The Blakes are a tenant farmer family struggling to survive and the Norwoods are the sharecropper family that is struggling to keep their power over their tenants. The Blakes oldest son, Marvin (Richard Barthelmess) wants to go to school and educate himself. After a struggle, the sharecropper patriarch Lane agrees to help send him if he works in the store and keeps his books for him. Soon Marvin is torn between the two different allegiances perfectly portrayed by two love interests - Betty (Dorothy Jordan) a tenant farmer's daughter and Madge (Bette Davis) the sharecropper's daughter. As tensions rise between the two factions, Marvin must decide how serve both sides and make peace.
On the other hand, Bette was a complete delight. At first her character seems to be flirting with him just because she is curious and he happens to be around. Given this is pre-code, at one point she strips off-camera to lure him into her bed, saucy minx that she is. This is also the film where she delivers the completely quirky line "I'd like to kiss you but I just washed my hair!" She totally steals this film and blows unfrozen caveman off the screen with her exciting performance.
I really enjoyed this one. Not only because of Bette's not-so-nice girl performance, but the movie is much more. Michael Curtiz really did a great job of lining up some beautiful shots in the compact 78 min run time. The script is really good with the daring social commentary (again, a nice pre-code touch). In addition, there are some interesting music elements mixed throughout. These are the types of movies that I wish the younger generation had someone mentoring them to make sure they studied. Movies like these showcase a time period that is foreign to most current generations and clearly show how hard a struggle it was for basic necessities for many people. When watching a film like this, the hope is one will begin to think about the generations of folks before you whose shoulders are so proudly holding you up even today. At least, that is what I thought about at the end of this movie.
If you haven't seen this one, search it out on TCM - it is definitely worth watching.