This was the first outdoor Technicolor three-strip film and Henry Fonda's first movie in color. Set in the backwoods of Kentucky in the early years of the 20th century, it's the story of feudin' and fussin' mountain people. Two clans have been battling for years, and, as the movie
begins, Robert Barrat's family is firing at the cabin of Fred Stone's family, just as Beulah Bondi is giving birth to a daughter. Time passes and Sylvia Sidney grows up under the watchful eye of her brother, Fonda. He is almost killed in a fight with the rival clan, but Fred MacMurray, an engineer
who has come to the locale with the railroad, saves his life. Fonda wants to keep his sister away from city slickers like MacMurray, believing she would be better off in love with a local boy. The advent of the railroad has brought new prosperity. MacMurray arranges for Sidney to be accepted by a
school in Louisville, but Fonda is angered and lets MacMurray know it. The two men get into a fist fight, but then stop to fend off the Barrat clan, who have launched an onslaught on the railroad camp. The workers are frightened for their lives and leave the area in a shambles. Younger brother
Spanky McFarland is killed in the battle, so, when Sidney returns from school in Louisville, she calls for a blood bath. MacMurray angers her when he attempts to inject a modicum of sanity into the proceedings. Fonda realizes that the feud must cease and offers to meet the rival clan leader.
Barrat accepts and the time is set for the ritual handshake. In the meantime, however, Fonda is shot by one of Barrat's clan. Barrat can't believe what's happened and pays a visit to the Stone house to express his sorrow as Fonda lies moments from death. Fonda bids Stone and Barrat to shake hands,
then watches as Sidney and MacMurray move close to each other.
Often poignant, filled with action, well-photographed, and even scored with four songs, this is a slice of Americana that proved successful at the box office. Cecil B. DeMille's version (1916) starred Charlotte Walker in the Sidney role, while Mary Miles Minter played the part in the 1923 version,
directed by Charles Maigne. McFarland, who was only eight years old and already a veteran of several "Our Gang" shorts, shows his versatility in this film. Years later, Al Capp admitted that he'd based his famed "Li'l Abner" character on Fonda's role, and collectors of comic book lore will
recognize some of Capp's early drawings as looking quite a bit like Fonda. Fuzzy Knight does a fine job acting and warbling the tunes. The song "Melody from the Sky" earned an Oscar nomination for Best Song. Other songs were: "Stack O' Lee Blues" (which may have been "Stagger Lee"), and "When It's
Twilight on the Trail" (all by Sidney Mitchell and Lou Alter), plus Harry Carroll's "Trail of the Lonesome Pine."
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- Rating: NR
- Review: This was the first outdoor Technicolor three-strip film and Henry Fonda's first movie in color. Set in the backwoods of Kentucky in the early years of the 20th century, it's the story of feudin' and fussin' mountain people. Two clans have been battling for… (more)