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Our Daily Bread

(1934 b 74')

En: 5 Ed: 6

Directed by King Vidor, an unemployed couple go to an old farm and organize a cooperative with other unemployed people.

         A rent collector knocks on the apartment door of Mary Sims (Karen Morley), who asks him for a few more days. He gives her two days, and then they will have to leave. As he goes down the stairs, John Sims (Tom Keene) avoids him. He comes in and tells Mary a hundred people were applying for one job. Mary says she invited her Uncle Anthony for dinner and hopes he might offer John a job. She tells John to go get a chicken, and he picks out a ukulele. He takes it to a meat market and trades it for a scrawny chicken.

         After dinner Uncle Anthony (Lloyd Ingraham) says he has suffered too. John says he does not want charity but a chance to work. Anthony says he has the mortgage on an old farm that John could work. John and Mary decide they would like to try it.

         John and Mary arrive at the broken-down farm that has been abandoned. They notice a windmill and a mule. They go in the house, and Mary begins cleaning it up. They use the fireplace to cook toast and potatoes. John lays down pine bows for mattresses, and they get under covers. She asks him to move closer to her, and he does so.

         The next day John tries to dig in the hard ground. He sees a car by the fence and advises the man how to get the jack under the car. Chris Larsen (John Qualen) says he is almost out of gas. He is a farmer from Minnesota going to California. John asks him to work with him on his farm.

         Chris shows John how to plow. That night Chris invites John and Mary to eat rabbit stew cooked by his wife Hilda. While they eat outside, Chris tells how he catches rabbits and found carrots among the weeds. Later John tells Mary that others might also be able to work together in a cooperative community.

         Cars on the road see a series of signs inviting them to share work on the farm. More than a dozen cars have arrived. John tells the men to line up and asks them their trades. He finds a plumber, carpenter, and a stone mason. A violinist says he will work too. Mr. Cohen says his wife is going to have a baby.

         In the evening at a campfire John makes a speech to inspire them to work together. Hannibal suggests they put their money, food, and skills into one common pot. They agree to do so. One man suggests they establish a democracy, but another suggests a socialistic government. Chris suggests they need a big boss, and he nominates John. They cheer him.

         In the morning men watch Chris start the plowing, and they join in using a motorcycle and cars, picks and shovels.

         Houses are being built. The stonemason and carpenter agree to help each other with their skills. The violinist is teaching a boy to play. A  belligerent man claims land is his and pushes another man out of the way. Louie Fente (Addison Richards) hits the man and tells him to behave.

         Little houses have been built, and people communicate with each other. Mary looks at the plowed field, and John says the Earth is like a mother. Chris says the corn is coming up. The carpenter offers up a prayer of thanks as the others kneel. A son tells his father that his new baby is a boy.

         In the evening people play instruments and dance. Mary is taking care of the new mother. At the dance John is shown a paper that the farm is to be put up at an auction.

         Mary and John talk about the growing corn. The sheriff has arrived and conducts a public auction for the $4,882 owed. A well dressed man is about to bid, but others discourage him. After a pause one man bids $1.75. Another man bids $1.85. The sheriff says it is ridiculous. A man says if there are two bids, the property must be sold. He cites the law. No one else bids.

         In the house the men give the farm to John that they bought for $1.85. They plan to continue their work. Blonde Sally (Barbara Pepper) comes in and asks where she is. John offers to help with her car in the rain and gets others to cooperate. Louie tells John that the man in the car is dead.

         The next day Mary consoles Sally, who is grateful she can stay there. She goes into a room. John says Louie caught a man stealing things, and John says he warned him. They hear jazz music coming from the room. Mary goes out and says John will not be lonesome.

         People are eating outside but have limited food. Sally sits next to Louie and says she is going to open a beauty parlor. He warns her to lay off John because he is married. She says he is “anticipatory.”

         Mary takes inventory as Sally writes down the figures. Louie comes in and asks how it is going. He realizes they need money. Louie walks out to the corn field and asks Chris about the food situation. They both know the rabbits and deer are gone. Louie shows Chris a paper offering a $500 reward for the capture of Louie. He tells Chris they are going to town for the money. Chris rips up the paper and says he forgot it. Louie asks Sally to take him into town in her car and that she will tell the sheriff she is Mrs. John Sims.

         That night Sally comes back and finds John on the porch. She suggests they take a walk, and in the woods she feels romantic and praises him. He says they need money for food. She shows him the check to Mrs. Simms for $500. Then she shows him a letter to him from Louie explaining what he did. John is very happy and wants to tell Mary.

         The community soon has many supplies. John tells Chris that the corn looks great. Chris says it needs water. John says the judge is going to go easy on Louie.

         A drought causes the plants to wither. Chris tells Mary the corn is dying. She asks if they could carry water from the reservoir. She says they have many people and cars. Chris says the money is almost gone, and some men are preparing to leave. Mary asks John what is wrong. She says the men believe in him. He says there is no future there; he is sick of it and will quit. Mary goes in and turns off Sally’s phonograph. Mary tells her to leave John alone because she is ruining him. Sally says she means more to John than her and the camp. Mary tells her to get out. Sally says she will go, and John will go with her. Mary is not afraid of that.

         That night John puts on a coat while Mary is knitting. He asks if she gets tired of looking after him. She asks where he is going and says the camp would be lost without him. She reminds him of a good time, and he leaves.

         John is driving a car with Sally, and he sees the ghost of Louie on the road. He stops and tells her to drive. He hears the old powerhouse from the water in the stream. He says that they could dig a ditch to get the water to the corn. He says he is going back, and she says they will be through. John rings the bell, and people come out of their houses. John tells the men they can get the water from the stream. They will  have to work hard for four days. He inspires them that they could save the crops. Chris says it will work, and they go to get their shovels.

         In the morning they start digging by the stream. They make a long ditch by removing bushes and boulders. Many men use picks and shovels. At night the women hold torches and bring them sandwiches. John is chopping a tree, and Mary brings him and Chris coffee. The next day they use logs, make boards, and build an aqueduct across a gulch.

Two rows of men keep digging and shoveling. The little canal reaches to the corn field. They shout to start the water. By the stream men connect the ditch, and the water starts flowing in it. A strong man removes a boulder. Another man uses his body to help the water make a turn. Others fix the holes in the aqueduct. As the water reaches the corn field, people jump up and down. In the final scene people are harvesting the corn.

         This drama in the depth of the Depression shows those seeking work joining together as a community on a farm. The man with the farm becomes the leader and inspires others with his ideas. By working hard and sharing they manage to survive in a difficult situation.

Copyright © 2010 by Sanderson Beck

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