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Our Daily Bread Movie Review

vidor sims king role

1934's Our Daily Bread was King Vidor's most direct statement to date on how he perceived the American dream. Never again would he be as self-revealing about his personal solutions to the grim realities of life. He cast Karen Morley, a sensitive and deeply political actress, in the role of Mary Sims, a young woman grappling with poverty. For the co-starring role of Mary's husband John, Vidor chose Tom Keene, a limited but sincere actor who rather resembled Vidor himself. In an unsuccessful concession to boxoffice realities, Vidor assigned the bad girl role of Sally to Barbara Pepper. (She liked to listen to jazz and we all know what THAT means.) The cast was rounded out by fine character actors John Qualen as an influential farmworker named Chris and Addison Richards as Louie, a taciturn but memorable convict. The script, written by Vidor with his then-wife Elizabeth Hill, is the dewy-eyed rural equivalent of any Warner Bros. or Fox musical starring Ruby Keeler or Shirley Temple. To lick the Depression, Mr. and Mrs. Sims take over a beat-up farm. When they realize they can not handle the place alone, they enlist the services of other down-and-out Depression victims. Individually, they are nothing, but working shoulder-to-shoulder, everyone digs in together to make the farm a growing cooperative concern. (Shades of 42nd Street and Stand Up and Cheer!) And then sex arrives in the person of a bleached blonde to threaten Mr. Sims as well as everyone else's efforts. After watching the films Vidor made between 1925 and 1959, one might become convinced that the director regarded sex as the root of all evil. A Good Woman like Mrs. Sims treats her manchild with maternal affection and functions as a reliable emotional pillow. Men realize their true potential with the support of such Good Women, but they also chomp at the bit and run off to play with Tramps whenever they appear. It's always the Tramp's fault (naturally) and a Good Woman invariably takes her disloyal manchild back. In Vidor's earlier works, his other artistic statements provide a welcome relief from such tiresome Sunday school lessons. When Our Daily Bread emerged as a boxoffice flop, Vidor was faced with a difficult decision. He could make his artistic statements about the power of the common man more accessible to mass audiences or he could switch to commercial melodramas. He made the latter choice, and it's sometimes hard to believe that the same man who directed Our Daily Bread‘s final inspiring irrigation sequence would also be responsible for the sudsy Stella Dallas three years later. AKA: Miracle of Life.

1934 80m/B Karen Morley, Tom George Duryea Keene, John Qualen, Barbara Pepper, Addison Richards; D: King Vidor; W: Elizabeth Hill, King Vidor; C: Robert Planck. VHS, LV

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