AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Great Meadow
Director: Charles Brabin (Dir)
Release Date:   24 Jan 1931
Production Date:   early Sep--mid-Nov 1930
Duration (in mins):   80
Duration (in feet):   7,242
Duration (in reels):   9
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Cast:   John Mack Brown (Berk Jarvis)  
    Eleanor Boardman (Diony Hall)  
    Lucille LaVerne (Elvira Jarvis)  
    Anita Louise (Betty Hall)  
    Gavin Gordon (Evan Muir)  
    Guinn Williams (Reuben Hall)  
    Russell Simpson (Thomas Hall)  
    Sarah Padden (Mistress [Molly] Hall)  
    Helen Jerome Eddy (Sally Tolliver)  
    James Marcus (James Harrod)  
    Gardner James (Joe Tandy)  
    John Miljan (Daniel Boone)  
    Andy Shuford    
    Jack Winn    
    Greg Whitespear    
    William Bakewell    

Summary: 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. 

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's, Inc.)
Distribution Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Distributing Corp.  
Director: Charles Brabin (Dir)
  Ben Taggert (Asst dir)
Writer: Charles Brabin (Adpt)
  Edith Ellis (Adpt)
  Edith Ellis (Dial)
Photography: William Daniels (Photog)
  Clyde DeVinna (Photog)
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons (Art dir)
Film Editor: George Hively (Film ed)
Costumes: René Hubert (Ward)
Sound: Douglas Shearer (Rec dir)
  Ralph Shugart (Rec eng)
Production Misc: Chief Whitespear (Tech adv)
Country: United States
Language: English

Source Text: Based on the novel The Great Meadow by Elizabeth Madox Roberts (New York, 1930).
Authors: Elizabeth Madox Roberts

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Distributing Corp. 2/2/1931 dd/mm/yyyy LP1946 Yes

Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Sound System
  gauge: 35mm and 70mm (Realife)
  Widescreen/ratio: 1.37:1 and 2.13:1

Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Historical
Subjects (Major): Family life
  Shawnee Indians
  United States--History--Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775
Subjects (Minor): Daniel Boone
  Fort Harrod (KY)
  Wagon trains

Note:        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 NYT 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 NYT 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. This was the second and final film produced by M-G-M in its 70mm wide screen Realife format. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Film Daily   15 Mar 31   p. 10.
The Exhibitor   6 Dec 30   p. 27.
HF   6 Sep 30   p. 24.
HF   22 Nov 30   p. 24.
Motion Picture Herald   9 May 31   pp. 32-33.
New York Times   14 Mar 31   p. 23.
New York Times   15 Mar 31   p. 6.
New York Times   22 Mar 31   p. 5.
New York Times   24 Apr 1932.   
Variety   18 Mar 31   p. 14.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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