Cast & Crew
After elderly hermit Old John chastises a group of loggers for destroying his home, the Wood River forest, he warns them that, according to a frog who converses with his raven Blackie, an off-season storm is brewing. The loggers, led by Gilson, dismiss Old John, but are dumbstruck when a redwood they have just cut changes direction in mid-fall and hits Gilson, apparently at Old John's behest. The injured Gilson is carried to Ed Henderson's lumber camp to recover, and there Old John repeats his storm warnings to Ed and local resident, psychologist Dr. Steven Blaine. Although Ed refuses to believe the frog's prediction, Steven insists that he take his rain slicker with him when he goes to meet his daughter Anne, who is arriving from the city. Ed accompanies Anne, a recent widow, and his infant grandson Bobby on the train to the camp, and along the way, it starts to pour. The storm washes out a bridge and causes the train to crash. The infant, on whom Anne has placed Ed's slicker, secured with a brooch, is washed into the river and floats downstream on top of some debris. Later, Old John and his dog Bruno pull the crying baby from the river. Unaware that Ed's men are searching the area, Old John assumes the baby has been abandoned and takes him to his home in a hollowed-out tree trunk. After the lumberjacks discover Ed's empty slicker, the infant is declared dead, and the grief-stricken Ed closes down the camp. Three years later, Old John, the boy, who is now called Jackie, and their many animal friends, are enjoying their tranquil life in the forest when Ed's men return. Steven learns from Gilson that Ed is about to sell his land to a timber company and goes to see him in San Francisco to try to talk him into building a sanitarium instead. There, Steven finds that Anne still has not accepted her loss and is in a constant nervous state. Sure that facing her fears will cure her, Steven convinces Ed to bring Anne back to Wood River. There, Steven walks with Anne and confesses to her that, years before, he suffered a nervous breakdown, but was restored by the beauty and peace of the woods. Nearby, Old John and Jackie hear a gunshot and discover that Gilson has shot and killed a helpless animal. Confused and angry, little Jackie vows revenge, but Old John counsels him against violence. Anne and Steven, meanwhile, finally reach the spot on which he wants to build his sanitarium, and Anne reveals that she has been plagued by a recurring dream in which she searches the forest endlessly for her son. Just then, Anne sees a smiling Jackie watching her from a waterfall. Jackie disappears before Anne can show him to Steven, and the psychologist assumes that she has imagined the boy. Jackie tells Old John that he wants to see the "good lady" again, and sometime later, the boy finds her sleeping under a tree. Anne awakens to see Jackie scurrying off and reports her sighting to Steven, who once again dismisses it as delusional. Ed, however, offers his men a reward to find the boy, and after being alerted to their presence by the birds, Old John hides Jackie and Bruno in a cave. Old John then discovers Gilson in his tree home, trying to steal Anne's brooch, and fights with him. Gilson knocks Old John out, but loses the brooch to Blackie, who carries it to his nest. After Gilson orders the other men to dump the unconscious hermit in a boxcar, he returns to hunt for Anne's brooch and comes upon the cave. Bruno attacks Gilson, who shoots and wounds the dog before fleeing. Old John, meanwhile, is left in another part of the woods by the guilt-ridden loggers and staggers back to Jackie and Bruno. Declaring the woods no longer habitable, Old John bandages Bruno's wounds and prepares to move his family to the mountains. Steven and Anne, who is sure that Old John knows something about the boy, head for his home, but hear from Gilson that he has left the area. Just as Anne admits that the boy is probably a figment of her imagination, Blackie drops the brooch in front of her. At the same time, Old John hears the voices of the forest advising him to turn back. Gilson comes across Old John and Jackie before Anne does and, anxious to claim Ed's reward, tries to grab Jackie. The boy escapes, however, and runs into Anne's arms. After Anne is joyfully reunited with her son, Gilson's greediness is exposed. A grateful Ed then awards Old John with a section of his land, while Steven contemplates his future with Anne and his forest sanitarium.
Jim The Crow
W. T. Crespinel
Robert Lee Johnson
Marcel Le Picard
Albert Hay Malotte
According to a March 1944 Hollywood Reporter news item, this film was to have been based on an "original" by Gilbert Wright. No other source mentions Wright, however, and his contribution to the final film is doubtful. Hollywood Reporter news items add the following information about the production: In April 1944, PRC announced that the film was to be shot in 16mm Kodachrome, then blown up to 35mm by Cinecolor. During the summer of 1944, however, the studio vacillated about whether to shoot in color or black and white, and which color process to use.
According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, the picture was shot in Eastman Bi-pack color film. Shorts director Josef Berne was originally to direct the film, and Frances Farmer was to star. Farmer's appearance would have marked a return to the screen after a three-year absence. Because of family and health problems, she did not actually make another film until 1958. (For more information on Farmer's career, for Son of Fury.) In December 1944, lyricist Larry Morey was announced as Albert Hay Malotte's collaborator. Malotte's score does include some choral passages, and it is possible that Morey wrote lyrics for them. Exteriors for the film were shot in the Big Basin area of the Santa Cruz Mountains, and at the Kern River rapids in Northern California.