In 1895, strong-willed schoolteacher Miss Lilly Moffat (Bette Davis) is determined to do something about the appalling living conditions in a Welsh mining town. Against the objections of the local Squire (Nigel Bruce, Suspicion), Moffat builds a school in the village. She eventually discovers that a young man, Morgan Evans (John Dall, Rope), has great potential and Moffat helps him study for an Oxford scholarship.
Reaction & Thoughts:
“… when I walk in the dark I can touch with my hands where the corn is green.”
The Corn is Green is an adaptation of Emlyn Williams’s 1938 semi-autobiographical stage play. While professionally crafted, tastefully heartwarming and enjoyable, this lavishly-produced Warner Bros. movie is lacking in some key areas.
The script was written by Frank Cavett (Going My Way and The Greatest Show on Earth) and Casey Robinson (Captain Blood and The Snows of Kilimanjaro). Irving Rapper (The Brave One and Marjorie Morningstar) directed the movie.
Star Bette Davis complained that the story had been Hollywoodized to the nth degree and there is some truth to that. The Corn is Green was lavishly shot on sound stages. The sets are pretty impressive, but they are all wrong for the movie — you never get the feeling that this is a poverty-stricken community. They even hired a professional choir to play most of the young miners — some rough edges were needed here.
Davis is, unfortunately, a little off her game here. In later years, Davis lamented that she was too young to play Moffat. I don’t buy that excuse. Davis played older characters in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), The Old Maid (1939) and Mr. Skeffignton (1944) with great success. I think Davis was simply misdirected (by Rapper). Davis’s Moffat is a bit ladyish and standoffish when she should have been warm and earthy.
The Corn is Green really belongs to the supporting cast. John Dall, in his first big movie role, hits all the right notes as the poor but proud and imprudent young coal miner. Dall makes a believable transition from brutish teen to sensitive scholar.
Joan Lorring (Three Strangers) provides the film with its bite as the troubled young woman who nearly destroys Morgan’s life. It’s a sexist role, but Lorring makes the most of a showy role. Dall and Lorring received well-deserved Oscar nominations for their respective roles. Nigel Bruce is funny as the pigheaded landowner. The cast also includes Rhys Williams (Mrs. Miniver) and Mildred Dunnock (Kiss of Death).
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
Despite some reservations, I did like The Corn is Green. However, I thought the 1979 TV version with Katharine Hepburn as Miss Moffat was a tad better. The TV film, directed by George Cukor (Born Yesterday and My Fair Lady), fixed a few of the problems I had with the 1945 movie. Bette Davis did get a second crack at the story. In early 1970s, she again played Moffat in a stage musical version of the play. Sadly, Davis fell ill and the show closed down after a few performances. B&W, 115 minutes, Not Rated.