The Yearling (1946 film)
The Yearling is a 1946 family film drama directed by Clarence Brown, produced by Sidney Franklin, and released in Technicolor by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The screenplay by Paul Osborn and John Lee Mahin (uncredited) was adapted from Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings's novel of the same name. The film stars Gregory Peck, Jane Wyman, Claude Jarman Jr., Chill Wills, and Forrest Tucker.
Theatrical release poster designed by Douglass Crockwell (November 1946)
|Directed by||Clarence Brown|
|Produced by||Sidney Franklin|
|Screenplay by||Paul Osborn|
|Based on||The Yearling|
by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
Claude Jarman Jr.
|Music by||Herbert Stothart arrangement of Frederick Delius's music|
|Edited by||Harold F. Kress|
|Distributed by||Loew's, Inc.|
Ezra "Penny" Baxter, once a Confederate soldier, and his wife Ora, are pioneer farmers near Lake George, Florida in 1878. Their son, Jody, a boy in his pre-teen years, is their only surviving child. Jody has a wonderful relationship with his warm and loving father. Ora, however, is still haunted by the deaths of the three other children of the family. She is very somber and is afraid that Jody will end up dying if she shows her parental love to him. Jody finds her somewhat unloving and unreasonable.
With all of his siblings dead and buried, Jody longs for a pet to play with and care for. Penny is sympathetic and understanding, but Ora is disgusted. One day, when a rattlesnake bites Penny, they kill a doe and use its organs to draw out the venom. Jody asks to adopt the doe's orphaned fawn. Penny permits it but warns Jody that the fawn will have to be set free when it grows up.
When Jody goes to ask his only friend, Fodderwing, to name the fawn, Jody finds out that Fodderwing has just died. However, Buck Forrester tells Jody that Fodderwing had said that if he had a fawn he would name him Flag because of its white tail.
Soon, Jody and Flag are inseparable. One year later, Flag has grown up and becomes a total nuisance to the household and farm; he eats newly-grown corn, destroys fences, and tramples on tobacco crops. After Penny is injured while trying to clear another field to make up for lost crops, Penny informs Jody that he and his mother have agreed that for Jody to keep Flag he must replant corn and build the fence around the field higher. Jody works hard and even receives help from Ora with the fence. During the night, Flag manages to jump the high fence and destroys the new corn crop. Penny orders Jody to take the deer out into the woods and shoot it. Jody takes the deer out but does not have the heart to kill it. Instead, he orders the deer to go away and never return. But Flag comes back to their property and devours crops again. Ora (whom Jody believes had always hated his pet) shoots Flag with a double-barreled shotgun, discharging one of the barrels but only wounding the deer. Penny orders Jody to put the deer out of its "torment". Rather than let his pet deer suffer an agonizing death, he follows his father's orders and kills Flag with the remaining shell.
The loss of Jody's beloved pet deer proves too much for him to handle: overwhelmed with anger and despair, he runs away from home. Three days later, he is rescued, unconscious adrift on the river in a canoe, by a friendly boat captain and returns home. He and Penny quickly reconcile, but Ora is still out searching for him. Just before Jody goes to bed, Ora returns and sees that he is back. She becomes filled with happiness and emotion, knowing that her huge fear of losing her last child is now over. She happily runs into Jody's room and showers him with more affection than she ever gave him. She is no longer afraid to show her parental love to him.
- Gregory Peck as Ezra "Penny" Baxter
- Jane Wyman as Ora Baxter
- Claude Jarman Jr. as Jody
- Chill Wills as Buck Forrester
- Clem Bevans as Pa Forrester
- Margaret Wycherly as Ma Forrester
- Henry Travers as Mr. Boyles
- Forrest Tucker as Lem Forrester
- Donn Gift as Fodderwing Forrester
- Jeff York as Oliver Hutto (uncredited)
- June Lockhart as Twink, Oliver's bride (uncredited)
- Dan White as Millwheel Forrester (uncredited)
The movie was filmed on location in the Juniper Prairie Wilderness in the Ocala National Forest in Florida. A hiking trail in the area, "The Yearling Trail", is named after the story, and gives access to sites where the family lived whose stories inspired the novel.
MGM originally began production on The Yearling in 1941, with Spencer Tracy set to star as the patriarch, and with Victor Fleming chosen to direct. The studio also hired Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, the author of the novel The Yearling, as a consultant and location scout. Rawlings marked a forest service map with locations for filming, specifically referencing the clearing she named "Baxter's Island." MGM moved to the filming location, renovated the cabin, and built surrounding buildings to create a town for a set. Once the actors arrived on location, a combination of the bugs, heat, and lack of enthusiasm for the plot made the actors leave. This led to the film being shelved after only three weeks of location shooting in Florida. (According to biographer Millicent Bell, famed novelist John P. Marquand was visiting MGM in 1941 and asked to sit in on a "Yearling" production meeting. He was amused to find that he was the only person in the meeting who had read the book.)
Production was resumed in 1945, after Clarence Brown was hired as the new director. Brown cast Gregory Peck to play Pa, Jane Wyman to play Ma, and after a long search, casted Claude Jarman Jr. to play Jody. Due to Brown's drive for perfection, the average take number for scenes was between 20-21. He also got real hunting dogs to film the bear fight scene after deciding the original city dogs were not good enough. Peck received the second of his five Oscar nominations in this, his fifth film.
The film earned $4,768,000, in the US and Canada and $2,831,000 elsewhere, making it MGM's most successful movie of the year. However, because of its high production cost, profits were only $451,000.
- Best Art Direction (Color): Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Paul Groesse; Interior Decoration: Edwin B. Willis
- Best Cinematography (Color): Charles Rosher, Leonard Smith, Arthur Arling
It was also received nominations for:
The Yearling (1994 film) was a made-for-television remake of this film, broadcast on CBS in the United States.
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