Swamp Water

Screening on Film
Directed by Jean Renoir.
With Dana Andrews, Anne Baxter, Walter Huston.
US, 1941, 35mm, black & white, 86 min.
Print source: 20th Century Fox

Set in the backwaters of the Deep South, Renoir’s first American film tells the story of a young man who—while trying to find his dog that has run off into the swamp—is kidnapped by an escaped fugitive. In true Renoirian fashion, the young man becomes allies with his captor after listening to a story of injustice, and the two embark on a mission to set the wrongs right. After beginning his career with self-funded or independent productions and then rising to star status in his native France, Renoir arrived in Los Angeles ill-prepared for the strictures of the studio system. He did convince Fox studio head Darryl Zanuck, who had been mightily impressed by Grand Illusion,to let him do a bit of location shooting in the Okefenokee Swamp. The bigger problem was Renoir’s working method while shooting, which seemed slow and aimless to Fox’s executives. In the end, the film was a success, and Renoir and Zanuck parted ways amicably.

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