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.
|Directed by||Jean Renoir|
|Produced by||Irving Pichel|
|Written by||Vereen Bell (novel)|
|Screenplay by||Dudley Nichols|
|Based on||Swamp Water (1940)|
|Music by||David Buttolph|
|Cinematography||J. Peverell Marley|
|Edited by||Walter Thompson|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
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.
- Walter Brennan as Tom Keefer
- Walter Huston as Thursday Ragan
- Anne Baxter as Julie
- Dana Andrews as Ben
- Virginia Gilmore as Mabel MacKenzie
- John Carradine as Jesse Wick
- Mary Howard as Hannah
- Eugene Pallette as Sheriff Jeb McKane
- Ward Bond as Tim Dorson
- Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams as Bud Dorson (as Guinn Williams)
- Russell Simpson as Marty McCord
- Joe Sawyer as Hardy Ragan (as Joseph Sawyer)
- Paul E. Burns as Tulle McKenzie (as Paul Burns)
- Dave Morris as Barber
- Frank Austin as Fred Ulm
- Matt Willis as Miles Tonkin
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.
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". Jonathan Rosenbaum of The New York Times concurred, commenting that despite the production setbacks, the film has "certain beauties and pleasures". 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."
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. 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.
- Rudy Behlmer, Ed, Memo from Darryl F. Zanuck, Grove Press, 1993 p54
- Kerr, David (18 March 2012). "Jean Renoir's Plunge Into the American Mire". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 May 2017.
- Durgnat, Raymond (1974). Jean Renoir: Raymond Durgnat. University of California Press. pp. 224–8. ISBN 978-0-520-02283-6.
- Swamp Water, Chicago Reader, retrieved 12 May 2017
- "Swamp Water". TimeOut. Retrieved 12 May 2017.
- Schwartz, Dennis. "Swamp Water". Ozus' World Movie Reviews. Retrieved 12 May 2017.
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