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The wonderful movie"This Earth Is Mine"?


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Why hasn't the movie "This Earth Is Mine" with such an incredibley phenomenal cast, excellent story, fantastic music, gorgeous world famous location photography, and impressive directing ever been released on DVD? So many movie buffs we discuss this with are also inquiring. We thought TCM was "King Of The Hill" on getting these extaordinary Classics out to the people. We've been requesting this for years! Are all these requests a waste of time? Don't they even get addressed? Please, please see if it can be done. We don't ever even see it aired on TV.Thanks, CSM

 

Edited by: 80918 on Apr 15, 2011 1:56 PM

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This is a very interesting subject, if not, the whole idea of how this film came to be. After a series of huge box-office successes with Universal Pictures biggest star Rock Hudson, it was decided on creating something of a big dramatic vehicle, similar to Rock's biggest dramatic success up to that time, "Giant." "This Earth is Mine" was pretty much a typically lavished studio production, based from a big, best selling novel by Alice Tisdale Hobart. The original title of the book, "The Cup and The Sword" was considered by producer Casey Robinson too coy and the studio went for a change in the title. To this day, I can't figure out why in a technical sense, a change in title would have to be necessary to a noted, popular novel! Of course, some talk has been centered on the idea of the original title having a more swashbuckling or adventure lure and therefore wasn't dramatically inspiring.

 

What's interesting here is that Rock was banking on this film to give his career a good amount of hype along a serious line of thinking. He must have been looking for the same results his success in the epic "Giant" had brought him. This would be due in large part to the similarities of the story about a powerful, rich family, squabbling over control of their fortunes. Rock had already been down to only two films a year at the studio, when that year of 1959 would see him really become a film icon with the huge success of the comedy "Pillow Talk." Somehow, Rock's hopes for "This Earth is Mine" fizzled away amid the enormous popularity the comedy film achieved and overshadowed his dramatic efforts. What is so ironic here is one of those situations, where a modest production, in this case "Pillow Talk" becomes a big hit, while an expensive one like "This Earth is Mine" pales in comparison.

 

Universal offered Rock a really good, polished production crew that wasn't exactly such a routine at the studio. This time up, the studio hired director Henry King from rival company 20th Century-Fox. Director King had a long and distinguished record of having worked on big productions. In a move that appeared similar to what happened with "Giant," beautiful Jean Simmons was brought in to co-star opposite Rock. She had shades of imagery that could remind one of Liz Taylor from Rock's time in "Giant." From a standpoint of the script, the storyline had issues of greed and social prejudices that again fell back towards "Giant" and its various characters struggling to find their identities and values. Like "Giant," the main storyline of "This Earth of Mine" was basically about a family run business amid the secluded area of Northern California and the Napa Valley wine country. It would now be the wine and liquor business that was turned into an epic, widescreen production.

 

Unlike most films shot at Universal, the studio wisely decided on going to the actual Napa Valley, where some stunning camera work was achieved and really gave the motion picture some praise. Even the music score by legendary (and yet fairly unknown) composer Hugo Friedhofer was outstanding; the theme song as sung by singer Don Cornell was first rate! The soundtrack album is today considered a classic and highly prized by collectors. What most fans of this film will remember is beloved Claude Rains in the role of the family patriarch; his various scenes in the movie offer a dramatic legitimacy lacking throughout most of the film. While his role isn't big and long, it does have the necessary impact to keep the movie from falling prey towards becoming an overbearing, high-priced soap-opera.

 

One side note that hardly ever gets mentioned or even remembered about this movie is actress Cynthia Chenault. She would later be billed as Cindy Robbins throughout the rest of her career. She was in so many ways a starlet, based around the whole Marilyn Monroe aura. Robbins was certainly statuesque and beautiful to look at. Her role as one of the young, field workers of the wine valley, who finds herself "in trouble" in the family way was what gave the film a bit of vigorous sexual spice. Up to that time, Robbins had mostly worked in television and this major film could have been her break-through chance at stardom. However, what some had thought would be a new Marilyn on the horizon, didn't materialize into anything sensational for the starlet. In basic terms, she failed to make any sort of impression with both critics and the movie going public. Universal did their best to give Robbins some exposure, but she just didn't have the magic and picturesque allure of others who could succeed in this venue of creating publicity hype.

