This Land Is Mine (1943) Poster

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8/10
Excellent, and pointed
rupie16 December 2009
I can vaguely remember seeing this movie on television years ago, and recalled it as a movie with an anti-Nazi message. Seeing it again recently, and with a lifetime of reading behind me, I realize it has further depths of meaning.

Despite the pretense of being set "somewhere in Europe," it is beyond doubt that Renoir had France very specifically in mind. He was a French émigré, and it's clear that he has a message for his countrymen about the great number of them that chose to collaborate with the Germans. But the film is not a sledgehammer, in that the Germans are not portrayed as the stereotypical jackbooted thugs. Their official voice in the film, the officer played by Walter Slezak, has a silky sort of charm and shows how easy it can be to cooperate in the name of so many things - peace, order, stability, etc. etc. Laughton's final courtroom speech has so many specific references to the situation in France that it cannot be interpreted as other than such. And the final finishing touch is Laughton's last lesson to his students before being taken away - he reads from the "Declaration of the Rights of Man" from the French Revolution.

Aside from that it is an excellent story very well told, and the production values are extremely high - the print I saw looked excellent even after 60-some years. The cast, of course, is superb, with Laughton, Slezak, and Maureen O'Hara. Particularly good is George Sanders, in a role very different from his stereotype as the suave and debonair cynic. The whole "mama's boy" aspect of Laughton's character is a bit heavy-handed, but it's still to watch Una O'Connor as his mother (you just can't help recalling her tavern woman's part in "The Invisible Man").

Thsi is not just an excellent movie, but an interesting historical artifact as well.
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9/10
A great story of human dignity.
bkoganbing16 April 2005
Jean Renoir managed to flee France because of the Nazi invasion and spent World War II turning out some pretty good films in America. Maybe the best is this heartfelt tribute to his beloved and occupied France.

He got the best possible actor for his protagonist. Charles Laughton could play tortured and flawed human beings like no other actor ever could in the English speaking world. Here he is a French schoolteacher, middle-aged, shy, and mother dominated by Una O'Connor. And he's afraid of his own shadow.

He also loves neighbor and fellow schoolteacher Maureen O'Hara and she's got a fiancé who's a collaborator and a brother in the resistance played by George Sanders and Kent Smith.

It's all these people's story and even the local gauleiter Walter Slezak is not a simple brute as Nazis are so often portrayed.

The story involves Laughton's growth as a human being, seeing what is happening to his town, the people around him, and most of all to the school to both the children and the teachers. The last twenty minutes of the film are almost exclusively his. In both a courtroom and a classroom, he has some brilliantly delivered speeches explaining to the town why they must resist the evil upon them.

For me the best scene is in the courtroom where Laughton is accused of murder and throws away a carefully prepared script that Slezak has offered him. He tells the town what they need to hear and then declares his love for O'Hara and the reasons for him doing what he's doing.

During that part of Laughton's speech the camera focuses totally on Maureen O'Hara and her reactions to Laughton's words. It's a beautiful crafted scene by a great director.

A film classic for the ages.
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One of the very best stories of courage ever made.
tomomary15 October 2004
Here is a film that everyone should see. It is real and sublime and

each character in the picture has a growth arc that is fascinating to

watch. Charles Laughton is the master in this as we see him as

the town coward a man afraid of everything. An older man who has

learned little of life and less about expressing his love for his

school teaching colleague played by O'Hara.

Laughton learns hard lessons as the film progresses. Walter Slezak's portrayal of a Nazi officer in

charge of the French town is marvelous. He captures the nature of

the will of Fascism and it's unrelenting and sinister application of

pure power using the minds of men. George Sanders, is the

businessman who makes sure things work for the Germans, who

doesn't strain over the matter of occupation by the Nazis until he is

forced to reveal his best friend is the saboteur fighting the

occupation. There is so much more in this film that deals with

oppression and the only way to fight it.

I love this film.
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A courtroom speech to die for !
Baron-193 August 1999
Charles Laughton delivers one of the finest courtroom speeches that you are ever likely to see (it certainly ranks with Spencer Tracy in "Inherit the Wind", or Gregory Peck in "To Kill a Mockingbird" ). Here, though, Laughton is not pleading the case for the defense or the prosecution, he is pleading for his own life in a Nazi "show-trial".

Rather than saving his own life by following the instructions of the German authorities, Laughton chooses to use the opportunity presented by his conducting his own defense to launch a masterful indictment of the Nazi regime. His speech to the jurors and the packed, public galleries is delivered with the sincerity and authority which only an actor with Laughton's many talents, could hope to muster. Inspired by Laughton's speech, the jurors find the courage to acquit him and Laughton dashes from the court to the school where he is a teacher.

