According to film historian, Ian Christie, the writer/director combo of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger was at its height when they made Gone To Earth for David O Selznick, known in Hollywood as an independent producer, responsible for Gone With The Wind.

Shot on location (a rarity in those days) in Shropshire in 1950, it contains an hilarious performance from Jennifer Jones, Selznick's girlfriend at the time, whose accent needs to be heard to be believed. She plays Hazel, the silly headstrong daughter of a harp maker, who rushes about the hills barefoot, with a pet fox under her arm.

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Despite having the IQ of a dung beetle, men take one look and start proposing on the spot. The first is the vicar (Cyril Cusack), who lives with his mother (Sybil Thorndike), and the second is the squire (David Farrar), who lives with his manservant (Hugh Griffith).

The vicar's a drip, the squire's a cad, the mother's a battleaxe and the groom's in a bad mood.

Hazel marries the vicar, because of a promise she made to the mountain. After a John the Baptist style christening, she runs off with the squire, because he tells her to. The vicar organises a wifehunt.

"She's mine from head to toe," the cad declares.

"You swine!" the vicar retorts.

With dialogue like this, you don't need a scene at the village fair to reinforce olde worlde cliches of English rural life, but you get it, anyway.

Even with a decent actress in the lead, Pressburger's script endorses the stereotype that anyone with gypsy blood must be away with the fairies.

Farrar spends the entire movie in jodhpurs, imitating Clark Gable. He treats the girl and his servant ("Get out into the stables and stay there") with equal disdain.

Cusack has the impossible task of making a mummy's boy interesting. Being a man of God, he has to be stuffed with good intentions, although sleeping in a separate bedroom on the wedding night is taking respect for your wife's feelings beyond foolishness.

Thorndike is stuck in the authoritarian role of monster mum ("She's not of your class, Edward"), while Jones gives no indication what is going through Hazel's head, except the desire to pose on hilltops against a livid sky and utter the immortal line, "I am much obleeged."

After Powell had wrapped the film, Selznick took it away, cut half an hour and had Rouben Mamoulin reshoot in California to end up with The Wild Heart, another movie alogether.

This is the remastered original.

Reviewed on: 05 Sep 2001
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A barefooted Shropshire lass marries the vicar and is seduced by the squire.
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Director: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger

Writer: Emeric Pressburger, based on the novel by Mary Webb

Starring: Jennifer Jones, David Farrar, Cyril Cusack, Sybil Thorndike, Edward Chapman, Esmond Knight, Hugh Griffith, George Cole, Beatrice Varley, Frances Clare, Raymond Rollett

Year: 1950

Runtime: 110 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: UK


EIFF 2005

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