review for The Southerner on AllMovie

The Southerner (1945)
by Michael Costello review

One of Jean Renoir's handful of American films, The Southerner is a moving portrait of the struggle of a Southern sharecropper to hold on to his small patch of ground. Zachary Scott stars as the Texas cotton farmer who buys a small piece of land with a rundown farmhouse and tries to make a go of it against long odds. Renoir's favorite of his American films, it's one of the most realistic depictions of the harshness of rural life ever committed to the screen. Draining the film of sentimentality, he reverses the warmly comic stereotypes of rural character, surrounding Scott with a community of farmers whose ignorance, pettiness, and selfishness make his life even more difficult than his hardscrabble acreage. Renoir displays a documentarian's fascination with the full range of agricultural activities, so much so that the farm itself becomes a character in the film. While seemingly too well-bred to handle the role, Scott was raised on a Southern farm and helped the director with accuracy of detail. Mississippi-born William Faulkner, who did uncredited work on the script, provided a similar function. The excellent cast includes J. Carrol Naish, Betty Field, Beulah Bondi, and Blanche Yurka.