God's Little Acre (film)
God's Little Acre is a 1958 American comedy-drama film of Erskine Caldwell's 1933 novel of the same name. It was directed by Anthony Mann and shot in black and white by cinematographer Ernest Haller. Although the film was not released until August 1958, its production schedule is indicated as September 11 to late October 1957.
|God's Little Acre|
|Directed by||Anthony Mann|
|Screenplay by||Philip Yordan (front for Maddow)|
Ben Maddow (uncredited)
|Based on||the novel by Erskine Caldwell|
|Produced by||Sidney Harmon|
|Cinematography||Ernest Haller A.S.C.|
|Edited by||Richard C. Meyer|
|Music by||Elmer Bernstein|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Box office||$3.5 million (US and Canada rentals)|
The film was as controversial as the novel, although unlike its source material it was not subjected to prosecution for obscenity. Although both the book and film were laced throughout with racy innuendo calling into question the issue of marital fidelity, the film adaptation may have been the more alarming because it portrayed a popular uprising, or workers' insurrection, in the Southern United States by laid-off millworkers trying to gain control of the factory equipment on which their jobs depended. When the film was first released, audiences under 18 years of age were prohibited from viewing what were perceived to be numerous sexy scenes throughout, although in recent decades the film's scandalous reputation has diminished.
Philip Yordan was officially given credit for the screenplay, but Ben Maddow claimed he wrote it. Since Maddow was blacklisted for his radical, and suspected but unproven Communist, activities during the 1950s Red Scare, working without credit was the only way he could successfully submit screenplays. After decades' neglect, the film was restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive under the supervision of master restorer Robert Gitt. As part of Gitt's restoration, Yordan's name was removed and replaced by Maddow's in the main title roll, although it doesn't appear on most current releases.
While Ty Ty searches constantly for gold on his farm, his son-in-law Will (Aldo Ray) cheats on his wife Rosamund (Helen Westcott) with Buck's wife, Griselda (Tina Louise). Ty Ty has been digging for gold on his land for 15 years, searching for the treasure his grandfather left him. Consequently, the farm has suffered from many years' neglect.
Pluto Swint (Buddy Hackett) arrives to announce he's running for sheriff. Swint is invited to come around back where Darlin' Jill (Fay Spain) is taking a bath in an outdoor bathtub positioned near a handpump and spigot. She asks him to pump some more water (the camera view never dips lower than the top of the tub). Asked to keep his eyes closed, he sneaks a peek.
In the belief that having an albino with him in his quest for treasure will bring him great fortune, Ty Ty transports and wrongfully imprisons Dave Dawson (Michael Landon), a man with white hair and pink eyes, demanding that he help him locate the buried treasure. Dawson, using a divining rod, claims the gold lies on the neighboring church's land (referred to as "God's Little Acre"). Ty Ty pulls the marker out of the ground, explaining that God told him to move it, thereby absolving him from giving any gold found in this new spot to the church.
In the middle of the night Will leaves his house, followed by Griselda. He breaks open the mill's gates and enters the property. At first, she distracts him from his purpose, and they kiss. He then escorts her back to the gates and asks the growing crowd to restrain her. He re-enters and turns on the power, and the machines reactivate to the cheers of the crowd.
Hearing the rioters' assembly and the mill's power turned on, the caretaker comes from an inside office and shoots Will for trespassing. The crowd carries his body back to his house. Griselda enters to tell Rosamund the bad news, but Rosamund cries out that she already knows what has happened.
Implicitly, at this point, the tide in the county elections turns irreversibly. The populist Pluto Swint is elected sheriff, replacing the incumbent. The Walden family squabbles after Will's funeral, particularly over Griselda's actions at the mill and the numerous affections which she attracts from the other sons. The family decides to give up searching for the gold.
Ultimately, the family contentedly plows for the first time in years, with Ty Ty finding the blade of an old shovel in the ground and speculates about whether the gold might lie in that spot. As he begins digging again, the final resting place of the marker for God's Little Acre is revealed to be none other than the pond.
- Cohn, Lawrence (October 15, 1990). "All-Time Film Rental Champs". Variety. p. M160.
- "God's Little Acre film review". Variety. May 14, 1958. p. 6.
- "God's Little Acre film review". Harrison's Reports. May 17, 1958. p. 78.
- "God's Little Acre film review". Filmfacts. 1958. p. 123.
- God's Little Acre. American Film Institute Catalog of Feature Films.
- Tibbetts, John C., and James M. Welsh, eds. The Encyclopedia of Novels Into Film (2nd ed. 2005) pp 156–157.
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