Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The Farmer's Daughter

The Joseph Cotten Blogathon is an event celebrating the life and career of the actor, hosted by In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Maddy Loves Her Classic Films. For a complete list of participating bloggers, visit the links at the host sites.

The Farmer's Daughter
YouTube viewing

Sometimes the timing of when one watches a movie can make a difference in one's perception of that movie. I chose The Farmer's Daughter for this blogathon knowing nothing of its plot. (You're just gonna have to take my word on that.)

I watched it last week: it's the story of a woman, an outsider, drawn into the world of politics, who ends up opposing a career insider with money and connections, despite her lack of experience in the field. Sound familiar?

If Cynthia Nixon were to watch this sometime in the next few days, I think she'd find it quite encouraging. Even if you don't live in New York State, chances are you've heard by now that Nixon, the double-Emmy winner and former co-star of the hit TV series Sex and the City, is running for governor.

Her opponent, Andrew Cuomo, is the two-time incumbent and the son of a former New York governor. They're both Democrats, so they'll face off in the state primary next week.

Katie, Loretta Young's character in Daughter, originally aspires to be a nurse. She works as a maid to Joseph Cotten, who plays a congressman, and her small town ways and direct manner are perceived as the result of her Swedish heritage and her life on a farm.

Nixon, of course, is wealthy and famous, but throughout her campaign, she's painted herself in humbler terms: a working spouse and mother who takes the subway every day. Unlike Katie, Nixon has a history of political activism that has enabled her to speak eloquently on issues like educational reform and housing.

Katie speaks in more general terms, not unlike Jimmy Stewart's Jeff Smith, and indeed, has a very similar homespun, folksy appeal: an ordinary person who just wants to do what's right.

One gets a sense Katie's party may be using her as a figurehead — witness the scene where a speech coach tries to get Katie to pontificate like a stereotypical politician. Little in the film disputes that theory, actually.

Early in Nixon's campaign, there was talk she was a pawn of NYC mayor Bill DeBlasio, to be used against his rival, Cuomo. Nixon has proved through words and deeds that she's running for governor of her own accord.

And then there's the issue of  inexperience. It has dogged Nixon from day one, and the truth is, we have no real idea how well she would handle running an entire state, a monumental task for a rookie. As a New Yorker who feels positive about her, I believe, at the very least, she can't be worse than Cuomo.

Though Daughter ends the way you would expect it to, with Katie on top, there's even less indication she would make an adequate congresswoman. This may simply be the result of this being an old Hollywood movie that didn't want to get too deep on specific issues — and certainly not to appear partial to either Democrats or Republicans. Maybe.

Regardless, Daughter was by the numbers, but pleasing enough. Young bagged the Best Actress Oscar for this one. 1947 was a big year for her; she also appeared in Best Picture nominee The Bishop's Wife.

Now, a few words on Cotten. He's best remembered for his collaborations with the great Orson Welles, in Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, Journey Into Fear and The Third Man.

The two met in 1934, when they both worked in radio. As a founding member of Welles' Mercury Theatre troupe, they performed on Broadway as well as radio. Cotten would go on to do more Broadway stuff, including The Philadelphia Story with Katharine Hepburn.

When Welles went to Hollywood, Cotten followed, appearing first in the short Too Much Johnson in 1938 and then Kane two years later. His film career took off from there. Had his own TV show at one point.

I tend to think of him as a romantic lead, partly because of all those movies he made with Jennifer Jones. He had a more chiseled look than guys like Grant, though. I like Cotten fine.

Other Joseph Cotten movies:
Citizen Kane
Shadow of a Doubt
Portrait of Jennie
Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte


  1. I haven't seen The Farmer's Daughter in years, but recall it has a comfortable movie. Young James Arness was one of Loretta's numerous brothers. I think it was his first movie. We Gunsmoke fans notice things like that.

    I recall the lesson, if there was one, is that money can't buy common sense. I probably fell for that when I was a kid, but nowadays I don't think there is much common sense left in the world - for love or money.

  2. Like my father used to say: common sense ain't that common.

    I'm afraid I would not have recognized a young James Arness, so I'll take your word for it.

  3. I still need to see this one. It sounds good, I like how you see similarities with the characters and plot to current events. Thanks for joining the Joseph Cotten blogathon.

  4. Once I saw the direction in which the story was going, the comparison seemed obvious. I had thought this was gonna be some sort of romantic comedy; indeed, if you look at the posters, that's exactly how it's sold. No mention of the political angle.

  5. I've seen The Farmer's Daughter 2 years ago and I quite liked it! I must admit I didn't know Cynthia Nixon was running for governor but I don't live in the USA and don't really follow this kind of information. But it was great and interesting of you to make comparisons between her and Loretta Young's character in the film! :)

  6. Thanks. I think I might have bought Young's character as a more viable candidate for office if a greater emphasis was put on her supporters, people who she would rely on as an elected official. Instead, the movie predictably pushed the love story angle. That's Old Hollywood for you, but like I said, it still had a certain charm.

  7. I didn't realize Joseph Cotten had his own television show, so I looked it up. What an impressive list of guest stars!

  8. ((goes off to look))

    Yes. Yes it is.


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