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Trivia / The Good Earth

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  • California Doubling: Chatsworth, California doubled for the 'on-location' scenes.
  • Creator Backlash: Paul Muni disliked the fact that he was playing a Chinese character — "I'm about as Chinese as Herbert Hoover" — and would frequently go AWOL from the set.
  • Disowned Adaptation: Pearl S. Buck disliked the decision to cast white American actors in the Chinese roles.
  • Executive Meddling:
    • Anna May Wong wanted to play O-Lan but the Hays Code prevented her from playing Paul Muni's wife — due to an anti-miscegnation rule.note 
    • The Chinese government threatened to boycott the film if any Japanese actors were cast.
  • Fake Nationality: Americans playing Chinese characters. Some of the supporting cast are Chinese-American, however.
    • Paul Muni and Luise Rainer were immigrants from Ukraine and Austria, respectively.
  • In Memoriam: The film adaptation was dedicated to Irving Thalberg, who died a year before it was released. The opening credits, which featured the dedication, called the film "his last great achievement".
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: There was a lesser-known film adaptation from Hong Kong simply titled Da di ("Earth"), which is the book's Chinese title, and it was released in 1954, predating Sons of the Good Earth by nine years. It's not known how faithful it is to the novel since the movie cannot be found online.
  • Troubled Production: The Hays Code demanded about twenty rewrites in total and it took about three years to get the film made.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Special effects experts were unable to produce an authentic looking locust plague. They were preparing to abandon the scene when they got word of a real locust swarm several states away. A camera crew was rushed to the scene to film it.
    • Filmmakers wanted to shoot some footage in China, but the country was fighting off a Japanese invasion and also dealing with communist rebels, so it was deemed unsafe. Originally they wanted to shoot entirely in China but the government wanted full censorial control. The film ended up shot in America.
    • Anna May Wong was offered the role of Lotus as a consolation for not being allowed to play O-Lan. Furious that she was offered the only non-sympathetic character in the story, she turned it down.
    • James Stewart screen-tested for the part of Wang Lung, and almost got it. Barbara Stanwyck also screen-tested for O-Lan.