
No, but it’s recommended.


One thought on “Southerner, The (1945)

  1. Agreed; not must-see, though it’s not a bad film… it has some particularly strong sequences, and the atmosphere is captured well. I’m rather in agreement with the well-observed assessment given here (including the points of disagreement with Peary).

    I’ve nothing else, really, to add since that covers about everything.

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