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Our Daily Bread

Our Daily Bread(1934)


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Overwhelmed by bill collectors, Mary Sims and her unemployed husband John eagerly accept the proposal of Mary's uncle Anthony to move from the city and farm a tract of fallow land on which Anthony has been paying mortgage. Soon after the young New Yorkers arrive at the ramshackled farm, however, they realize that, their enthusiasm not withstanding, they are ill-equipped to restore the barren land. Consequently, when Chris Larsen, a dispossessed, Swedish farmer from Minnesota, is stopped alongside the Sims's field with a flat tire, John suggests that, in exchange for his farming expertise, he and his family live on his land and share in the farm's output. After Chris accepts the offer, John is seized with an idea that other unemployed but skilled men could benefit the farm effort and, the next day, puts signs along the highway advertising work for ten men with trades. To his surprise, the signs bring in dozens of men and their families, all of whom beg John for a chance to work hard. Although only some of the men have labor skills, John accepts every one into the group, and after all the families agree to pool their meager resources, the group, which includes a Jewish and an Italian family, elects John "boss" of the operation. Working together as a collective, the men till the land and plant corn seeds, while the women make homes out of hand-built shacks. Eventually, corn seedlings sprout, and a baby boy is born to the Jewish family. However, the joy of the collective is soon tempered by the realization that, because no mortgage payments have been made on the land, the farm is to be auctioned by the county sheriff. At the auction, the potential buyers are intimidated into silence by the group, and the sheriff is forced to sell the farm for $1.85 to a member of the collective. Soon after, Sally, a tough-talking platinum blonde, drives up to the farm during a rainstorm and, when she learns that her drunken male companion has just died, accepts Mary's offer to stay. As Mary grapples with the growing food shortage, Sally begins to flirt with John and ignores the warnings of the taciturn but loyal Louie Fuente to leave John alone. When the food shortage nears the crisis point, Louie goes to Chris and, after showing him a poster that identifies him as a fugitive, offers to turn himself in for the $500 reward. Although Chris refuses to help Louie, Sally agrees to pose as Mary in town and collect the reward money. After Sally returns to the farm with the money, John arranges for the group lawyer to plead Louie's case in court. Assured that Louie will serve a minimum sentence, the group spends the reward money, and the hunger crisis passes. Soon, however, the corn is plagued by drought, and total crop failure appears imminent. As the dry days drag on, the community falls into despair, and John is filled with self-doubt. When Mary hears John talk scathingly about the farm, she suspects Sally is behind his unhappiness and confronts her rival directly. Sally confesses to loving John and threatens to leave the farm with him in tow. Unable to resist Sally's seductive pull, John sneaks away with her the next night, but is soon stopped on the road by a vision of Louie. With Louie's disapproving face still lingering in his mind, John notices that the local power plant has resumed operation and has filled a nearby stream with water run-off. Inspired with an idea, John dumps Sally and rushes back to the farm. After gathering the disillusioned group together, John proposes that, if they work day and night, they can build a trench from the stream and divert enough water to save the corn. Although skeptical at first, the group pledges to make the effort, and after two backbreaking days, the trench is built and the crops are salvaged. As water rushes into the parched corn field, a reunited John and Mary embrace.