Having made such a speech, Laughton knows that he has signed his own death warrant. There is just time, before the German soldiers come to take him away, for one final speech to his beloved class of school-children. Once again, Laughton produces the goods in this very touching scene as he reads to the children articles from the Declaration of the Rights of Man.

Most of this film is typical, low-budget, World War Two propaganda but Laughton raises it above the mediocre. Maureen O'Hara is gorgeous as the fellow teacher with whom Laughton is in love. Also worth watching, as ever, is Una O'Connor as Laughton's mother.
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7/10
Anti-Nazi film about a timid teacher becomes involved into the actions of the resistance and charged with murder
ma-cortes19 June 2013
One of greatest anti-war films with memorable acting from Charles Laughton , Maureen O'Hara and George Sanders . It's a moving reflexion about war , sacrifice and death . A mild-mannered schoolteacher (Charles Laughton) in a Nazi occupied town during WWII finds himself being torn between collaboration and resistance . He is quite friendly with his fellow teacher , Louise Martin (Maureen O'Hara) and her brother Paul (Kent Smith ) . Meanwhile , at school and street many prohibited books, considered "un-German," were broken or burned in the book-burning pile . Albert is charged with murder but the local Nazi commander, Major Erich Von Keller (Walter Slezak) , offers him a deal . At the end the teacher begins reading to his students "The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen" (French: Déclaration Des Droits l'Homme Et Du Citoyen), a fundamental document of the French Revolution.

This is an excellent classic anti-war movie and deals about sacrifice , collaboration , comradeship , human relations and in which a shy man is drawn into the actions of the resistance . A heart-breaker and elegiac movie in the way it shows war undercutting and qualities of a timid but good teacher . This is a well-paced , deliberate and magnetic drama set in WWII . It is a riveting film dealing with thought-provoking issues , wonderful acting and anti-Nazi denounce . Anyway, the film is very interesting , thematically intriguing and brooding . Time has not diminished its qualities nor its charming to the emotions . Interesting performances enhance an eloquent screenplay by Dudley Nichols . Impressive defense final speech , though propaganda , which is arousing the citizens in court . The film opened simultaneously at 72 theaters in 50 key cities on 7 May 1943, setting a box office record for gross receipts on an opening day. Excellent acting by the great Charles Laughton , giving a remarkable , self-effecting performance as a coward , mild-mannered teacher who is drawn into the actions of the resistance . Very good support cast includes extraordinary actors as George Sanders as George Lambert , Walter Slezak as Major Erich Von Keller , Kent Smith as Paul Martin and special mention to Una O'Connor as mother at a sympathetic though exaggerated interpretation .

The film is excellently screen-written and directed by Jean Renoir who approach the intensity and feel of his best works. Son of painter impressionist Auguste Renoir , was perhaps the best of French directors . At its initial French period he directed classics as ¨Boudu saved drowning, Rules of the game, Marseillaise, Day in the country¨ and of course ¨Grand Illusion¨ in which his optimism remains relentless . Renoir was in Hollywood for seven years, where he made ¨Swamp water, Southerner, Diary of chambermaid, This land is mine,and Woman on the beach¨. He returned France where directed other classic films as ¨Carrozza dóro, Testament Dr Cordelier, Picnic on the grass, Vanishing corporal¨ and several others. His films have influenced on Francois Truffaut, Luchino Visconti, Satyajit Ray , among them. Rating : above average, an extraordinary and sensational film.
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9/10
Character Study of a Teacher-Turned-Reluctant-Hero
herbqedi19 July 2002
Laughton is magnificent as the apolitical teacher who finds he must take a stand in Nazi-occupied France. The supporting cast is also terrific and the direction is outstanding. This is a movie that works on many levels. Laughton finds that not resisting in Nazi-occupied France is a worse faith than death.
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A wonderful piece of propaganda
canard11117818 March 2004
In an interview with Cahiers du Cinema in the 1950s, Renoir reluctantly referred to this film as "my own propaganda." Early Hollywood depictions of the french had portrayed them as unscrupulous collaborators. (That includes Casablanca). Renoir, who was in France when it fell, was justified to feel this was an unfair portrayal. This Land is Mine was his way of showing America what it was like to be a conquered country. Each character becomes an icon of every section of French society. It's not trademark 'Renoir' and he admits it. Because it was so important to make sure the film found its audience, he says he "took less risks"

The mission worked. The film was a success and attitudes towards the French changed... two other Warner Bros films, also starring Bogart, made after Casablanca (and more importantly This Land is Mine), portray the French as heros and patriots with a just cause.

