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The Corn is Green

Ring a Ding Ding

The Corn is Green (1945)

     Someone said to me recently that Bette Davis never made a bad movie, and as I move further into her repertoire, I am inclined to agree. Even a movie with such an uninteresting title as The Corn is Green (which, of course, has its source in something said/written in the story) is a great piece of work. Unfortunately, audiences did not flock to see the film at the time.

     A now 37-year-old Davis assumes the part of a spinster school teacher in The Corn is Green. Her character moves into a mining town in Wales in 1895 after inheriting a home and some property, which she intends to transform into a school. The trouble is, children are sent to work in the mines at age 12, so Davis’ Miss Moffat must fight the powers that be to have children attend. She stumbles upon a particularly bright teenager who has a flair for writing, even if his grammar and spelling are foul. She works with Morgan (John Dall) individually as the school becomes progressively more popular, but when she pushes him too hard, Morgan returns to the mines.

     Also in the mix is Miss Moffat’s housekeeper’s daughter, who can only be described as an unruly tramp. Not only is she generally disrespectful to all adults (her mother confesses to never liking the girl) but she seduces Morgan, which later results in the forthcoming of “a little stranger.” By this point, Morgan has returned to school and nervously sits for a written admission test to Oxford. Miss Moffat manages to silence the pregnant Bessie (Joan Lorring) by sending her away and paying to support her. A glamorous Bessie –hellbent on stirring trouble– returns just as Morgan arrives home from an interview with the university and learns of his acceptance. 

     Based on a play of the same name, Davis took up a role occupied by Ethel Barrymore on the stage.  The story could have been thoroughly heartwarming and interesting if it had only focused on Miss Moffat, Morgan and the school. Instead, the plot adds the additional element of Bessie. The young woman gives a sharp performance as a girl who has developed an antisocial mind of her own. Dall is absolutely splendid as Morgan. His amusing accent and good looks add to the pleasure of watching him so perfectly convey the natural emotions and reactions a young man in his position would endure. Both Lorring and Dall received supporting role Oscar nominations. Despite pressure from Warner Bros., Davis failed to receive a nomination from the Academy.

Source: Bette & Joan: The Divine Feud by Shaun Considine


2 Responses

  1. Makes me interested.

    • I like this movie a lot too, and not just because of the presence of Bette Davis, my favorite screen actress. As you suggest, with this subject the movie could have been much less than it turned out to be. This is one of Davis’s best later roles for Warner Bros, probably her last really good one for that studio. In the forties she left her mark playing vain, self-centered women in movies like “The Letter,” “The Little Foxes,” “Mr. Skeffington,” and others, but here she plays a different kind of character and does it well, showing again that she had far more range than her best-remembered roles would suggest. One thing I like about her performance is that she doesn’t try to make her character too lovable by downplaying her possessive attitude toward Dall and her determination to control his future. And even though she was the main character, she played very well with the other actors, not overly dominating the movie, as she was prone to do with her forceful screen presence. I also liked Mildred Dunnock in one of her first screen performances. I’ve read that Davis turned down “Mildred Pierce” to do this film.

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