One comment on “The Good Earth

  1. I love this film. It tells so much about what their culture was like, and even makes sure to let us know it too. Wang’s preparations for his wedding are sweet and we are treated to his innermost thoughts about the whole process. His father contributes a great deal to our understanding of their existence, and why those things we see done are so critical to their life. The little things, like adding some tea leaves to Old Father’s morning hot water and his criticism of it – “Eating tea is like eating silver!” And his reaction to Wang’s request that he invite “a few friends for a small feast” that night to celebrate his marriage – “No no no no! Prepare for a feast make way for a famine!” He does though, and though it’s mostly family, uncle and cousins, there are a few friends, including his childhood friend, Ching.
    O-Lan’s delight at the gift of three peaches from her new husband (“They’re yours to eat for yourself”) is palpable, even though she tries to keep it to herself. When he turns in their walk back home to look to see if she’s still behind him at a proper distance, her expression of enjoyment disappears along with the peach in her hand. It’s a sweet moment, and gives us a glimpse into what’s to come.
    Apparently the cooking talents that his new wife brought with her from her years working in the kitchen of The Great House have managed to impress the guests considerably, even though she, as a proper Chinese wife, is only shown doing the dishes in the kitchen, listening happily to their banter, while they enjoy the fruits of her labor.
    Recently, in October, Robert Osborne on TCM treated us to an explanation of some of the production processes involved in creating such a realistic production, when he included this as one of his favorite B&W movies, the theme for the evening. Apparently the producer, Irving Thalberg, sent a team of production specialists and researchers to China to search for and bring back 18 TONS of farm equipment, furniture and other items to be used to create the Chinese cities and the farms we see. Then they built the walled city in nearby Chatsworth, California farmland, complete with a man-made river and fields filled with real Chinese vegetables, and created the city we see on the screen. He said 95% of the dollars spent are what we see in the movie. It’s amazing to see what has been created through a considerable amount of labor and expenditure of time and money. Can you imagine sending on a steamship all the things we see in this movie back to the States from China? Not sure where they got the animals, but I doubt they included those in the shipment!
    This is another favorite of mine, and I really enjoy watching the evolution of Wang Lung, through his life from poor farmer to patriarch, and O-Lan’s growth and ability to make those terribly difficult decisions you mentioned before. Her background and life as a child sold into slavery surely made those decisions not so much easier to make, but more personal.
    I enjoyed reading the Reader’s Digest condensed version of the story by Pearl Buck, as a young teen very much, and when I found out there was a movie made too, I was delighted to be able to compare notes with the book. It is very much like the book, although there are some very detailed aspects of the characters that have been changed, it doesn’t make my enjoyment of the movie any less.

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