 

The film opened in June of 1959, in San Francisco to a big premiere. This was appropriate, since the Napa Valley was just over the hills from the Frisco Bay area. About two days later, the film went into wide release. While it wasn't a critical success, the box office response was moderately good. It did however fail to give Rock the dramatic clout he was always searching for or wanted to his career. He likened himself as a new sort of "Clark Gable" and expected to receive some choice roles as he became the number one box-office male star of the late 1950's. It's rather pathetic to realize that Rock's decision making on roles were at times foolish. Especially, when he turned down the chance to be in "Ben-Hur" in favor of "This Earth is Mine." So, you can imagine what he must have felt that year when "Ben-Hur" ran away with all of the highest accolades there are to the motion picture business and Rock had to settle on only being a box-office success. Yet, I do recommend "This Earth is Mine," simply because it's a well made motion picture and worthy of some respect.

 

The film will at some point in the future have a DVD release. It is in the works, but I can't really say when it will happen. There are some strange technicalities surrounding this film that have prevented a video release.

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I saw this movie in Brooklyn on the big screen at the grand RKO Albee when it was released in 1959.

I recall that it was a good film with fine performances especially by Claude Rains. They don't make them like this anymore.

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>>This time up, the studio hired director Henry King from rival company 20th Century-Fox.

 

From the time that King made LIGHTNIN" for Fox until his retirement, THIS EARTH IS MINE is the only film that he made away from Fox or the later 20th Century/Fox.

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CLORE . . .

 

WOW! YOU'RE ON A ROLL!

 

Is there any other director that you may have known, who only worked at one major studio throughout their career? At this time I can't recall of any other than Clarence and now King. Of course, Clarence, like King, work for MGM when it was another company, before the merger. This is an interesting subject you've reflected on. :D

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Funny to mention Richard Thorpe, because what I will always remember about him and his career at MGM is how Mario Lanza hated him! It was in 1950, producer Joe Pasternak had to spend a lot of time trying to keep a sense of order between them during the making of "The Great Caruso." Despite the movie becoming a huge hit, Thorpe never held back his discontent and grumblings about Mario. These complaints went on throughout his directorial career at the MGM. Comes 1954 and Pasternak deciding to produce a new version of "The Student Prince," he hired Thorpe to direct the movie with Mario to star. There was a lot of protest from Mario, but it didn't matter, because Thorpe got his revenge, when Mario was too fat and out of shape to be in the movie. Joe Pasternak became so desperate to release the film that one of the strangest of all situations occurred, when Joe went ahead with only using Mario's singing voice to dub for British actor Edmund Purdom. It was all a crazy process for MGM, being that one of their major singing stars couldn't visually appear on film and had to rely on the huge popularity of Mario's singing! Thorpe would later admit how stupid the whole idea turned out. And, just as Thorpe had predicted and complained to the MGM front office, Mario's career standing wouldn't last long, due to a lack of discipline.

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That's got to be the first anecdote that I've ever read about Thorpe, a guy who is usually just dismissed as being a company man who took any assignment and brought it in on schedule and under budget. I did once read that Robert Montgomery liked to work with him as Thorpe was content to let Bob direct as much as possible.

 

Here's something to note about Thorpe - his last film was the appropriately titled THE LAST CHALLENGE and it starred Glenn Ford whose next film was DAY OF THE EVIL GUN. That film's director was Jerry Thorpe, Richard's son.

 

There's always Michael Curtiz who started at Warners in 1926 and made his last film there in 1954. I haven't checked every title in the IMDb but I'm fairly certain that in that period, he never took on an outside assignment.

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There are many stories about Thorpe that would be of historical movie interest, along the lines of how he managed himself while at MGM. The problem about his career standing is the plain and simple fact that he never really directed a quote: "Great Motion Picture," unquote. Yet, he was for all intended purposes, a reliable director in all genres, best suited to be under the control of the old studio system. Thorpe lacked the polish and style of King and Clarence, in that he could bring in an entertaining product, but everything surrounding his abilities was unpretentious and unlike King and Clarence, Thorpe never acquired a directorial image to the point that he ended up nothing more than a director for hire. Looking at any of his films, there is little in the way of any personal technicalities or touches to make his films stand-out and visually speak from an individual technique. This I think is the real big difference about him, when compared to others who worked within the studio system. Thorpe was lucky to have become popular with various stars on the MGM studio lot. His proficiency can only be measured by this means of attempting to create a comfortable atmosphere, but under conditions that required a factory, assembly-line sort of method to satisfy the studio front office. In other words, Thorpe just loved making movies and not to gaze beyond any other possibilities of having added something special to the medium of film.

