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Film / Our Daily Bread

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Working together.

Our Daily Bread is a 1934 drama film directed and co-written by King Vidor as a sequel to his silent classic The Crowd.

John and Mary Sims (Tom Keene and Karen Morley) are two of the many people struggling in New York City during The Great Depression, facing eviction threats from the landlord and exchanging their possessions for meat while John desperately searches for a job. One day Mary's Uncle Anthony (Lloyd Ingraham) comes to their shabby little apartment and offers them a chance to work on a farm that he owns. With no other options, John and Mary jump at the chance and go off to the country, but they are city folk and out of their element on the farm.

One day a man named Chris Larsen (John Qualen), who was trying to make it to California along with many other desperate people during the Depression, has his car conk out right in front of the Sims farm. Luckily for John, Chris is a farmer, and John offers to let him stay rent-free in return for helping John work the farm. John, inspired, puts out signs advertising for people that have trades to come and work on the farm. They wind up establishing a "community where money isn't important", where everything goes into "one common pot". However, their socialist farming commune soon faces two problems: sexy Sally (Barbara Pepper), who wanders onto the commune and tries to lure John away, and a severe drought that threatens to destroy their crops.

Our Daily Bread was a labor of love for director Vidor, who wrote the film's story himself (with his wife, Elizabeth Hill, writing the scenario and a young Joseph L. Mankiewicz providing dialogue.) After MGM declined to produce the film, Vidor raised the money himself and released it through United Artists with the support of Charlie Chaplin.


  • Betty and Veronica: The blonde-brunette color scheme is flipped, but otherwise this trope is played straight. John is torn between his wife Mary (sweet, nurturing, supportive) and Sally (sexy, slutty, exciting).
  • Capitalism Is Bad: The film isn't excessively strident, but the message is obvious. At the foreclosure auction, a capitalist fat cat right out of Soviet propaganda—overweight, dressed in a suit, chomping on a cigar—tries to buy the farm, but after the workers silently threaten him with a hangman's rope, he clams up, and the workers buy the farm themselves for $1.85.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: The absence of the son John and Mary had in The Crowd is not explained. For that matter, Uncle Anthony never appears again after the one scene where he gets the plot moving by offering John and Mary work. No one mentions telling Anthony about turning his farm into a socialist co-op, and nobody tries to communicate with Anthony after a foreclosure notice arrives.
  • Commune: What John builds, inviting people to live on and work the farm, and share everything together.
  • Continuity Nod: Much of this film doesn't really feel like a sequel to The Crowd, given the different setting, the different actors, the disappearance of the Sims's son, and the fact that this is a talking film. But Vidor did throw in a couple of links. At one point, in the depths of his frustration as a drought threatens the farm, John talks about his "big ideas"—one of the plot points of The Crowd was all the big ideas John had, and how he wouldn't do the hard work required to make them happen. Mary's Uncle Anthony has obvious contempt for John, as her relatives did in the earlier film. And John hands over his ukulele to a grocer for a scrawny chicken—in the earlier film John had a ukelele that he used to irritate his wife with.
  • Creator Cameo: Vidor is one of the workers calling out to let the river loose in the climactic scene.
  • Down on the Farm: Specifically, a socialist collective farm, the kind that Joseph Stalin would have liked, but in the American heartland.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: When John realizes that the commune can dig an irrigation ditch to draw water away from the river, thus saving their crops.
  • Expy: Sally, with her tight clothes and blonde hair and brassy manner, is an obvious Captain Ersatz of Jean Harlow.
  • Happy Ending: The inspiring final sequence in which the workers dig the irrigation channel and then release the water. One worker yanks a boulder out of the way with his bare hands, another throws down his own body to keep the water from jumping the channel, and another jumps in a ditch and holds up an aqueduct to keep the water headed for the crops.
  • Large Ham: The Crowd was a silent film but James Murray still managed to deliver a more subtle performance than Tom Keene did in this movie. Keene's overacting is one of the film's major drawbacks. Keene would explore the other extreme of motion picture art a quarter of a century after this film, when he appeared in Plan 9 from Outer Space.
  • Sequel: To The Crowd, but with different actors. Eleanor Boardman did not appear, because in the interim she had gone through a nasty divorce from King Vidor, then quit Hollywood and moved to Europe. Vidor found James Murray, who by this point was an alcoholic hobo, and offered him a chance to star in the movie, but Murray turned Vidor down flat. Not long after he was found drowned in a river, cause unknown.
  • Title Drop: Part of an impromptu prayer delivered by the farm's minister, after the first sprouts of corn are observed.
  • The Vamp: Sally, who seems to have wandered in out of another movie, with her blonde dye job and her tight dresses and her obvious sexual availability. Sally the sexual temptress tries to lure John away from the farm, but after he figures out how to use irrigation to save the crops, he rejects her. Vidor later admitted that the character of Sally was an attempt to help the film's box office by injecting some sex appeal.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Where Sally keeps the $500 reward check for turning Louie in.
  • "Wanted!" Poster: Louie, the taciturn truck driver, is a fugitive convict, as he reveals by showing his own wanted poster. He winds up turning himself in so the commune can collect the $500 reward and buy food to tide themselves over until the harvest.