The Southerner was Jean Renoir's favorite of his American films. Shot on location, the film stars Zachary Scott as a sharecropper who yearns for a place of his own. On a tiny, scraggly patch of land, Scott tries to make a go of things, along with his wife Betty Field, his grandmother Beulah Bondi, and his children Jean Vanderwilt (aka Bunny Sunshine) and Jay Gilpin. Though a proud, independent man, Scott is forced by circumstance to seek help from neighboring farmer J. Carroll Naish, whose life experience have left him bitter and vituperative. The two men become enemies, but are reunited by their mutual love of fishing. Scott suffers a setback when a rainstorm destroys his cotton crop. He is about to go wearily back to working for others (specifically, factory owner Charles Kemper, who also narrates the film) when he is convinced by his never-say-die family to persevere on his own. Director Jean Renoir also wrote the script for The Southerner--in fluent English rather than French, as mental exercise. Told at a leisurely, unhurried pace, the film is the one American Renoir effort that comes closest to his "slice of life" dramas of the 1930s. The Southerner was not a box office hit, but did win the effusive praise of critics, not to mention the Venice Film Festival "best picture" award. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie GuideThe neighbor was actually criminal in his actions toward the crops and letting the cattle into the garden. The house was a complete waste that was not even suitable for humans so not even sure how any family could have survived the winter months. The summer would have been fine since the parents even slept on the porch. Naturally this is just a romantic view of farmers tilling the land. Zachary has a friend that often asks if he wants a stable steady job so the family would be fed and not get "spring sickness" that the son gets and almost dies. The neighbor would rather feed his pigs than give a pint to help the son overcome his sickness. Yes a truly evil person. The daughter tries to give Zachary a pint but the son also throws that on the ground.
Theatrical Feature Running Time: 91 mins
The Southerner (1945)
But they overcome their problems...