Our Daily Bread

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Our Daily Bread, released in late 1934 through United Artists, was an eighty-minute film produced and directed by the respected 40-year-old King Vidor. His then wife Elizabeth Hill is credited with the screenplay. The film's leading players were Karen Morley, Tom Keene, and Barbara Pepper. Vidor had struggled unsuccessfully to find an interested studio and finally financed production himself. Vidor, determined to make a film that would depict "the struggles of a typical young American couple in this most difficult period," believed that people working together could beat the hard times, and the film is, among other things, a plea for cooperatives. The film was well received critically, won a League of Nations prize, was shown to President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the White House, and turned a small profit.

The storyline is simple and, according to Variety, concurred with "the views of various public persons." City dwellers John and Mary, victims of the hard times, accept an offer from her uncle to farm some undeveloped land he owns. John and Mary struggle to make a go of it. John, realizing how ill-equipped they are for farming, offers a transient dispossessed farmer a place to live and a share of the crop in exchange for his expertise. Soon there are dozens of families on the farm working together, living in hand-built shacks. Sally, a slatternly attractive blonde, turns up in a rainstorm searching for her boyfriend. A compassionate Mary takes her in.

The people on the farm overcome various crises, but despair sets in because an unrelenting drought threatens to annihilate the crop. John falls into self-doubt, is seduced by Sally, and with her leaves the farm. En route together he discovers a stream some miles away and, returning to the farm, convinces the people that working together they can divert the stream, irrigate the land, and save the crop. In an exciting and superbly directed and edited ten-minute sequence, representing some days of around-the-clock effort, water is brought to the parched crop. The depiction of this massive effort draws heavily on contemporary Soviet film technique and the ideology underlying it. The farm is saved. So too is the marriage of John and Mary, but it faces a more rosy future than the cooperative which, like American society at the time, still has many problems to overcome.



Dowd, Nancy, and David Shepard. King Vidor (A Directors Guild of America Oral History). 1988.

Vidor, King. A Tree Is a Tree. 1953.

Daniel J. Leab

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Our Daily Bread

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