AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
The Yearling
Director: Clarence Brown (Dir)
Release Date:   May 1947
Premiere Information:   World premiere in Los Angeles: 18 Dec 1946; New York opening: 23 Jan 1947
Production Date:   28 Apr 1941--mid-Jun 1941; 14 May--late Aug 1945; late Sep 1945--mid-Jan 1946.
Duration (in mins):   134
Duration (in reels):   13
Print this page
Display Movie Summary


Cast:   Gregory Peck (Penny Baxter)  
    Jane Wyman (Orry Baxter)  
    Claude Jarman Jr. (Jody)  
    Chill Wills (Buck Forrester)  
    Clem Bevans (Pa Forrester)  
    Margaret Wycherly (Ma Forrester)  
    Henry Travers (Mr. Boyles)  
    Forrest Tucker (Lem Forrester)  
    Donn Gift (Fodderwing)  
    Daniel White (Millwheel)  
    Matt Willis (Gabby)  
    George Mann (Pack)  
    Arthur Hohl (Arch)  
    June Lockhart (Twink Weatherby)  
    Joan Wells (Eulalie)  
    Jeff York (Oliver)  
    B. M. Chick York (Doc Wilson)  
    Houseley Stevenson (Mr. Ranger)  
    Jane Green (Mrs. Saunders)  
    Victor Killian (Captain)  
    Robert Porterfield (Mate)  
    Frank Eldredge (Deckhand)  

Summary: In the days following the Civil War, pioneer Penny Baxter builds a small house for his wife Orry and their eleven-year-old son Jody in the scrub country of Florida. After clearing and cultivating a patch of fertile ground, Penny names his new home "Baxter's Island" and begins the hard work that will be needed to provide food for his family. When Jody is not busy helping his father with the chores, he wanders through the backwoods and marvels at the wide array of wildlife. Jody develops a great appreciation for animals, but when he asks his parents for permission to adopt a baby raccoon as a pet, his mother sternly forbids it. Penny later explains to his son that Orry is opposed to bringing in a pet because she is still grieving the premature deaths of three of their children. One day, when a wild bear, nicknamed "Old Slewfoot," kills the family calf, Penny and Jody set out to kill the bear. During the hunt, the bear attacks one of Penny's favorite hounds and escapes into the wilderness. The next day, Penny and Jody visit their neighbor, Pa Forrester, whose sons are prone to fighting and cheating. While Jody plays with his young crippled friend, Fodderwing, Penny trades his hound for a better rifle. A short time later, Penny discovers that his hogs have been stolen and immediately suspects the Forrester boys. En route to the Forresters, with Jody at his side, Penny is bitten by a rattlesnake. To save his father's life, Jody is told that he must shoot a doe and use its heart and liver to treat the snakebite. Jody follows his father's instructions, and then races to the Forresters to get help for Penny. Millwheel is the only member of the Forrester family who agrees to help Jody, and a doctor arrives in time to save Penny's life. After he recovers, Penny shows his gratitude for his son's heroic actions by allowing him to adopt the fawn of the doe that was killed. Jody is happy to finally have the pet he always wanted, and the fawn, which he has named "Flag," becomes his constant companion. A series of tragedies later befalls the Baxters, beginning with the sudden death of Fodderwing and followed by the loss of an entire crop to bad weather. As Jody tries to understand his friend's death, Penny does his best to comfort him and delivers a moving eulogy at the funeral. The Baxters attempt to save their farm by planting tobacco to replace their lost crop, but Flag later ruins the crop. When Flag becomes a yearling, Penny considers turning him loose but Jody adamantly refuses. One day, Penny injures himself while working in the field and becomes bedridden for a lengthy period of time. Jody takes over the duties of running the farm, and learns how to hunt for dinner. When Flag destroys the family corn crop, Orry vows to get rid of the deer. Again, Jody pleads with his father to spare Flag, but because the deer has destroyed the last of their food, Penny insists that the deer must go. Jody ignores his father's orders to shoot Flag, and instead tearfully sets Flag loose in the woods. Flag follows Jody home, though, and when Orry sees the deer, she shoots it. The shot does not kill Flag, so Jody is forced to relieve the deer of its pain with a final shot. The incident proves too much for Jody to bear, and he runs away from home. After drifting down a river on a rowboat for days, Jody is found nearly starved by a steamer crew and sent home. Orry, who has been searching for Jody, makes amends with her son, while Penny reaffirms his love for him. 

