Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Film of the Week: The Corn is Green, 1945

Based on the semi-autobiographical 1940 play by Emlyn William’s, The Corn is Green starred Bette Davis as Lily Moffatt, a middle-aged woman who struggles to educate the children of a Welsh mining village and, in doing so, faces many obstacles from the townspeople who need the young men to work in the mines.

In 1945, Bette Davis was only thirty-six years old, however, she jumped at the chance to portray the fifty-something Miss Moffatt. Never afraid to look unglamorous, Davis donned a gray wig and a specially made suit of padding which appeared to add thirty pounds to her petite frame. Davis’ performance is quiet and deep. She imbues Miss Moffatt with a combination of steely resolve and maternal feelings. She was surrounded by an exceptional supporting cast which included the always-enjoyable Nigel Bruce, John Dall, Rhys Williams and Joan Lorring. Made for Warner Brother’s, the film was directed by Irving Rapper with whom Davis had a good relationship. Rapper had a great knack for catching Davis at just the right angles to reveal the subtlety of her performances.

Davis and Dall as "Miss Moffatt" and "Morgan"
Warner Brothers Pictures
Warner Brothers was a little nervous about the film. While they knew that it featured outstanding performances from Davis, John Dall (the young man, Morgan, whose remarkable intellect encourages Miss Moffatt to continue her fight) and Joan Lorring (the scheming tart who tries to sabotage Morgan’s successful future), they felt that it might not do well at the box office. The studio manipulated the picture’s trailers to portray a glamorous love story. Shots of Bette Davis looking stunning from Now, Voyager were interjected into the trailer and dialogue was edited so that it appeared that the relationship between Moffatt and Morgan was a romance as opposed to a teacher and student. This little bit of Hollywood trickery wasn’t needed. The film received decent reviews and garnered Academy Award nominations for John Dall and Joan Lorring in the “supporting” categories.

While not glamorous nor full of gripping action, this is a story of perseverance, second chances and sacrifice. Davis often said that she enjoyed playing Miss Moffatt. In fact, she reprised the role in a very short-running musical version of the story fittingly called, “Miss Moffatt.” For good solid drama and lots of nifty Welsh accents, this is the right film.

Enjoy this incredibly misleading trailer which tries to make it seem more romantic than it is. Ahhhh...Warner Brothers.

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