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Our Vines Have Tender Grapes (1945)

Passed | | Drama, Family | September 1945 (USA)
A Norwegian farmer lovingly raises his daughter in rural World War II-era Benson Junction, Wisconsin.

Director:

Roy Rowland

Writers:

Dalton Trumbo (screen play), George Victor Martin (book)
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Edward G. Robinson ... Martinius Jacobson
Margaret O'Brien ... Selma Jacobson
James Craig ... Nels Halverson
Frances Gifford ... Viola Johnson
Agnes Moorehead ... Bruna Jacobson
Morris Carnovsky ... Bjorn Bjornson
Jackie 'Butch' Jenkins ... Arnold Hanson
Sara Haden ... Mrs. Bjornson
Greta Granstedt ... Mrs. Faraassen
Dorothy Morris ... Ingeborg Jensen
Arthur Space ... Pete Hanson
Elizabeth Russell ... Kola Hanson
Louis Jean Heydt ... Mr. Faraassen
Charles Middleton ... Kurt Jensen
Francis Pierlot Francis Pierlot ... Minister
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Storyline

Life in small town Wisconsin. Selma and Arnold, aged 7 and 5, pal around together between their two farms. Selma has a newborn calf that her father gave to her which she named 'Elizabeth'. Nels is the editor of the Fuller Junction Spectator and the kids just call him 'editor'. Viola is the new school teacher from the big city. While Nels wants to marry Viola, Viola does not want to live in a small quiet, nothing happening town. The biggest news is that Faraassen has built a new barn. Written by Tony Fontana <tony.fontana@spacebbs.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

M-G-M's True-to-Life Drama

Genres:

Drama | Family

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

September 1945 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Frühling des Lebens See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

When Martinius and Bruna have gone over the revenue from the potato harvest, talk turns to the new barn and the needed lumber being controlled by the "WPB". Audiences at the time would know that meant the War Production Board. Established in January 1942, this agency of the federal government was tasked with converting the economy to war production and controlled vital materials and their distribution via rationing, ran scrap drives, controlled wages and prices, and more. See more »

Goofs

In the opening scene, during the two-shot of Selma Jacobson and Arnold Hanson, he can be seen mouthing her lines as she says them. See more »

Quotes

Martinius Jacobson: [Entering Bjornson's new barn] You can still smell the new wood... finest smell on the earth.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Forecast (1945) See more »

Soundtracks

Joy to the World
(1719) (uncredited)
Music attributed to George Frideric Handel
Hymn by Isaac Watts (1719)
Arranged by Lowell Mason
Sung by all in Church
See more »

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User Reviews

 
lovely Americana
7 July 2005 | by klg19See all my reviews

Every once in a while, Hollywood would turn out simple, almost humble films that were salutes to a kind of idealized America that still resonates in our collective American memory. "I Remember Mama" is one example, and the Norwegian-American community must have been a rich source for such reflection, because the Norwegian-Americans of Fuller Junction, Wisconsin, are the subject of yet another in "Our Vines Have Tender Grapes." It's amusing that the source of the title is the line from the Song of Songs that begins, "The Little Foxes"--a quote that made the title of quite a different film about quite different American values.

"Our Vines Have Tender Grapes" traces the fortunes of a small middle-American community, with particular focus on the Jacobson family, consisting of father Martinius (Edward G. Robinson), mother Bruna (Agnes Moorehead), and 7-year-old Selma (Margaret O'Brien). Selma's cousin Arnold is also featured, as is the editor of the local paper, other farming neighbors, the new schoolteacher (doing her practicum for a PhD in education, back in Milwaukee), and others.

There isn't necessarily a narrative here; the film provides an episodic look at a year in the life of this community, with tragedy, comedy, and all the human drama. Sometimes it gets a little too episodic, perhaps, as in the dribs of information we get on the life of an emotionally-disturbed neighbor girl. But we are not being asked to follow a narrative, we are merely being asked to spend some time with these people and observe their lives.

The request pays back the time spent. All the performances (with the possible exception of a rather wooden Butch Jenkins as Arnold, whose lips can be seen to move with Margaret O'Brien's lines in their first scene) are engaging. The great Edward G. Robinson once again shows his range (was there any kind of role that man couldn't play??), and Agnes Moorehead gets a chance to show range she isn't generally allowed to display. Margaret O'Brien's Selma can be seen as an outgrowth of Tootie from "Meet Me in St Louis," but I believe Selma is a much more emotionally-complex part and O'Brien takes that ball and runs with it. Her rendition of the Nativity story is JUST this side of saccharine, and it works, especially given the visceral punch of the final lines.

The screenplay was written by Dalton Trumbo, in his last Hollywood effort before the blacklist. Trumbo got the story from a book by George Victor Martin, who was the husband of the woman Selma became. According to the catalog of the American Film Institute, Selma Martin (then estranged from her husband) and her cousin Arnold sued MGM on the basis that the film caused them "undue public attention, mental anguish and humiliation." Staggering news, given the gentle, lovely portrayals of them the film provides.

This film shows up on Turner Classic Movies from time to time. You won't regret giving a couple of hours of your day to this story; it's truly worth it.


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