Terribly uneven but with a stirring climactic sequence that redeems many of its flaws, Our Daily Bread suffers most from being a film that puts ideology above dramatic considerations. The ideology is fine, even commendable, but it's presented in such a bald-faced manner, relatively free of nuance, that it frequently comes across as alternately naïve and laughable. Still, while it's a long way from the snappy repartee in All About Eve, Joseph Mankiewicz has managed to add a little seasoning to the dialogue, especially in the salty slang he supplies for Sally. This tarty role is played with obvious enjoyment by Barbara Pepper, and the potentially annoying Chris is handled with sensitivity and flair by John Qualen. Unfortunately, the all-important leads are given to two actors who seem to hail from the "gee whiz!" school of acting, and the overly obvious dialogue they are given doesn't exactly inspire them to dig deeper into their roles. Tom Keene does do reasonably well with his big scene during the dark night of his soul, and Karen Morley is good at conveying the requisite inner longing, but on the whole their work is substandard. Fortunately, director King Vidor scatters several visually impressive sequences throughout, and saves a genuine stunner for the final irrigation sequence. That segment -- with its expert use of editing and framing to achieve maximum dramatic tension and release -- is one of the most joyous pieces ever captured on celluloid.
by Craig Butler review