Sunday, May 05, 2019

Gone to Earth (Blind Date with Nitrate at The Nitrate Picture Show)

Gone to Earth. Jennifer Jones.

Gone to Earth. The wedding cake. The Blind Date quiz image.

Lumottu veri / Villebråd.
Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, UK 1950
Print source: George Eastman Museum, Rochester, NY
Running time: 110 minutes
The Nitrate Picture Show (NPS), George Eastman Museum, Dryden Theatre, Rochester, 5 May 2019.

NPS: About the print
Donated by Daniel Selznick (son of David O. Selznick), this print was in the family collection before it arrived at the museum in 1999. This is the UK version of the film, not the version released in the United States as The Wild Heart, which ran 82 minutes. Shrinkage: 1,05%

About the film
"Written, produced and directed by Messrs. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, the adaptation of Mary Webb's loamy novel... has all the makings of a masterpiece. Unfortunately, however, save for a fine beginning and a magnificent ending, the masters have gone to earth themselves, and there is a long deathly dull wodge in the middle when hunters, hounds and quarry appear to be sleep-walking in deep Shropshire mud. Beautifully coloured, it is as lovely a film to look at as I have ever seen, and when the direction deigns to be mobile it is infinitely rewarding."
– Virginia Graham, The spectator, September 29, 1950

"Experience has taught me to approach without enthusiasm the efforts of established Hollywood stars to portray essentially British characters. But Jennifer Jones's enchanting performance as that fey young country creature, Hazel Woodus, of Mary Webb's oddly harsh and cruel novel, almost vindicates past sad failures. Indeed, as she races barefoot across the Shropshire fields, her hair streaming behind her, like some mystic being from a quaint old folk tale, she must surely be exactly as the author imagined her when she wrote this story about a sensual child of nature who cannot find it in herself to resist the attentions of a demanding lover."
– M. H., Picturegoer, October 21, 1950

"Never have I seen the English countryside in its many moods so beautifully photographed in discriminating Technicolor."
– Maud Hughes, Picture Show, October 14, 1950 (NPS)

AA: "Gone to earth!" is a fox hunt term, meaning that the fox has been killed. Revisited Powell and Pressburger's haunting Technicolor tragedy in which a beautiful woman dies like in Black Narcissus and The Red Shoes.


Like Rebecca screened at this festival last night, Gone to Earth is a film in which the will of the producer David O. Selznick clashed with strong auteurs, in this case, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.

Gone to Earth was a vehicle for Jennifer Jones who had just married Selznick. From her perspective the movie belongs into the context of Duel in the Sun and Portrait of Jennie.

Selznick, Powell and Pressburger shared a passion for Technicolor. In the Selznick continuum the glowing use of Technicolor can be linked with Gone With the Wind and Duel in the Sun.

From the Powell & Pressburger perspective the nature mysticism is also related with The Edge of the World, A Canterbury Tale, and I Know Where I'm Going! An erotic tragedy in a remote location was also on display in Black Narcissus, also starring David Farrar in the male leading role.


Gone of the Earth is a pantheistic vision about a nature child, Hazel Woodus, trying to protect animals in the Shropshire countryside. She is being raised by her single father. Her departed gypsy mother has left her only a book of spells.

Hazel is being chased by the squire Jack Reddin, but she marries a Baptist minister, Edward Marston, because of her vow at her mother's grave to marry the first man who comes for her. Aware of her vow and that she does not love her, Edward remains in a separate bedroom on wedding night.

Jack manages to take Hazel with him at her free will. Hazel is unhappy with the brutal Jack and his cruelty at animals. She comes back to Edward, but Edward's mother (Sybil Thorndike) then leaves home, and villagers come to complain about Hazel. Edward rises to the occasion, defends Hazel and takes all the blame. During the incident Hazel's pet fox escapes, and a fox hunt is going on...

Gone to Earth is Hazel's tragedy since it leaves her only unsatisfactory choices: a brutal squire and a minister dominated by his mother. For the minister, Edward Marston, it is a growing-up story: he stands up and defends his wife, defying his mother and the entire community. But it is too late.


The sense of nature is enchanting in this Technicolor saga shot by Christopher Challis on location in Shropshire. Gone to Earth was one of the first assignments in Challis's distinguished CV.

On display was the complete original British release version in a vintage Selznick estate nitrate print. It is a joy to view the landscapes, the sunsets, and the nocturnal silhouettes like this. There is a hazy, fuzzy quality in the general views, typical for Technicolor. Close-ups are pleasingly bright, warm and engaging.