 

This issue of a sort of outstanding, traditional motion picture directorial technique can clearly be seen in what Henry King did for "This Earth is Mine." Most of the films of Rock Hudson at Universal have a factory like, assembly-line imagery, with little in the way of having a cinematic impact or even to remember something technical about the films. The only obvious exception to Rock's career at Universal that had some special, technical substance would be a few of the films he made with director Douglas Sirk. But, in looking at "This Earth is Mine," I doubt Sirk (who by that time was Universal's most important dramatic director) could have done a better job than Henry King did. The imagery that King gave the film had a look and style not so prone to what Universal had been use to exhibiting. Sirk comes close to some reasonably interesting and stand-out technique, but he lacked an exhilarating image that King and even Clarence could give a movie. It's natural for some film buffs to feel that King and Clarence might have had better support from their major studios. Yet, just idea that Universal went ahead with hiring King must have meant the studio or even Rock needed a more refined, elaborate director to handle what was supposed to be one of their biggest of all productions.

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Other than Sirk, I'd say that Universal was pretty much bereft of any directors of distinction by that point. Anthony Mann was already a journeyman, Jack Arnold was never really given the proper opportunities except for THE TATTERED DRESS and the hack Joseph Pevney would probably be next on the list. MAN OF A THOUSAND FACES was supposed to be their big offering for their Silver Anniversary and they gave it to Joe. Heck, Pevney even directed Hudson's previous film, TWILIGHT FOR THE GODS from a best-selling novel and turned in a most lackluster film.

 

I'm not sure whether Blake Edwards was a house director, but even still, there's nothing on his resume to suggest that he (or any of the others in house except for Sirk) could give THIS EARTH IS MINE the "A" level treatment. King had one thing in his favor when it came to actors, he could make even the most limited performers shine. He had been doing it with Power and Peck for years and at this point, Hudson had showed that with a great director he was more than just another pretty face.

 

Please Peck and Power fans, don't jump on me as I like both men but each of them had respective limitations that King knew how to make them work to their favor. As a studio, Universal didn't quite know what to do with their talent. They had Hudson and Curtis under contract and each one had to be loaned out to others in order to prove they were above the house's cheapjack programmers.

 

I think Sirk would have been fine for the melodramatic elements of THIS EARTH IS MINE, he was good with high class soap opera stuff. But I can't say that he had the eye for composition that King had. Having been making films since the silents, King knew how to convey ideas strictly in visual terms, perhaps not as well as John Ford but damn close. Universal may just have wanted to keep Hudson content at this point and give him an in-house chance with a top director rather than let another studio reap the benefit.

 

But the Universal of the 50s was practically MGM compared to the studio's output of the 60s. Somehow they enticed top talent into some of the biggest flops of their respective careers:

 

Charlton Heston - THE WAR LORD and COUNTERPOINT

 

Paul Newman - TORN CURTAIN, SECRET WAR OF HARRY FRIGG and WINNING

 

John Wayne - THE HELLFIGHTERS

 

George Peppard - WHAT'S SO BAD ABOUT FEELING GOOD? and P.J. (not bad but just dumped in theaters)

 

Marlon Brando - THE COUNTESS FROM HONG KONG (from Chaplin, with Loren) and THE NIGHT OF THE FOLLOWING DAY

 

Rosalind Russell - ROSIE

 

James Stewart - followed his surprising SHENANDOAH success with the abysmal THE RARE BREED

 

Dean Martin - TEXAS ACROSS THE RIVER and ROUGH NIGHT IN JERICHO (with Peppard)

 

James Garner - THE PINK JUNGLE

 

OK, Richard Widmark was past his sell-by date in 1968, but the studio took his MADIGAN and just did its usual dumping into saturation bookings and wasted one of Don Siegel's best efforts.

 

For my money, there was little to differentiate a Universal theatrical of the 60s from a TV movie.