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's Inc.)
Production Text: A Clarence Brown Production
Distribution Company: Loew's Inc.  
Director: Clarence Brown (Dir)
  Chester M. Franklin (2d unit dir)
  Al Raboch (Asst dir)
  Joe Boyle (Asst dir)
  Victor Fleming (Dir of footage shot in 1941)
  Richard Rosson (Asst dir of footage shot in 1941)
Producer: Sidney Franklin (Prod)
Writer: Paul Osborn (Scr)
Photography: Charles Rosher (Dir of photog)
  Leonard Smith (Dir of photog)
  Arthur Arling (Dir of photog)
  Hal Rosson (Dir of photog, 1941)
  Paul Vogel (Dir of photog for screen tests, 1942)
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons (Art dir)
  Paul Groesse (Art dir)
Film Editor: Harold F. Kress (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Edwin B. Willis (Set dec)
Costumes: Irene (Cost supv)
  Valles (Cost)
Music: Herbert Stothart (Mus score)
  Herbert Stothart (Cond of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Symphony Orchestra)
  Frederick Delius (Themes by)
  Albert Sendrey (Orch)
Sound: Douglas Shearer (Rec dir)
Special Effects: Warren Newcombe (Spec eff)
Make Up: Jack Dawn (Makeup created by)
Production Misc: Ralph Steiner (Asst to Clarence Brown)
  Jay Marchant (Unit prod mgr)
  Mel Long (Tech adv)
Color Personnel: Natalie Kalmus (Technicolor col dir)
  Henri Jaffa (Assoc)
Country: United States
Language: English

Source Text: Based on the novel The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (New York, 1939).
Authors: Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Loew's Inc. 20/12/1946 dd/mm/yyyy LP763 Yes

PCA NO: 11549
Physical Properties: col: Technicolor
  Sd: Western Electric Sound System

 
Genre: Drama
  Drama
  Drama
Sub-Genre: Historical
  Youth
  Animal
 
Subjects (Major): Deer
  Farm life
  Fathers and sons
  Maturation
  Mothers and sons
  Youth
 
Subjects (Minor): Animals
  Bears
  Children
  Death and dying
  Dogs
  Fistfights
  Florida
  Grief
  Hunting
  Reconciliation
  Runaways
  Snake bites
  United States--History--Reconstruction, 1865-1898