Gone to Earth (1950)

Courtesy of Studiocanal
35 mm, 111 mins, colour
Written, Directed &    Michael Powell &
Produced by    Emeric Pressburger
Production Company    London Film Productions
     British Lion Film Corporation
     Vanguard Films
Photography    Christopher Challis
A Presentation by    Alexander Korda
     David O. Selznick

Cast: Jennifer Jones (Hazel Woodus); David Farrar (Jack Reddin); Cyril Cusack (Edward Marston); Esmond Knight (Abel Woodus); Sybil Thorndike (Mrs. Marston)
Show full cast and credits

A motherless half-gypsy finds herself pursued by two men in rural Shropshire.
Show full synopsis

In 1950, austerity and rationing still prevailed in Britain, but the Archers - Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger - chose to continue their series of post-war Technicolor melodramas (following Black Narcissus, 1947, and The Red Shoes, 1948) with an adaptation of Mary Webb's Thomas Hardy-esque novel of 1917, Gone to Earth.

Under a co-production agreement between Alexander Korda (London Films) and David O. Selznick, sultry Hollywood star Jennifer Jones played heroine Hazel Woodus. The conflict for Hazel emerges when her husband and Baptist minister Edward Marston (Cyril Cusack) fails to consummate their marriage, and she is relentlessly pursued by the rich squire and hunter Jack Reddin (David Farrar).

This tragic story articulates the dilemma of female autonomy trapped between conflicting male desires of love and lust. Shropshire writer Webb wrote, "They did not live her life. She had to live theirs," but ultimately, "She wanted neither. Her passion, no less intense, was for freedom".

As a motherless, half-gypsy girl, Hazel's wildness and freedom are expressed through her close affiliation to her pet fox and to the wild landscape of the Welsh/Shropshire borders, the film's main location. This landscape "with its abrupt change from civilisation to savagery" (Powell) is captured by Christopher Challis's powerful cinematography and contributes significantly to the film's thematic and visual impact.

But Hazel's rebellion is finally steeped in blood and suffering. Designer Hein Heckroth's use of reds for Hazel's costumes hint at her final doom, while Brian Easdale eloquently scored this fate in his music.

As the film neared completion, the British Field Sports Society took objection to its perceived anti blood-sports stance and members were advised not to lend hunting packs to the production company. Powell appealed for help in The Times (October 1949) and a Cardiganshire farmer finally lent his own hounds to finish the shoot.

In 1950, Selznick attempted to sue Korda's company for not keeping to the spirit of Webb's novel, but was overruled in court. Consequently, London Films was given the British rights to the film, while Selznick retained the American rights. Selznick later hired Hollywood director Rouben Mamoulian to re-edit the film, which was released in the USA as The Wild Heart.

Trish Sheil

Shropshire, 1897. In the home she shares with her father, country girl Hazel Woodus reads a spell book she inherited from her gypsy mother. Her father, who disapproves of superstition, grabs the book from her. In the struggle Hazel's dress is torn. The following day, Hazel travels into town to buy a new dress. She visits her cousin Albert and Aunt Prowde. Albert invites her to stay the night, but Prowde disapproves and sends her home.

On the way home, Hazel is knocked over by a horse and cart belonging to Jack Reddin, a local landowner. He asks Hazel back to his house for dinner. At his house, Reddin forces himself upon Hazel, but she runs away to the stable where Vessons - Reddin's servant - gives her his bed for the night. The following morning Vessons takes Hazel home and promises not to tell Reddin where she lives.

On the way to the church fete, where Hazel is to sing accompanied by her father's harp playing, Hazel and her father stumble across a deep, uncovered well. After performing at the fete, the local minister Edward Marston invites Hazel for supper with him and his mother the following Sunday. Later at home, her father tells Hazel that she should be married. Hazel promises to marry the first man who asks her. Jack Reddin rides through the countryside in search of Hazel but cannot find her.

The following Sunday at Edward's house, Hazel clashes with Edward's mother over Hazel's pet, a fox. While taking Hazel home, Edward asks her to marry him and she accepts. The date is set for August, after the County Fair.

At the fair, Reddin finds Hazel and insists that she marry him. He offers Hazel's father 50 pounds for his daughter. Hazel refuses as she has already promised to marry Edward. Hazel and Edward are married and on the night of their wedding, Hazel sees Reddin lurking outside her window. Edward and Hazel sleep in separate rooms.

Edward baptizes Hazel and after the ceremony Reddin arrives at Edward's house asking to speak with Edward. While they wait for Edward, Hazel and Reddin are left alone. They kiss and Reddin asks Hazel to meet him the following Sunday.

That night, Hazel is reading her mother's spell book. Edward asks Hazel if she is happy. She says she is and goes to kiss Edward, but he pulls away. Hazel is unsure if she should meet Reddin and - in accordance with the spell book - she goes to the top of the mountain to seek advice. She asks that she might hear fairy music if she should meet Reddin. At the foot of the mountain, Hazel's father is playing his harp. Hazel mistakes this for fairy music and decides that she will meet Reddin.