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Pevney was a very good TV director, it's just that his big screen work is rather nondescript. He had a similar background as Lamont Johnson, another ex-actor who turned director and had much better success on TV than he did with feature films.

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Clore: That's a really good run-down you did on Universal. About the only really big prestigious film they ever had going out of the 1950's and into 1960 was "Spartacus." But then, once Doris got on board, first with Rock, at least the box-office was buzzing with delight throughout the 1960's and a few fortunes were made. Now, I have to wonder if, say RKO was in the same sort of low-end market during the 1950's as was Universal? What's your opinion on this? Certainly, during the 1950's, Harry Cohn who was still running Columbia made RKO and Universal really look second-rate! I'd even go a step further and say Unitied Artists was a shade way better than what Universal and RKO were coming up with. I like what you said about having vision and composition that is essential in certain ways to give a film something of a structured value that sets it a part to easily figure out there is primarily good quailty. A director like Henry King probably wasn't as fine-tuned as Ford, but he understood so vividly all of those important distinct elements that can make a motion picture product look real good and have a vigorous amount of flare to be identified with having been put together with skill. I think you're very right to say King made many a moive star look good by his directorial style. King could be, if not debatable, rated second best at 20th Century-Fox, after John Ford. There were of course, other good directors at the studio, but I'll bank on King as having been part of giving 20th Century-Fox its notable identity.

 

I can agree to some extent that Sirk might have done well with directing "This Earth is Mine." I can tell you that Blake Edwards had been under contract to Columbia, until about 1957. He then made the switch over to Universal for about four years, until 1961 and he freelanced from that time on.

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Columbia had a real Renaissance during the 50s. It actually started with 1949's ALL THE KING'S MEN and continued with BORN YESTERDAY, FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, PICNIC, THE CAINE MUTINY, ON THE WATERFRONT, THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI. Unlike the other majors, Coulmbia wasn't broadsided when the majors had to divest themselves of their theaters. There was no panic in the executive ranks for them.

 

It may have taken a decade to fully prove it, but Columbia was more than just Capra, Cohn was vindicated.

 

RKO really struggled with the maniacal Hughes at the helm. The 40s may not have been as good for them as the 30s, but they had some steam going with their modestly budgeted features and some projects acquired from Selznick who was desperate for cash. But Hughes was ruining the cash cows of Mitchum and Russell, putting them in routine junk, often re-shooting them because he was such a micro-manager that he could not leave well enough alone.

 

They might have been tight over at Universal, but they knew how to make money. Francis the Mule, Ma and Pa Kettle, Abbott and Costello plus cheap Audie Murphy westerns kept them solvent, as did the sci-fi items from Jack Arnold. They also had the Stewart/Mann machine going for them, so there were some minor "A" films coming out of them. They might not have had the artistic ambitions of Columbia or Paramount - who seemed to weather the decade well also - but they at least made money.

 

Back to Universal in the 60s (and some 70s) - here's a few more disasters for some big stars:

 

Julie Christie - IN SEARCH OF GREGORY was sent looking for an audience in 1969. Co-star Michael Sarrazin wasn't allowed to do MIDNIGHT COWBOY and was contractually bound to do this. RIP Michael.

 

Andy Griffith - ANGEL IN MY POCKET - Just coming out of a successful series, any potential was squandered and he went back to TV.

 

Sidney Poitier - THE LOST MAN - was anyone hotter in 1969? An uninspired remake of ODD MAN OUT.

 

Liz Taylor and Richard Burton - BOOM (aptly titled, it was a bomb)

 

Liz Taylor - SECRET CEREMONY - Liz bombs out again, taking Mia Farrow and Robert Mitchum with her

 

Richard Burton - RAID ON ROMMEL (Dick literally tanks out in a cheapie that is comprised of TOBRUK footage

 

Faye Dunaway - PUZZLE OF A DOWNFALL CHILD

 

Gregory Peck - SHOOT OUT - not one of Peck's better westerns, actually 1971 though

 

George C. Scott - The previous year's Oscar winner's quirky THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS is given the saturation booking treatment instead of just going to art houses where it might have gained a better following. Sent out on a double bill with Peter Fonda's THE HIRED HAND, another one that required special handling.

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