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The Good Earth

184 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Good Earth, The (DVD)

Oscar-winner Paul Muni ("I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang") stars in this Oscar-winning epic adaptation of the Pearl Buck classic about Chinese farmers battling the elements to survive. Co-star Luise Rainer ("The Great Ziegfeld") won an Oscar as Muni's patient wife. Nominated for Best Picture and Director.


MGM's status as the "class" studio was fully engaged when production chief Irving Thalberg took on this expensive, serious adaptation of Pearl Buck's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. A smooth entertainment with a stiff portion of this-is-good-for-you seriousness, The Good Earth epitomizes Thalberg's idea of Art, which was also the prevailing idea of the period he dominated in Hollywood. The story follows Wang Lung (Paul Muni), a humble farmer, who makes an arranged marriage to a slave, O-Lan (Luise Rainer). The couple's great struggle is to procure--and then, against withering odds, keep--a piece of land, ownership of which makes the difference between self-determination and near-slavery. The film's physical production is truly eye-filling, with location shooting in China providing exterior shots and backdrops (and blending seamlessly with the footage shot in the U.S.). No wonder the great cinematographer Karl Freund won an Oscar for the photography, which includes an awesomely staged locust plague.

Also copping an Oscar was Luise Rainer for best actress--her second consecutive award, after The Great Ziegfeld. Rainer's underplayed portrait of self-effacing stoicism is a contrast to Muni's broader performance, although in some odd way he's exactly right for his role. Caucasian actors play the main characters (Walter Connolly is the family's bothersome, and tiresome, know-it-all uncle), with Asian actors--including Keye Luke--filling out the supporting parts. The blend of sobriety and hokum is vintage Thalberg, and this is the one MGM movie with an onscreen dedication to the young dynamo; he died during production, age 37. --Robert Horton

Special Features

  • Vintage musical short: Hollywood Party
  • Newsreel: Supreme Court of Films Picks the Champions
  • Theatrical trailer

Product Details

  • Actors: Paul Muni, Luise Rainer, Walter Connolly, Tilly Losch, Charley Grapewin
  • Directors: Roy Rowland, Victor Fleming, Sidney Franklin
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Black & White, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: January 31, 2006
  • Run Time: 138 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (184 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000BYA4HO
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,922 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Good Earth" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

171 of 175 people found the following review helpful By Susan Fong on January 12, 2004
Format: VHS Tape
I am an American born Chinese, and I am very impressed by this exceptionally fine production of "The Good Earth". I am also not bothered by the casting of Caucasian actors, Paul Muni and Luise Rainer, in the lead roles. This was an expensive production for MGM. They understandably sought well-known stars who could draw audiences into movie theaters. Muni and Rainer were both Oscar winners with the name recognition and prestige that MGM needed to make this project viable.
I give enormous credit to Thalberg and MGM for hiring a mostly Chinese cast and for bringing a story about Chinese peasants to the screen in the first place. In the 1930's, the world was much more provincial than it is today. It took courage for MGM to undertake such a project as "The Good Earth".
As it turned out, the studio's foresight paid off because this movie achieved both critical and popular success when originally released.
The 1937 version of "The Good Earth" most assuredly stands the test of time. As other reviewers have so eloquently expressed here, every aspect of this production is superb with emphasis on the skillful direction and special effects. The special effects in this movie are even more realistic than alot of the effects you see in today's movies. Mercifully, they used REAL locusts in the 1937 version of "The Good Earth". If "The Good Earth" were filmed today, "animatronic" locusts or computer generated images of locusts would be used instead. Those generally are not as convincing as the real thing.
But what really sets this movie apart from other great films are the quality of the two lead performances by Paul Muni and Luise Rainer. Muni's character, Wang Lung, is a poor, unsophisticated farmer.
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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful By mcHaiku on March 2, 2005
Format: VHS Tape
"The Good Earth" must be considered a "milestone movie." As yet, there is no DVD but one packed with out-takes about the making of this film would be especially welcome. There was no Oscar given for outstanding visual effects until 1939; otherwise, "The Good Earth" would have 'taken home' that award!

The lovely Luise Ranier did win "Best Actress" award. The 1937 movie was based on Pearl Buck's novel that won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932. Interest in "The Good Earth" was revived in Fall 2004 when it was selected for "Oprah's Book Club". Perhaps women's rights advocates should also give it a boost?

The story is about China in the 1900s. A simple farmer, Wang Lung, is 'given' (by his father) the slave O-Lan, for his bride. I do not remember much from childhood about this film, but I definitely do not recall Paul Muni having such a mouthful of teeth! (special effecrs?!) Luise Ranier had won an Oscar the previous year for her role in the "Ziegfield Follies" -- what a contrast! Here she is the completely docile, loyal wife; as someone wrote, she was bound to her husband in "eternal servitude." And her devotion was betrayed. Partly through the machinations of "Uncle". At every time of crisis in the story along comes (GROAN!) the crafty, manipulatve uncle (Walter Connolly) who whines & wheedles - - inserting humor (?) into the script and at the same time destroying family amity.

From the Internet Movie Database are the prophetic words of former slave O-Lan: "When I go back in that house, it will be with my son in my arms. I'll have a red coat on him... and red flower trousers...
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Simon Davis on May 28, 2002
Format: VHS Tape
"The Good Earth" would have to go down in film history as probably one of the supreme efforts in 1930's film making with its attention to detail and special efforts really unrivalled at that time. The legendary Irving J. Thalberg, the force behind so many stunning MGM productions spent years in preparation on the film version of the acclaimed Pearl S. Buck's Pulizer Prize winning novel "The Good Earth".
Thalberg in his drive for absolute quality in movie making actually had a film unit go to China and film some of the location shots which appear throughout the film to add authenticity. The film was given a staggering budget of over 3 million dollars which was unheard of at the time. The film also provided employment for countless Chinese extras and supporting performers for its long production schedule. Unfortunately after all the effort put into this work Irving Thalberg did not live to see the finished product and died just before its release. "The Good Earth" has the distinction of being the one production where Irving Thalberg's name actually appears on the credits. He normally refused to ever have his work acknowledged letting the film stand on its own merits but in this instance the film is dedicated to him which is a fitting tribute to a brilliant man, one of the most dedicated filmmakers Hollywood has produced.
What makes "The Good Earth' so special is first of all the magnificent cast and performers used and secondly the beautiful photography and exceptional special effects employed. Paul Muni and Luise Rainer are both excellent in their roles of peasant farmer Wang Lung and his freed slave wife O -Lan. I wont waste the readers time getting involved in the supposed issue of there being Caucasian actors as Chinese leads .
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