Poor white tenant farmers battle fierce odds to make a living on a Texas plot. Directed by Jean Renoir.
During World War II, Jean Renoir fled Nazi-occupied France for America and tried his hand at making Hollywood films. This period is generally (and unfairly) dismissed as fallow ground in Renoir's career, but even most of his critics agree that The Southerner is not just the best of his five American films, but a fine example of Renoir's humanistic vision. Transplanting the poetic realism of his French masterpieces of the 1930s to the rural American South, Renoir presents a year in the life of a family of migrant workers who decide to follow their dream of farming their own land. Hawk-eyed Zachary Scott gives the performance of his career as the easygoing but determined father who risks everything to give his family something to call their own, with J. Carroll Naish as his bitter, hostile neighbor. The seasonal structure and episodic nature of the film focuses on the hardships the family faces, finding the rhythm of life between setbacks and victories and the soul of his lovingly created characters through their bent but unbowed spirit. Renoir adapted George Perry Sessions's novel Hold Autumn in Your Hand with uncredited help from William Faulkner. This was Renoir's personal favorite of his American films and the only one to enjoy commercial success. --Sean Axmaker