Find love and laughter among the politics in “The Farmer’s Daughter”
BLU-RAY REVIEW / FRAME SHOTS
“THE FARMER’S DAUGHTER”
Blu-ray, DVD; 1947; Not Rated; streaming via Amazon Video/Prime
Best extra: Commentary by Film Historian Lee Gambin
THERE’S a giant scoop of wish fulfillment in “The Farmer’s Daughter” starring Loretta Young and Joseph Cotten.
The sublime Ms. Young is cast as Katrin “Katie” Holstrom, a Swedish farmer’s daughter from the Midwest, who heads into the big city to study nursing. Her plans are knocked askew when she loses her money, scammed by a sleazy painter. No matter, Katie finds work as a maid to a wealthy family long entrenched in the political workings of Capital City. She’ll save up for classes and start again.
Cotten plays young Congressman Glenn Morley, son of a former U.S. Senator. The attraction between Katie and Glenn is immediate, although romance takes a back seat to events that eventually place Katie in the running for office against the Morley’s chosen candidate. Their contender is not just corrupt and self-serving, but a closeted white supremacist. Katie may be good hearted, but she’s whip smart and able to express herself well in tough situations. Any state would be proud to have her as a representative, and the Morleys ultimately step up to support her.
Wow. “The Farmer’s Daughter” is like a bombshell of political responsibility, grace and intelligence exploding on its unsuspecting audience.
Film Historian Lee Gambin points out the dark undercurrents that balance a generally light story. He offers a wealth of background about the film and its players in his commentary. Loretta Young earned a Best Actress Oscar for the role, winning against her best friend, Rosalind Russell of “Mourning Becomes Electra.” No one expected Young to win, least of all the actress herself who advised family members to stay home. Russell, the odds on favorite, was already on her feet when Young’s name was announced instead. Russell turned it into a win-win moment for them both by turning her move into a standing ovation.
The film was based on a Finnish play, “Hulda, Daughter of Parliament,” purchased by David O. Selznick for contract star Ingrid Bergman. But Bergman didn’t want the part; it emphasized her accent, which she hated to exploit. The role was also offered to Olympic Champion/Actress Sonja Henie, again for the accent and an ice skating scene between Katie and Glenn. Young was finally called in, but, while she liked the character and story, wasn’t sure if it was right for her. How could she pull off that accent? Maybe they could go Southern? Selznick stuck to the original concept and hired a coach.
The cast also included character actor Charles Bickford as the Morley’s crusty butler, Clancy. He was nominated for Best Supporting actor. Sports fiend and first lady of the theater, Ethel Barrymore was cast as Morley’s mother, widow to the late Senator. She rules every scene she’s in. It’s a credit to the cast that they keep up with her, including Young.
According to TCM.com, Young and Barrymore became good friends during the shoot. When Loretta returned to work after a miscarriage, Ethel planted herself outside the door with a portable radio, listening to baseball, to make sure she wasn’t disturbed while resting.
The 1080p transfer (1.33:1 ratio) from Kino Lorber looks very good. Film grain is heavy throughout, and is sometimes overwhelming. Still, black and white contrast, and balance/shadings from white highlights to grays to blacks are good. Detail remains sharp. A Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack provides sterling clear dialogue and the occasional effects.
“The Farmer’s Daughter” is a rare treat, something we’d expect from Frank Capra instead of this odd smorgasbord of producers, writers, actors and director. Everyone is great in his or her own way; the story and characters are likable – even better, they’re believable. Politics may make strange bedfellows, but here it’s great entertainment.
— Kay Reynolds