Friday, February 1, 2013

The Great Meadow (1931)

The Great Meadow is based on the novel by Elizabeth Madox Roberts which had recently been published. In it, a group of 1777 Virginians decide to start a new life in Kentucky after hearing an inspirational talk by Daniel Boone. The film follows the settlers as they make their arduous trek and start a new life in trecherous surroundings.

Even taking into account the film's faults (most of which were endemic to nearly all early sound films), The Great Meadow, directed by Charles Brabin, is a different sort of "western" picture. The focus is on the common people and their physical and emotional hardships. Silent star Eleanor Boardman, who would appear in sound films for just a few more years, is sympathetic as the lead, who leaves her family behind to marry and begin a tenuous new life. Johnny Mack Brown's one-note performance isn't as convincing, but is adequate.

The Great Meadow benefits from a nearly non-existent film score. It, like MGM's Billy the Kid, was originally shot in a widescreen process, though it's impossible to tell from the 35mm print shown now; no shots seem cropped or scanned. IMDB states the film was shot in a process called Grandeur, while the in70mm website lists The Great Meadow as having been shot in Realife.

Warning: The Great Meadow has a jaw-droppingly sudden ending which may lead you to believe the cameraman simply ran out of film then and there.

The Great Meadow isn't available on DVD, but has been broadcast on Turner Classic Movies.

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