Monday, February 23, 2009

Dragon Seed vs.The Good Earth

The Good Earth (1937) is a film about Chinese farmers who struggle to survive. It was adapted by Talbot Jennings, Tess Slesinger, and Claudine West from the play by Donald Davis and Owen Davis, which was in itself based on the 1931 novel of the same name by Nobel Prize-winning author Pearl S. Buck.

The film starred Paul Muni as Wang Lung. For her role as his wife O-Lan, Luise Rainer won an Academy Award for Best Actress. The film also won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography for Karl Freund. It was nominated for Best Director, Best Film Editing and Best Picture.

Irving Thalberg envisioned casting only Chinese actors for the movie, but gave up the idea because of the general disapproval and racism of Hollywood at the time. Anna May Wong had been touted for the role of O-Lan. However, because Paul Muni was of European descent, the Hays Code anti-miscegenation rules meant his character's wife had to be played by a white woman. Many of the characters were played by Western actors made to look Asian with aid of new make-up techniques developed by Jack Dawn that were first used in this movie.

Dragon Seed is another film based on a best-selling book by Pearl S. Buck. It is a 1944 war drama film starring Katharine Hepburn that portrays a peaceful village in China that has been invaded by the Imperial Japanese Army during the Second sino-japanese war.

The men in the village choose to adopt a peaceful attitude toward their conquerors, but Jade (played by Hepburn), a headstrong woman, stands up to the Japanese.

Aline MacMahon was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actress.

Share your thoughts on these two films. How do you compare these two adaptations? Contrast the "yellow face" performances of the Western actors. Comment below or reply @TCManiacs!

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