Our Vines Have Tender Grapes
Directed by Roy Rowland, Produced by Robert Sisk, Written by George Victor Martin (original)
Dalton Trumbo, Starring Edward G. Robinson, Margaret O’Brien, Music by Bronislau Kaper, Cinematography Robert Surtees, Edited by Ralph E. Winters, Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Release dates 1945, Running time 105 min., Country United States, Language English
Our Vines Have Tender Grapes is an American drama film released in 1945, which was directed by Roy Rowland, starring Edward G. Robinson and Margaret O’Brien.
The movie is based on the novel by George Victor Martin, about the Norwegian-American residents of a small Wisconsin farming community. The screenplay was written by Dalton Trumbo, his last before being blacklisted for refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee; Margaret O’Brien later said the movie was largely ignored for decades afterwards because of Trumbo’s political troubles.
Told from the viewpoint of little Selma (O’Brien), the film explores grand childhood adventures: making friends, a pet calf, Christmas, a terrifying trip down a flood-swollen river, a barn fire and a ride on a circus elephant’s trunk. Its title comes from Chapter 2, Verse 15 in the Song of Solomon in the King James version of the Bible, which reads, Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.
The story is about a Norwegian immigrant farmer in Wisconsin, Martinius Jacobson (Edward G. Robinson), his wife Bruna (Agnes Moorehead) and their seven-year-old daughter Selma (Margaret O’Brien), who is often bedeviled by her playmate and five-year-old cousin, Arnold (Jackie ‘Butch’ Jenkins). Martinius simply wants to work his land and be a loving farmer to his family. The one great ambition in the life of Martinius is to build a new barn, but tragedy strikes. How the family copes with that is the core and the charm of the film
Selma lives a carefree, joyous life, which is only temporarily clouded by the sudden death of Ingeborg Jensen (Dorothy Morris), an emotionally disturbed young woman whose stern father (Charles B. Middleton) had refused to let her attend school despite the pleas of newly arrived schoolmarm Viola Johnson (Frances Gifford).
Inspired by young Selma, the entire town of Fuller Junction come to the aid of proud Bjorn Bjornson (Morris Carnovsky), who has lost his livestock when lightning struck and burned down his newly erected—but uninsured—barn. When Selma generously donates her pet calf to the impoverished farmer, the townspeople in general, and Martinius in particular, follow suit, prompting Viola to reconsider her harsh views of country life and retract her letter of resignation to the school board.
Edward G. Robinson as Martinius Jacobson
Margaret O’Brien as Selma Jacobson
James Craig as Nels ‘Editor’ Halverson
Frances Gifford as Viola Johnson
Agnes Moorehead as Bruna Jacobson
Morris Carnovsky as Bjorn Bjornson
Jackie ‘Butch’ Jenkins as Arnold Hanson
Sara Haden as Mrs. Bjorn Bjornson
Greta Granstedt as Mrs. Lars Faraassen
Dorothy Morris as Ingeborg Jensen
Arthur Space as Pete Hanson
Elizabeth Russell as Mrs. Kola Hanson
Louis Jean Heydt as Lars Faraassen
Charles B. Middleton as Kurt Jensen
Francis Pierlot as Fuller Junction’s Minister