27 September 2009 | david-1976
Interesting journey into rural America
The Green Promise is now remembered largely because the guys at RKO built a footbridge across a fake stream: the bridge collapsed too soon, Natalie fell into the water, broke her wrist, and was afraid of water ever after.
The movie itself is obviously intended to endorse the activities of 4-H, the activities of which continue to be laudable in many ways. I have had students at the college where I teach who have spent their youth as 4-H'ers and have had a great experience.
Walter Brennan is playing Walter Brennan as Amos McCoy in this outing, about 7 years before that series. It's a rather flat performance. The other stars are pretty much who we expect them to be; Milburn Stone is "Doc" a couple of years before "Gunsmoke" made its TV debut. (Was he "Doc" on the radio? I don't know.) Natalie Wood turns in a fine performance here... as Margaret O'Brien. It's interesting to watch; even more interesting to hear. Away from the TV, I actually thought it was Margaret--the most incredible, most uncanny child star ever, whose subsequent career was... negligible.
Some have suggested that this film has some sort of "conservative" agenda, but I am not so sure. It seems to me that the film's agrarian message was and is pertinent to an ideal of American rural life that has often been dismissed by more sophisticated critics. Had the script been written by a blacklisted screenwriter, it would probably be hailed as a masterpiece of populist cinema, like "The Plow That Broke the Plains" or "The Grapes of Wrath," but since it seems to be more typical of rural (Republican) America, it is dismissed.
Yes, this is a didactic film, and one that probably furthers the argument that the mimetic is more powerful that the didactic in theatre, but as an example of "instructive" film--like, as has been suggested, those movies that children who grew up in the fifties and sixties watched in the classroom, it is pretty darn convincing, and a paradigm for the genre. At the same time, when compared to masterpieces like "The Red Star" it--oh golly!--is probably of as much merit.