Swamp Water

Swamp Water is a 1941 film directed by Jean Renoir and starring Walter Brennan and Walter Huston. Based on the novel by Vereen Bell, it was produced at 20th Century Fox. The film was shot on location at Okefenokee Swamp, Waycross, Georgia, USA. It was Renoir's first American film. The film was remade in 1952 as Lure of the Wilderness, directed by Jean Negulesco.

Swamp Water
Theatrical poster
Directed byJean Renoir
Produced byIrving Pichel
Written byVereen Bell (novel)
Screenplay byDudley Nichols
Based onSwamp Water (1940)
StarringWalter Brennan
Walter Huston
Anne Baxter
Dana Andrews
Music byDavid Buttolph
CinematographyJ. Peverell Marley
Lucien Ballard
Edited byWalter Thompson
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • 1941 (1941)
Running time
88 min.
CountryUnited States


A local boy, Ben (Dana Andrews) encounters a fugitive Tom Keefer (Walter Brennan) from a murder charge while hunting in the Okefenokee Swamp looking for his dog. The two form a partnership in which Ben sells the animals hunted and trapped by both until townsfolk become suspicious. Also, Ben helps Julie, Keefer's daughter, clean up and look more decent. Keefer is accused of murdering Deputy Shep Collins, but it was really Jesse Wick who did. Ben makes Wick tell on himself so that Keefer will not be blamed anymore. He tries to take Keefer back to town where he can live a normal life, but they are shot at by two people. One of them sinks in quicksand, and Keefer talks to the other man, saying he wants a normal life, and lets him go. Ben and Keefer are later saved by approaching hunters, and in town, Keefer cleans up, and goes to the dance, smiling.



The film was shot on location at Okefenokee Swamp, Waycross, Georgia, and was Renoir's first American film. Renoir found it difficult to adapt to efficient Hollywood shooting standards, insisting on allowing a large number of takes from the actors. Renoir claimed in his autobiography that due to overindulgence he was fired by Zanuck one morning and rehired the same evening.[2]


Although Renoir had difficulty adapting to Hollywood production methods, the film was popular at the box office and made a profit.[1] Red River Valley was the main theme song.[3]

Dave Kerr of The New York Times noted that the "crude wooden cross, planted in a shallow channel and topped with a human skull" in the film was a "strikingly morbid image for the usually warm and optimistic Renoir", and testament to it being a difficult time for him. He concluded that Swamp Water "may not represent the film that Renoir wanted to make", but is "no less fascinating as the film that Renoir was able to make — at that point in his life and at that point in history".[2] Jonathan Rosenbaum of The New York Times concurred, commenting that despite the production setbacks, the film has "certain beauties and pleasures".[4] Time Out thought the film looked "a bit drab and unbelievable" despite the location filming, describing it as "a rather sullen affair set in a Georgia swamp which harbours snakes, alligators, mud, and Walter Brennan, a fugitive criminal with whom the hero (Andrews) becomes strangely and melodramatically involved."[5]

Film critic Raymond Durgnat wrote: "In certain aspects, Swamp Water compromises between a Western and Toni. It resembles the former in that violence is consistent and integral rather than spasmodic and, as it were, incidental. Yet the integration of violence and communal emotion is simpler than in the tortuous constructions of William Faulkner." Durgnat thought that Anne Baxter's character was reminiscent of Gene Tierney's in Tobacco Road.[3] Several critics, including Dennis Schwartz, noticed that the casting was typical of a John Ford western. Schwartz praised Andrews's performance, but wrote: "Even though it is only one of Renoir's lesser films, thanks to the interference by Zanuck, it still was one of Fox’s highest grossing films of 1941. But if you ever wondered or cared why so many Hollywood films suck, this film should give you a strong hint why." He awarded it a B grade.[6]


The narrative elements of the 2012 coming-of-age film Mud, directed by Jeff Nichols and starring Matthew McConaughey, have been compared to those of Swamp Water.


  1. Rudy Behlmer, Ed, Memo from Darryl F. Zanuck, Grove Press, 1993 p54
  2. Kerr, David (18 March 2012). "Jean Renoir's Plunge Into the American Mire". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 May 2017.
  3. Durgnat, Raymond (1974). Jean Renoir: Raymond Durgnat. University of California Press. pp. 224–8. ISBN 978-0-520-02283-6.
  4. Swamp Water, Chicago Reader, retrieved 12 May 2017
  5. "Swamp Water". TimeOut. Retrieved 12 May 2017.
  6. Schwartz, Dennis. "Swamp Water". Ozus' World Movie Reviews. Retrieved 12 May 2017.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.