The Great Meadow


1h 15m 1931
The Great Meadow

Brief Synopsis

Early American frontiersmen brave the mountains to settle Kentucky.

Film Details

Genre
Adventure
Historical
Release Date
Jan 24, 1931
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Distributing Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Great Meadow by Elizabeth Madox Roberts (New York, 1930).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 15m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.13 : 1
Film Length
7,242ft (9 reels)

Synopsis

In 1777, the Hall family of Virginia listens to a speech by Daniel Boone, the idol of Berk Jarvis, who is the eldest Hall daughter Diony's favorite beau. Impressed by Boone's descriptions of Kentucky's bounties, Berk, his brother Jack and their mother Elvira start a wagon train to be led by Berk. Berk asks Diony to marry him, and after the ceremony they set off. The journey to Kentucky is longer and more difficult than they had imagined, and Jack is killed during an Indian attack, but after six months the ragged little band reaches Ft. Harrod. The happy couple settle in, and are soon expecting a baby. One day, Diony and Elvira go outside the fort's walls to pick corn and are attacked by Black Fox, a Shawnee. Elvira bravely defends Diony and is killed and scalped. Black Fox is scared off before he can kill Diony, and everyone mourns the Jarvis' loss. Before long, however, Berk must leave to replenish the fort's supply of salt. Berk is gone for four months, during which time Diony gives birth to their son Tommy. On the night of Berk's return, the settlers have a celebration, which is interrupted by an attack by Black Fox and his warriors. Black Fox taunts Berk with Elvira's scalp, and the incident preys on Berk's mind until he tells Diony he must hunt down Black Fox and avenge Elvira. Diony tries to dissuade him, but acquiesces once she sees how determined he is. Berk leaves, and Diony and Tommy are taken care of by Evan Muir, one of Diony's former beaus from Virginia. Berk is captured by Indians, sold to the British and imprisoned for a year, but after he is freed, he continues his quest. He finds Black Fox and kills him, but is captured by the Shawnee. Evan receives news that Berk has been killed, and as time passes Diony's sorrow lessens and she marries Evan. Two years after Berk's departure, he escapes from the Shawnee, and returns to the fort. He finds Evan and Diony, who gently tells him that she married Evan, for she could not remain in the wilderness alone. The two men are on the verge of fighting when Diony reminds them of the wilderness law which says that if a man leaves his wife, and she thinks he is dead and remarries, it is for her to choose between the two men if her first husband returns. They agree to abide by her decision, and Diony tells them that although Berk is the great love of her life, she cannot forget Evan's great kindness and devotion, and so she chooses Evan. Berk prepares to depart, but when Evan sees how Berk's attention to sleeping Tommy brings tears to Diony's eyes, he realizes that she and Berk belong together. Evan tells Diony how much he will treasure their time together and leaves the reunited couple to begin their life together again.

Film Details

Genre
Adventure
Historical
Release Date
Jan 24, 1931
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Distributing Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Great Meadow by Elizabeth Madox Roberts (New York, 1930).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 15m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.13 : 1
Film Length
7,242ft (9 reels)

Articles

The Great Meadow


Success on the gridiron at the 1926 Rose Bowl got Crimson Tide halfback John Mack Brown's face plastered on boxes of Wheaties cereal, prompting Hollywood to tap the strapping Alabaman for the movies. Brown was paired frequently with rising Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer star Joan Crawford and costarred with Mary Pickford in her first sound film but the advent of talking pictures proved problematic due to Brown's Southern twang. Metro attempted to work around the limitation by casting Brown as Billy the Kid (1930) and reuniting him with Crawford for the western romance Montana Moon (1930) but the studio would ultimately choose not to renew his contract. One of Brown's final films for MGM was The Great Meadow (1931), based on Elizabeth Madox Roberts' 1930 novel of frontier life, which made good use of his cornpone pedigree by casting him as a Virginian making a go of the Kentucky wilderness. A surprisingly brutal film for its time (after killing Brown's onscreen mother, Lucille La Verne, Shawnee brave Black Fox waves her scalp in his face), The Great Meadow was filmed in an early widescreen process known as Realife. Brown completed two more pictures for MGM but his scenes in Laughing Sinners (1931) were scrapped and he was replaced by Clark Gable. Work in low budget westerns awaited him, at which point the actor was rechristened Johnny Mack Brown and a cowboy star was born.

By Richard Harland Smith
The Great Meadow

The Great Meadow

Success on the gridiron at the 1926 Rose Bowl got Crimson Tide halfback John Mack Brown's face plastered on boxes of Wheaties cereal, prompting Hollywood to tap the strapping Alabaman for the movies. Brown was paired frequently with rising Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer star Joan Crawford and costarred with Mary Pickford in her first sound film but the advent of talking pictures proved problematic due to Brown's Southern twang. Metro attempted to work around the limitation by casting Brown as Billy the Kid (1930) and reuniting him with Crawford for the western romance Montana Moon (1930) but the studio would ultimately choose not to renew his contract. One of Brown's final films for MGM was The Great Meadow (1931), based on Elizabeth Madox Roberts' 1930 novel of frontier life, which made good use of his cornpone pedigree by casting him as a Virginian making a go of the Kentucky wilderness. A surprisingly brutal film for its time (after killing Brown's onscreen mother, Lucille La Verne, Shawnee brave Black Fox waves her scalp in his face), The Great Meadow was filmed in an early widescreen process known as Realife. Brown completed two more pictures for MGM but his scenes in Laughing Sinners (1931) were scrapped and he was replaced by Clark Gable. Work in low budget westerns awaited him, at which point the actor was rechristened Johnny Mack Brown and a cowboy star was born. By Richard Harland Smith

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

After the film's credits, a written statement reads: "America has enshrined in her soul those unlettered men and women whose courage and strength established her frontiers in 1777. They had but a glimpse of the mighty cause they served. Those devoted wives and sweethearts, who endured martyrdom for love's sake, lie quiet and unsung in the great meadow. Women of the Wilderness, we salute you!" According to the film's pressbook, Chief Whitespear, a Cherokee Indian, "was placed in charge" of the Indian actors, and led them in the film. According to New York Times and the film's pressbook, scenes of the Indian attacks were filmed at "the 'Lake Sherwood' region or the old Canterbury Ranch," which was an 8,000 acre area located about fifty miles from Hollywood; and Fort Harrod was recreated on the 23,000 acre Russell Ranch, also located about fifty miles from Los Angeles. A New York Times news item notes that director Charles Brabin and writer Edith Ellis consulted various southern Chambers of Commerce and historical organizations about the history of Fort Harrod, and also obtained authentic artifacts from them to use as props.