ETHEL BARRYMORE MONTH
THE FARMER’S DAUGHTER ( 1947 )
For many years, I was eager to see this movie, and since it is relatively rare, it is hard to find, but when my friend sent me the DVD, I was euphoric about finally seeing this. After each viewing of this film, I can easily say that it cements itself as one of my favorite Ethel Barrymore movies.
“The Farmer’s Daughter” is a 1947 drama directed by H.C. Potter. It was written for the screen by Allen Rivkin and Laura Kerr, and produced by Dore Schary. The film is known for it’s distinguished cast which includes Loretta Young, Ethel Barrymore and Joseph Cotton.
Loretta Young obtained the Academy Award for her momentous portrayal of Katrin Holstrom, a young Swedish-American girl who yearns for a career in nursing. When she leaves the family farm to study nursing at college in Capitol City, she is involved in a scam and robbed of her money. With diminutive funds, she is forced to find work or return home, but Katrin refuses help from her family so she secures a job as a maid in the home of the political power broker, Agatha Morley ( Ethel Barrymore ) and her son, U.S. Representative, Glenn Morley ( Joseph Cotten ). From the start, Agatha and her butler Joseph Clancy ( Charles Bickford ) are impressed by Katrin’s perspicacity and amicable aura, that soon Glenn realizes that Katrin possesses other charms that he becomes to relish.
As time progresses, Glenn becomes infatuated by Katrin, and she begins to develop the same feelings for Glenn. Shortly after an unforeseen problem arises when one of the congressmen dies unexpectedly and the Morley’s have to select a new placement for the party. When they choose the casuistic Anders J. Finley, who puts on a false façade, Katrin strongly rejects of their choice as she is the only one that is cognizant of the fact that Finley is corrupt and very elusive. During a public meeting, Katrin stands up and challenges Finley to a set of onerous questions, which humiliates Finley, but piques an interest with the leaders of the opposition party that they want her to run in the coming election. Before she knows it, Katrin is thrust into politics, and is later caught in a scandal when Finley calumniates vicious lies about Katrin. Now that she is swept into the cobweb of defamation, Katrin must decide whether to fight for the truth or return home to the farm.
When “The Farmer’s Daughter” was released, audiences were expecting Rosalind Russell to attain the Oscar for “Morning Becomes Electra”, but when Loretta Young received the award, it was considered one of the biggest robberies in motion picture history, and many Rosalind Russell supporters were upset by the sweepstakes. However, I tend to disagree. I’ve never been a fan of Rosalind Russell, and I think that Loretta Young was more deserving of the Oscar. In this film, Loretta had to put on a proper Swedish accent, which is not easy to perfect, but she executed it really well, giving a sterling performance that was more than Oscar worthy.
Ethel Barrymore also holds a main role in this film, and delivers a commendable performance for her portrayal of Agatha Morley, a Senators widow, who still has formidable power in her state of Minnesota. Like in all her movies, Ethel gives her character that acidic touch, which really makes the film sparkle with wit.
I absolutely love this film. It’s a charming comedy drama that has many unexpected twists. The whole film is enthralling from beginning to end, and shouldn’t be missed.
The screen rights were initially bought by David O. Selznick. He intended to make it a vehicle for Ingrid Bergman. She declined the role, however. He tried to cast either Dorothy McGuire or Sonja Henie, but eventually sold the rights to RKO Radio Pictures.
Initially titling their film “Katie for Congress”, RKO sought the more suggestive title “The Farmer‘s Daughter”: however, they had to “buy” that title from Paramount Studios who owned the movie of the same name from 1940 starring Martha Raye.
Agatha Morley: What do you want the public to believe, Mr. Finley?
Anders Finley: To believe in our type of 100% Americanism. Now, a 100% American is…
Agatha Morley: White?
Anders Finley: Right!
Agatha Morley: No foreign-born?
Anders Finley: Right!
Agatha Morley: The right kind of religion?
Anders Finley: Exactly right, Mrs. Morley.
Anders Finley: Exactly right, Mrs. Morley. I guess I know where you stand.
[Clancy has had enough. He moves menacingly towards Finley]
Joseph Clancy: [to Finley, angrily] Either you’re leaving this house now or I’m going to throw you out!
Agatha Morley: [Mockingly] Joseph! How dare you talk to one of my guests like that!
[Clancy is flabbergasted. Finley smiles. Mrs. Morley is a true convert, that’s obvious]
Joseph Clancy: [to Mrs. Morley] You’re not serious about this?
Agatha Morley: Joseph…
[Reprovingly to Clancy]
Agatha Morley: … I’m afraid we will have to speak about this later.
Joseph Clancy: [Haughtily] Mrs. Morley, I’m not accustomed to speakin’ about things later.
Agatha Morley: [to Finley, smiling, pleasantly] Mr. Finley, I’m afraid I’ll have to let Joseph throw you out.
Katrin Holstrom: [Clearing her throat, then reading] Mr. President: Today I don’t want to make a speech. I want to tell you a story about a doctor named Sorenson, who lived in a small town. He was a good doctor, but the rich people in this town didn’t like him because he told them the truth a little too often about their imaginary sicknesses.
[She looks up at Clancy, who smiles and motions her to go on]
Katrin Holstrom: Things got bad for Dr. Sorenson, and he moved across the tracks to the poor section of town where people needed him, but didn’t have the money to pay.
[Clancy listens carefully. Katrin takes a deep breath and continues]
Katrin Holstrom: He worked for them, anyhow. They would give him a bottle of milk when he cured a sore throat, or a loaf of bread when be set a broken leg. Dr. Sorenson couldn’t afford a regular office. He practiced in the room he lived in, upstairs over a livery stable. The shingle outside was a simple little sign that read: “DR. SORENSON UPSTAIRS.”
[She smiles. The U.L.C. doors open, and Mrs. Morley appears. Motioning Clancy to stay seated, she indicates for Katrin to go on as she listens from the doorway]
Katrin Holstrom: Well, even doctors get sick. And after working years with these poor people, Dr. Sorenson got sick and he died, and all those people who loved him, and whom he loved, buried him. They wanted to put up a big, marble monument, but they just couldn’t afford it. So they took the sign from the stable, and put it over the doctor’s grave. There it stood, and that was his monument.
Katrin Holstrom: “DR. SORENSON-UPSTAIRS.”
[She smiles tenderly]
Katrin Holstrom: Today a President has died. Only a short time ago his dream, the League of Nations, was killed by people who couldn’t stand the truth. But his dream shall not perish from the earth. It will live in the hearts of good, common people. For over the President’s grave the people have placed their everlasting monument which-like the doctor’s-reads simply; “WOODROW WILSON-UPSTAIRS.”
[Mere is silence for a moment, then Mrs. Morley applauds. Clancy, standing up, joins her. Katrin is pleased, but embarrassed. She bows her thanks]
Ethel Barrymore: Born Ethel Mae Blythe on August 15th, 1879 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Died: June 18th, 1959 in Los Angeles, California. Aged 79.
Loretta Young: Born Gretchen Young on January 6th, 1913 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Died: August 12th, 2000 in Los Angeles, California. Aged 87.
Joseph Cotten: Born Joseph Cheshire Cotten, Jr. on May 15th, 1905 in Petersburg, Virginia. Died: February 6th, 1994 in Los Angeles, California. Aged 88.