Note: Unless otherwise noted, the following information about the film was taken from contemporary news items in HR and NYT and HR production charts: The Yearling , based on Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, had a long and troubled production history. According to information contained in AMPAS Library file on the film, in 1938, shortly after M-G-M purchased the rights to the novel, the studio engaged Rawlings to help M-G-M photographers to select locations in the Ocala National Forest, in Florida, that were appropriate for the setting of her story. With the expectation that shooting on the Sidney Franklin production would begin in mid-1940, M-G-M leased a farm in Florida and planted crops there. The start date of the film was postponed, however, due to M-G-M's inablility to cast the role of "Jody Baxter." Filming began a year later under the direction of Victor Fleming, with the top roles being played by Spencer Tracy (as "Penny Baxter"), Gene Eckman (as "Jody Baxter"), Ann Revere (as "Ma Baxter"), Adeline deWalt Reynolds (as "Ma Forrester"), Tully Marshall (as "Pa Forrester") and Chill Wills. Actors Barton MacLane and Cecil Kellaway were considered for roles in 1941. Hal Rosson was the cameraman in 1941 and worked with a company numbering approximately 300.
       Due to several production difficulties, the film was shelved two months after it had begun, after an expediture of half of its $1,000,000 budget. M-G-M offered no official explanation for halting the project, except to note that it was done "in the best interests of the company." While it was rumored in some contemporary news items that the film was shelved because Eckman was found to be unsuitable for his role, others reported that the production was halted because the fawns the studio had been raising for the film were growing too fast. In addition, several disputes between Tracy and Fleming were reported, as were problems posed by the weather, uncooperative animals and sand.
       Fleming withdrew from the film in Jun 1941, and King Vidor was brought in to replace him. Vidor reportedly told M-G-M that he could not salvage the production on such short notice, and the film was shelved again shortly thereafter. In Feb 1942, M-G-M announced that Roddy McDowall had been tested for a role, and that filming would resume, although this time the picture was to be shot entirely at the M-G-M studios. Tracy again was set to star, and Sidney Franklin was named as a possible director. Cameraman Paul Vogel filmed screen tests for the film in Mar 1942, but the Franklin-directed production never materialized.
       No further production activity on The Yearling was reported until Nov 1944, when a HR news item announced a spring 1945 start for the film. Clarence Brown was assigned to direct the film, and Leonard Smith was the new cameraman. News items also announced that much of the original footage filmed in the Ocala National Forest would be salvaged, and that the production would return there for additional filming. Tracy was replaced by Gregory Peck, and it was announced that Eckman, who had outgrown his part as "Jody," would also be replaced. Tommy Lee was tested for the role of Jody in Jan 1945, but the part eventually went to Claude Jarman, Jr., who made his motion picture debut in the film. According to M-G-M publicity materials, Jarman was personally selected for the part by Brown and production manager Jay Marchant after an eight-state search through the South for an unknown young actor. Brown and Marchant discovered the eleven-year-old Jarman on 14 Feb 1945, at a grammar school in Nashville, Tennessee, and persuaded his family to move to Hollywood.
       While M-G-M waited for Peck to complete his work in the film Duel in the Sun (see above), Brown began filming some location sequences in Ocala and Silver Springs, Florida. In all, about three dozen locations in Marion County, Florida, were used. Filming of the dramatic scenes resumed in the summer of 1945 with actress Jacqueline White playing "Ma Baxter." According to a studio publicity item, White was being groomed for stardom by M-G-M, and her appearance in The Yearling was to be her first major part in a film. White enacted her role through late Aug 1945, when shooting was halted again, this time for nearly a month. Production resumed in mid-Sep with Jane Wyman replacing White, and with James Craig, Henry Travers and June Lockhart added to the cast. Chill Wills, who had been cast as "Buck" in 1941, returned in the same role. Craig was later replaced by Jeff York.
       A Nov 1946 article in Liberty magazine, entitled "Them Hollywood Nuts," gives a detailed account of the numerous production difficulties that plagued the Florida location filming between 1941 and 1945. The troubles included swarming insects, injuries suffered from animal attacks, a hurricane that destroyed Brown's set, and Jarman's bout with the measles. The following individuals were mentioned in the Liberty article as having worked on the production in the summer of 1945, although their contribution to the final film has not been confirmed: Eddie Faust, animal trainer; Mac Weatherwax, dog trainer; Charles O'Malley, supply officer; Rose Allen, snakebite double for Peck; Lee Stanfield, makeup; and Lew Crolley, props. An undated M-G-M publicity item in the AMPAS Library production file of the film noted that Wyman and Peck were to be joined by silent film star King Baggot, making his "comeback" in the role of "Pa Weatherby," but Baggot did not appear in the film. Wyman was borrowed from Warner Bros. for the production.
       In Oct 1945, after completing some location shooting at Lake Arrowhead, California, the production moved to the M-G-M lot in Culver City for additional filming. M-G-M built a replica of the Baxter farm on its backlot, and much of the Baxter farm set, which covered 7,500 square feet, was reconstructed from parts of the Florida farm that were shipped to California. A second unit returned to Silver Springs in early Nov 1945, about the time that HR production charts began listing Charles Rosher as the cameraman. According to publicity materials, a total of 312,564 feet of film were exposed in making the picture. The production required six separate expeditions between Culver City and Florida, a cast and crew of 410, along with some 2,644 additional workers who were not studio employees. Publicity materials also note that 81,023 pounds of Spanish moss from Florida was shipped to the M-G-M studios in Culver City, where some of the outdoor settings were duplicated.
       The 18 Dec 1946 world premiere of The Yearling , which took place at the Carthay Circle Theatre in Los Angeles, was held as a charity event sponsored by the Assistance League of Southern California, with proceeds donated to United States Navy Library in Guam. The film opened to the public in Los Angeles on 25 Dec 1946, in New York one month later, and had roadshow engagements at select theaters until its general release in the May 1947.
       A Nov 1946 HR news item noted that Brown asked permission from M-G-M to finance and direct a stage version of The Yearling , but no further information about the outcome of Brown's proposed stage version has been found. The film opened to generally favorable reviews, with Var calling the picture "one of the better contributions to the screen." The NYT reviewer lavishly praised the performances of Jarman and Peck, and called the film "cheerful and inspiring." The Yearling won Academy Awards for Best Color Cinematography and Best Art Direction/Interior Direction (Color), and Claude Jarman, Jr. received a special Academy Award for "Outstanding Child Actor of 1946." The film was also nominated for Academy Awards in the following categories: Best Picture, Best Actor (Peck), Best Actress (Wyman), Best Direction and Best Film Editing. This was the last film photographed by longtime M-G-M cameraman Leonard Smith, who died of a heart attack in Oct 1947, at the age of 53. Peck, Wyman and Jarman recreated their roles for a Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of The Yearling on 19 Jan 1948. A made-for-television adaptation of the story aired on the CBS network on 24 Apr 1994, starring Peter Strauss, Jean Smart and Will Horneff. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   7 Dec 1946.   
Daily Variety   2 May 41   p. 13.
Daily Variety   27 Nov 46   p. 3, 14
Film Daily   27 Nov 1946.   
Hollywood Reporter   6 Mar 41   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Apr 41   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Apr 41   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Apr 41   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   1 May 41   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   2 May 41   p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter   6 May 41   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Jun 41   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Feb 42   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Mar 42   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Mar 42   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Nov 44   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Jan 45   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   31 Jan 45   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Mar 45   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Mar 45   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   11 May 45   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   23 May 45   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Jun 45   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Jul 45   p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Aug 45   p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Aug 45   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Aug 45   p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Sep 45   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Sep 45   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Oct 45   p. 20.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Oct 45   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Oct 45   p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Nov 45   p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Nov 45   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Jan 46   p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Nov 46   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Dec 46   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Dec 1946.   
Los Angeles Examiner   1 Dec 1946.   
Los Angeles Times   6 Dec 1946.   
Liberty   16 Nov 46   p. 25, 80-81.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   9 Mar 46   p. 2883.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   30 Nov 46   p. 3333.
New York Times   25 May 1941.   
New York Times   22 Jun 1941.   
New York Times   15 Mar 1942.   
New York Times   10 Jun 1945.   
New York Times   13 Oct 1946.   
New York Times   24 Jan 47   p 18.
St. Louis Globe-Democrat   13 Dec 1946.   
Variety   27 Nov 46   p. 14.

Display Movie Summary
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.
 
Advanced Search
Support our efforts to preserve hisotory of film
Support our efforts to preserve hisotory of film

© 2014 American Film Institute.
All rights reserved.
Terms of use.