The story follows Wang Lung (Paul Muni), a humble farmer, who makes an arranged marriage to a slave, O-Lan (Luise Rainer). The couple's great struggle is to procure--and then, against withering odds, keep--a piece of land, ownership of which makes the difference between self-determination and near-slavery. The film's physical production is truly eye-filling, with location shooting in China providing exterior shots and backdrops (and blending seamlessly with the footage shot in the U.S.). No wonder the great cinematographer Karl Freund won an Oscar for the photography, which includes an awesomely staged locust plague.
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