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God's Country and the Woman

God's Country and the Woman(1937)

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teaser God's Country and the Woman (1937)

Although not often counted among Hollywood's great writers, Norman Reilly Raine wrote or contributed to such classics as The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and Tugboat Annie (1933), which was adapted from his magazine stories. He also shared an Oscar for the screenplay for the celebrated The Life of Emile Zola (1937). Raine's first screenplay credit was for 1937's God's Country and the Woman, from a book by James Oliver Curwood, one of the most successful American novelists of the early 20th century. The story had already served as the basis for two silent film adaptations. Filmed on location near Mt. St. Helens in Washington state, God's Country is a saga of competing lumber companies. The Russett Company owned by Jefferson Russett (Robert Barrat) aims to defeat the Barton Lumber Company by withholding access to a rail line. 'Prodigal' playboy brother Steve Russett (George Brent) returns from Europe to settle into a job with the family firm, but instead finds himself in the Barton camp, in love with its beautiful owner Jo Barton (Beverly Roberts). Jo doesn't realize that the man helping her to withstand Jeff's machinations is her enemy's brother. Personal betrayals and vendettas are framed by labor politics, as Steve tries to avert violence in the deep woods of the Northwest. A very early Technicolor picture from Warner Bros., God's Country has a huge cast of characters enacted by the colorful likes of Alan Hale, Sr., El Brendel, Roscoe Ates, Barton MacLane and Mary Treen. Variety noted the beautiful locations and the deglamorized image given the loggers. But the leading role in a Technicolor epic didn't help the career of leading lady Beverly Roberts, who began as a singer promoted by Al Jolson. She reportedly was given the part when Bette Davis, who had been assigned to it, rebelled and fled to England, there to sue Warner Bros. for forcing her to play whatever roles they chose. Original author James Oliver Curwood found new fame 61 years after his death, when his 1916 novel The Grizzly King was adapted as the 1988 Jean-Jacques Annaud film The Bear.

By Glenn Erickson

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