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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
Monday, January 5 2003

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

Two great lost-in-swamp movies

Two old movies that I saw at the Capital Theater decades ago ran on PBS over the holiday period and I was surprised to find they had a strange characteristic in common. Both have scenes in which central characters get lost in what seem endless swamps. It got me to thinking whether there is a lost-in-the-swamp genre of movies, perhaps like there is a desert-setting-theme genre that has at least The English Patient and Lawrence of Arabia and probably many others I've not seen in its list. What a gripping metaphor the swamp is, and it's photogenic besides! Beyond their swamp mataphors, however, these two old movies don't have much else in common.

They were:

1. Raintree County, a classic romance in every sense of the word. I was so impressed upon seeing it in Nanty Glo at age 15 that I bought a copy of the paperback of the novel and read it, all of it, that year. It was certainly the longest book (not counting the Bible) I'd ever read up to that time, and remains one of the longest. I was still working through it in December 1957 when my mother and I took the Pennsylvania Railroad from Johnstown to Warsaw, Indiana, to attend my brother Bob's wedding. That was not only the first long train ride I ever had, it was sweetened considerably by the fact that Raintree County is set in Indiana (albeit the southern, swampy, half of the Hoosier State), and trains are big in the movie and novel. Ross Lockridge, Jr's., Raintree County has probably been cited as "the great American novel" as often as any other. Though set in Indiana, one of its central characters is a southern belle every bit as tortured by her own delusions as Scarlett O'Hara ever was. And unlike Gone With the Wind, I found both the book for Raintree County readable and the movie watchable. I could never get beyond the introduction of the more "popular" Civil War epic—movie or book—by Margaret Mitchell.

I must admit, however, that having seen the movie and read the book at age 15 (the same year my brother Gary was tragically killed, my teen column was launched in the Journal and Mainline newspapers, and many other watershed events in my life), for many years afterward I suspected that my appreciation of it was a fluke or a byproduct of my impressionable youth. No doubt I did appreciate it more then than I would if encountering it for the first time now; after all, romances are written for the young. But I saw the movie again four years ago, while living in Los Angeles, and was still so impressed that I spent hours afterward reading about it, three gnerations of Lockridges, and more on scores of web pages, then trying to induce my son to try to see the movie, at least. And again this year (it must be a property that PBS has exclusive rights to, and reruns yearly around Christmas) I saw most of it again and was again fascinated.

2. The Yearling, based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning story by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, was released in 1946 and I'm betting it played at the Capitol when I was five, the following year. I can't actually remember seeing it then, but I've always had the "intuition" that this is a movie that I saw as a child. I admit that I was induced to watch it on Saturday night by the fact that there was nothing else on the whole cable worth tuning in. But I was almost immediately won over. Set in late 1800's Florida, my early impression was that it was probably the most beautiful feature movie released up to that time, and it must have been one of the earliest in Technicolor, as well. Its plot centers on the relationship of a boy with a deer that he raised from a fawn, but the larger point is the relationship with his parents, especially his dad, and the fact that the boy is the real "yearling" of the story. It's a cross between Old Yeller or Sounder with The Waltons, with Hollywood's best production values.

As for the lost-in-the-swamp scenes, they are not drawn out in either film, but in both cases they represent the fight by the protagonist to get through his "slough of despond," to borrow John Bunyan's phrase, on to, if not the Kingdom of God, at least a better knowledge of truth and the character's own potentialities.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy 


The first bumper stickers appeared in America in the 1950s. Originally, they weren't "stickers," but were attached by small wires twisted around bumpers (used for advertising). Here's what we think is the best collection of bumper sticker sentiments on the web (two daily, as long as they last).

Too bad stupidity isn't painful.

I wasn't born a b*tch. Men like you made me this way.

—Sent by Mary Ann Losiewcz 

Thought for today

He that is down needs fear no fall. He that is low, no pride.

— John Bunyan

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