The following Sunday Hazel and Reddin meet. They kiss and Reddin takes Hazel back to his house. Later, a note arrives at Edward's house from Hazel saying she is safe and asking him to look after her fox. The following day, Edward discovers that Hazel is staying with Reddin. Edward goes to Reddin's house, they row and Hazel decides to go back with Edward. When they arrive home, Edward's mother asks Edward to choose between her and Hazel. Edward chooses Hazel, his mother leaves.

The following morning, a group of chapel elders inform Edward that they don't want him as minister if Hazel stays. Meanwhile, the local hunt, which includes Reddin, are chasing Hazel's fox. Hazel attempts to rescue the fox by picking it up but the hunt's dogs continue to pursue them. Edward rushes to save Hazel from the dogs only to see her fall into the uncovered well. (BFI SCREENONLINE)



At the Welsh border of Shropshire, England, in the late 1800s, beautiful Hazel Woodus lives with her widowed father Abel, a coffin maker and harpist, in a poor hamlet known as God's Little Mountain. In her father's cottage, gentle Hazel cares for Foxy, a young fox she protects from the local hunters, and many other wild animals. To Abel's annoyance, the impressionable Hazel also studies the folklore of her gypsy mother, whose legends include the story of the murderous Black Huntsman. One night, after spending the day in the marketplace, Hazel is on her way home when she hears a carriage approaching from behind. Thinking that the Black Huntsman is after her, she starts to run and stumbles. The driver, Jack Reddin, stops and offers Hazel a ride, and struck by his handsome face and gentlemanly manner, she accepts. Jack, a squire, invites Hazel to spend the night in his manor and tempts her with a trunk full of elegant dresses. As soon as Jack tries to force his attentions on her, however, Hazel bolts outside, where Jack's servant, Andrew Vessons, comes to her aid. Hazel spends the night in the stables, and the next morning Vessons takes her home, promising never to tell Jack where she lives. Later, after Abel complains to Hazel that she is too wild and needs a husband, Hazel swears by her mother's grave that she will marry the first man who comes for her. Jack then begins scouring the countryside for Hazel, but no one will admit to knowing her, and she hides when he inquires about her at the local inn. At a social honoring the arrival of Edward Marston, the new Baptist reverend, Hazel sings a folk song as Abel accompanies her on the harp. Edward is enchanted by Hazel and invites her to join him and his mother for supper. At the Marstons' cottage, Hazel tells the earnest Edward about her vow, while nearby, Jack continues his fruitless search. As he walks her home, Edward proposes marriage, declaring that he loves her more than she loves Foxy. Hazel is reluctant to respond, but finally accepts, not wanting to break her vow. Later, at the Shropshire County Fair, Hazel appears with Mrs. Marston, dressed in some new clothes that Edward had promised her. Jack, who is participating in a horse jumping competition, spies her and threatens to tell Edward that they spent the night together if she fails to meet him later. During their rendezvous, Jack professes his love and offers to marry Hazel, but she insists that she cannot break her promise, as terrible things might happen. The next day, Hazel and Edward are wed, and Edward, who knows that Hazel does not love him and has vowed to God not to touch her until she does, leaves her to sleep alone. Soon after Edward baptizes Hazel, Jack shows up at the Marstons' cottage, feigning neighborliness. Once alone with Hazel, Jack kisses her and tells her to meet him later. Despite reassuring Edward that she is happy, Hazel consults her mother's folklore book and conducts a test to see if she should go to Jack. When the signs point to going, Hazel finds Jack in the woods and, at the end of the night, rides to his manor. Edward searches frantically for Hazel, until he receives a note from her, assuring him that she is well and asking that he not come for her. Hazel moves in with Jack, but is unhappy in the gloomy manor and becomes hysterical when he viciously throws a baby rabbit she has found to his hunting dog. Edward, meanwhile, learns Hazel's whereabouts from his disapproving mother and rushes to see her. Even after Jack announces that Hazel is pregnant by him, Edward offers to take Hazel back. Hazel returns to her husband, but Mrs. Marston refuses to live with her and moves out. Hazel's guilt increases after several villagers come by to tell Edward that the parish will not tolerate Hazel's presence. Just then, a fox hunt led by Jack passes by, and Hazel realizes that Foxy is outside, unprotected. Although she scoops up Foxy, the dog pack continues the chase, finally cornering her at the edge of an abandoned mine shaft. Hazel and Jack fight over Foxy, and Hazel, still clutching her beloved pet, slips into the shaft and falls to her death.

No comments: