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TomJH

Jean Renoir's SWAMP WATER, This Tuesday, 10:30pm (EST)

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In anticipation of what may be a TCM premiere, here is a brief review that I wrote about the film last year:

 

I just had a first time viewing of director Jean Renoir's SWAMP WATER, a long forgotten (and vault buried) 1941 feature of 20th Century Fox.

 

Wonderfully atmospheric, it was shot on location in Georgia's Okefenokee Swamp, dealing with the country folk living by that swamp and their relationship with that dangerous gator, cottonmouth, quicksand filled bog where men are known to enter but often never be seen again.

 

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Dana Andrews plays a young man trying to assert his independence from a domineering, proud father (played by Walter Huston with a stern dignity). Other characters (all wonderfully credible) include Walter Brennan as a convicted murderer hiding in the swamp, and Anne Baxter as his innocent, shy daughter working for the town's store keeper. The cast is filled out with a great collection of character actors, including Eugene Pallette as the sheriff, John Carradine as a man with a secret, and Ward Bond and Guinn Williams as a pair of troublesome louts.

 

Andrews, in an early screen performance, is very impressive, in my opinion, playing the approaching adulthood son, rebelling from his father's authority, with the same kind of sensitivity that would later distinguish his portrayal in The Ox Bow Incident. He's very winning in a role far removed from the stoic types for which he is largely remembered today. It's an impressive demonstration of Andrews's acting range when you contrast this performance to the wise acres tough guy that he played the same year in Ball of Fire.

 

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But the star of this film is in many ways the swamp itself. Beautifully photographed on location, it becomes a living entity on its own, a swamp that is discussed by the film's characters with a fear, at times a nervous laughter. One of the earliest shots in the film is a suitably grim one, a skull on the end of a makeshift cross stuck in the swamp, an ominous warning for anyone who dares to venture into those deadly waters. And there's a death scene in the swamp that I found chillingly, eerily believable.

 

SWater-Scene3.jpg

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Great review!  I saw it recently, but I don't remember where.  Was it good?  Heck yeah!  It's Renoir.  Even Anne Baxter was tolerable.  

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Great review!  I saw it recently, but I don't remember where.  Was it good?  Heck yeah!  It's Renoir.  Even Anne Baxter was tolerable.  

 

Anne Baxter, I can tolerate you. In fact, I even like you.

 

:P

 

-

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Anne Baxter, I can tolerate you. In fact, I even like you.

 

:P

 

-

 

 

And even without being in a Renoir movie!

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And even without being in a Renoir movie!

 

Besides the point, I figured as such.

 

I was protecting her name.

 

Chivalry is not dead.

 

;)

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Great review!  I saw it recently, but I don't remember where.  Was it good?  Heck yeah!  It's Renoir.  Even Anne Baxter was tolerable.  

I've seen it on FXM Retro not long ago

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This is the one that the impressionists used to use as fodder for Walter Brennan mimicry. I haven't seen it since I was a kid. Brennan returned for the remake LURE OF THE WILDERNESS but slid down to fourth billing.

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This is the one that the impressionists used to use as fodder for Walter Brennan mimicry. I haven't seen it since I was a kid. Brennan returned for the remake LURE OF THE WILDERNESS but slid down to fourth billing.

Walter Brennan was billed first because he, along.with Walter Huston, were the best-known names. Anne Baxter and Dana Andrews and Virginia Gilmore were just starting out, and their names meant very little to moviegoers. It would've been a different credit line-up if original casting ideas for Henry Fonda and/or Linda Darnell had transpired. Great cast and movie nonetheless.

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Walter Brennan was billed first because he, along.with Walter Huston, were the best-known names. Anne Baxter and Dana Andrews and Virginia Gilmore were just starting out, and their names meant very little to moviegoers. It would've been a different credit line-up if original casting ideas for Henry Fonda and/or Linda Darnell had transpired. Great cast and movie nonetheless.

 

Brennan was fresh off his third Oscar when he got top billing for the first time in his career with Swamp Water.

