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Gone to Earth (1950)


Main image of Gone to Earth (1950)
35mm, 111 mins, colour
Written, Directed &Michael Powell &
Produced byEmeric Pressburger
Production CompanyLondon Film Productions
 British Lion Film Corporation
 Vanguard Films
PhotographyChristopher Challis
A Presentation byAlexander 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)

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

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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

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Video Clips
Original Poster
Production stills
Monthly Film Bulletin review
'I Know Where I'm Going!' (1945)
Cubs (2006)
Challis, Christopher (1919-)
Cole, George (1925-)
Cusack, Cyril (1910-1993)
Easdale, Brian (1909-1995)
Farrar, David (1908-1995)
Griffith, Hugh (1912-1980)
Heckroth, Hein (1901-1970)
Knight, Esmond (1906-1987)
Korda, Alexander (1893-1956)
Mills, Reginald (1912-1990)
Powell, Michael (1905-1990)
Pressburger, Emeric (1902-1988)
Thorndike, Sybil (1882-1976)
Late Powell and Pressburger
Powell and Landscape