God’s Little Acre

God’s Little Acre (1958) Based on Erskine Caldwell’s 1933 novel of the same name, the film tells the story of a dysfunctional 50’s era farming family in the backwoods of Georgia obsessed with sex and wealth. The head of the family, Ty Ty Walden (Robert Ryan), obsessively searches for a cache of gold his deceased grandfather supposedly buried on their land while his farm suffers from years of neglect; he also wrongfully imprisons an albino man, who Ty Ty believes can bring him good fortune.

In it’s day, the film was as controversial as the novel, although unlike its source material there was no prosecution for obscenity. Though both book and film were laced throughout with racy sexual innuendo and extramarital activity, which was controversial and uncommon in that era, it was the film adaptation that may have been more alarming to certain government officials and corporations, as it portrayed a popular uprising, a workers’ insurrection in the southern United States by laid-off millworkers trying to gain control of the factory equipment on which their jobs depended. When the film was first released, audiences under eighteen years of age were prohibited from viewing the film because of what was perceived to be salacious material.

Philip Yordan was officially given credit for the screenplay, but it was actually by Ben Maddow. Since Maddow was blacklisted for his suspected, but unproven, Communist activities during the 1950’s Red Scare, working without credit was the only way he could successfully submit screenplays.

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