 

This film has a fine ensemble cast but it's a young Dana Andrews, billed fourth, around whom the story really revolves. Andrews gives a winning performance here, as I stated in the OP, noticeably sensitive and contrasting to the more stoic characterizations by which he is better remembered today in a number of later film noirs. I think Swamp Water has one of his best performances but the entire cast is effective.

 

There is one scene, effective by its very natural casualness, in which one of the characters is bitten in the face by a cottonmouth, which then silently slides off into the water. The scene is chilling because it's a reminder of how a peaceful moment can suddenly turn deadly when an unseen inhabitant of the swamp suddenly turns upon an unsuspecting human intruder.

 

This is a fine film that clearly deserves more recognition.

 

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I recorded it and am looking forward to watching!

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I recorded it and am looking forward to watching!

 

I assume you mean you set your recording for it, Hibi. Swamp Water is on tonight.

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I assume you mean you set your recording for it, Hibi. Swamp Water is on tonight.

 

 

LOL.  Thinking ahead! :D

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Recording thanks for the heads up.

 

I know it's Anne Baxter day but Dana Andrews and Renoir is what got my attention.

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Recording thanks for the heads up.

 

I know it's Anne Baxter day but Dana Andrews and Renoir is what got my attention.

 

Glad to hear it. You're in for a treat.

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Recorded this film the other night and have just now finished watching it. I probably wouldn't have except for Tom's great write-up of it.

 

And so, thank you for that, Tom. I did enjoy this film quite a bit, and found your enthusiasm you expressed in your write-up for it well justified. Yes, the on-location cinematography was great and the acting across the board was first rate.

 

(...however, I found interesting the comment by host Michael Feinstein during his outro that Renoir's film didn't meet with much critical praise at the time of its release, as I could not understand why that would have been)

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Recording thanks for the heads up.

 

I know it's Anne Baxter day but Dana Andrews and Renoir is what got my attention.

Watched about 10 minutes whichawas enuf.

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Recorded this film the other night and have just now finished watching it. I probably wouldn't have except for Tom's great write-up of it.

 

And so, thank you for that, Tom. I did enjoy this film quite a bit, and found your enthusiasm you expressed the your write-up for it well justified. Yes, the on-location cinematography was great and the acting across the board was first rate.

 

(...however, I found interesting the comment by host Michael Feinstein during his outro that Renoir's film didn't meet with much critical praise at the time of its release, as I could not understand why that would have been)

 

I enjoyed the film as well.    Always nice to see a film on TCM that I hadn't seen before (which for me is rare).   

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Watched about 10 minutes whichawas enuf.

 

Are you sure you didn't see the entire film?   In it they all talked like you write.   ;)

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Are you sure you didn't see the entire film?   In it they all talked like you write.   ;)

just another overated movie imo.

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Watched about 10 minutes whichawas enuf.

 

 

just another overated movie imo.

 

Don't you mean another ten minutes overrated? :D

 

Not giving the film any more time than that is your loss, not mine.

 

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Recorded this film the other night and have just now finished watching it. I probably wouldn't have except for Tom's great write-up of it.

 

And so, thank you for that, Tom. I did enjoy this film quite a bit, and found your enthusiasm you expressed the your write-up for it well justified. Yes, the on-location cinematography was great and the acting across the board was first rate.

 

(...however, I found interesting the comment by host Michael Feinstein during his outro that Renoir's film didn't meet with much critical praise at the time of its release, as I could not understand why that would have been)

 

Glad you enjoyed the film, Dargo. Most people are unfamiliar with Swamp Water, but to hear that 1941 critics didn't care for it makes me wonder what their issues were with the film. It was good enough to inspire a '50s remake, Lure of the Wilderness (which I've never seen but am under the impression was not up to the original).

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I would hardly call a movie most people probably never heard of overrated.

 

Like the host said the movie wasn't well received by critics at the time it was released and it faired poorly at the box office.   This was a TCM premier so TCM viewers hadn't seen it on TCM before.    

 

So clearly this isn't a well known film to the 'classic' movie viewing public.    For something to be overrated it first has to be highly rated by a majority.    

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