Tom Keene and Barbara Pepper in Our Daily Bread (1934)


(director: King Vidor; screenwriters: Elizabeth Hill/Joseph Mankiewicz/story by King Vidor; cinematographer: Robert Planck; editor: Lloyd Nosler; music: Alfred Newman; cast: Karen Morley (Mary Sims), Tom Keene (John Sims), Barbara Pepper (Sally), Addison Richards (Louie Fuente), John Qualen (Chris), Lloyd Ingraham (Uncle Anthony); Runtime: 73; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: King Vidor; Alpha Video; 1934)
Itmakes for an interesting Depression-era time capsule survival film from the New Deal period.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Unable to get Hollywood-studio backing for his simplistic inspirational Depression-era story, noted Hollywood director King Vidor (“The Big Parade”/”The Crowd”/”Comrade X”), whose film career spanned 67 years, financed the utopian picture himself, with assistance from Charles Chaplin (Vidor supposedly, according to him, just broke even).It’s labeled as being ‘inspired by the headlines of today.’WritersElizabeth Hill and Joseph Mankiewicz fill the story with social messages and a rousing rosy finish.

City folks Mary and John Sims (Karen Morley & Tom Keene) are tired of evading bill collectors and become farmers when Mary’s uncle Anthony (Lloyd Ingraham) lets the sweet unemployed couple take over his abandoned run-down country farm. Not knowing anything about farming, they offer Swedish immigrant Minnesota farmer (John Qualen) and his family work when they learn he lost his farm to the bank. He does such a good job farming, that John forms a cooperative commune and allows other hungry unemployed skilled workers to be laborers in this socialist utopia (dozens of them). The ‘back to the land’ commune recruits a plumber, a carpenter, a stone mason, a mechanic and a violinist willing to work the land, and everyone shares equally in the food and profits.

The ideal community is threatened when the land is put up for auction by the sheriff because no mortgage payments were made, when that’s settled they must overcome a food shortage. Further problems arise with the arrival of Sally (Barbara Pepper), a seductive sexy loose woman who threatens the commune as she has eyes for John and in a melodramatic way a love triangle is nudged into the plot. The most serious problem faced is a severe drought that threatens to kill the first corn crop. John gets the now divided commune to work together to dig trenches near the stream and successfully forms an irrigation system to water the land.

It makes for an interesting Depression-era time capsule survival film from the New Deal period. Obviously influenced by Russian prole cinema (such as Dovzhenko’s “Earth”), the film looks more European than American.