Brilliant acting, brilliant script, brilliant propaganda!
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8/10
A fine positive propaganda film...
MartinHafer11 December 2009
This film was set in an unnamed nation that was just conquered by the Nazis. Given the statue of the WWI soldier at the beginning of the movie, it probably was intended as either Belgium or France (given the style uniform on the statue). However, in an odd Hollywood decision, the cast was made up of a wide variety of actors and accents--such as the very American Kent Smith, the Irish Maureen O'Hara, Englishman Charles Laughton and the very cultured George Sanders (who hailed from Russia from English parents). It was also confusing because the country was just conquered and yet by this point the Americans were apparently in the war (meaning it most likely occurred in 1942 or 43)--and no nation fit this pattern. All were fine actors, however, and the excellent writing made me forget about all this.

The story of this fictional nation is all about collaboration versus resistance. Some are obviously evil and seem to like the Germans--or at least look to get rich off the suffering of their own people. Some appear to be collaborators but are actually brave resistance fighters. And Laughton is a nice case--a very wimpy 'everyman' who eventually finds his strength of character through the course of the film.

While some might find this all a bit hokey, the film was an excellent piece of positive propaganda. It must have been incredibly rousing when it debuted and according to IMDb it set box office records. Good acting and a nice script make this one of the better films of its type--well worth watching and memorable--especially for Laughton's fine characterization as well as his impressive speech near the end.
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9/10
Remarkable film, still relevant
son_of_cheese_messiah28 December 2012
Although I consider myself a film buff, I confess I had never of this film until I saw being broadcast last night at 1.30 in the morning. I was expecting some pedestrian war time propaganda but the presence of Charles Laughton convinced me to watch it. I am astonished that such a powerful film is so little known and broadcasting only rarely.

One could argue (as had been done in the comments here) that Laughton's transformation from mouse to man is rather too swift. I myself found it totally convincing but it is in the nature of Hollywood to exaggerate these things to make a good movie.

The comparison to "inherit the wind" and "To Kill a mockingbird" is well made here, but the question remains, why is this film so little known? The answer, I think, is that those films make the middle classes feel good about themselves. Everyone fancies themselves to be an Atticus Finch who can recognise the ignorance of 'common people'. But TLIM points the accusing finger at the Atticus Finch's of the world, the men of learning and intelligence who are quite prepared to justify working with evil and persuading themselves that it is not so bad. As such it is as relevant (sadly) as it ever was.
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8/10
Rather good WWII drama
zetes22 January 2002
This isn't a perfect film, but it is well worth a watch or two. Jean Renoir's Grand Illusion is one of my very favorite films, and in comparison This Land Is Mine is weak. Even in comparison to Rules of the Game which, while often considered the second best film ever made, I find rather flawed, it has weak direction. In its own right, This Land is Mine is quite a good film. Just don't expect another Renoir masterpiece. The direction is pretty basic. Anyone could have directed it, and I was hoping that Renoir would have brought a more personal passion to the project. Hollywood does generally have a tendency for neutering great European directors (though I know Renoir made a couple of films in America that are considered to be great). The script is decent, but nothing too special. The story involves a French town occupied by Nazis, espionage by the French Resistance, and a man who sticks up for freedom. It's pretty obvious, but 1943 wasn't a time for subtlety. What makes this film above average are its performances. That Charles Laughton was one of the greatest actors who ever lived is well known. His performance here is amazing. His courtroom speech, and I don't like those much generally, is very good. Maureen O'Hara is very good, too, but I wish her part was bigger. She has a couple of great scenes, but her character is not well developed. George Sanders gives a great performance, too. I've only seen him in one other film, the fabulous All About Eve, in which he played the venomous fishwife Addison DeWitt. I think his performance here is even better. So check This Land Is Mine out if you ever get the chance. 8/10.
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A Breath of Gallic Fresh Air
theowinthrop29 August 2004
In 1944 Warner Brothers produced, as a pro-Free French propaganda movie, PASSAGE TO MARSEILLE. It was directed by Michael Curtiz, and starred "CASABLANCA" alumni Humphrey Bogart, Claude Rains, Sidney Greenstreet, and Peter Lorre. The end result was a mishmash of flashbacks, which failed to deliver the message of our brave allies the Free French. In retrospect, Bogart's subsequent first film with Lauren Bacall, TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT, was better in presenting the threat of Vichy France in the performances of Dan Seymour and Sheldon Leonard as the local Vichy policemen in Martinique. But the script was better too!

Had Warner Brothers wanted to see a good propaganda film about France under the Nazis, they need only have gone back to 1943 and this gem by the great French director Jean Renoir. Renoir always belittled his films in exile in Hollywood, but THE SOUTHERNER, THIS LAND IS MINE, THE DIARY OF A CHAMBERMAID, are pretty good films, even if they don't match LES GRAND ILLUSION or RULES OF THE GAME. Not everything by a director can be that great. Here Renoir concentrated on how the occupied French lived under the pressure of the occupying Nazis. From the corrupt Mayor (Thurston Hall, naturally) who is more concerned about the safety of his personal wealth than his neighbors, to the corrupted judiciary (George Coulouris, as a prosecutor fully cooperating with the real authorities) to the frightened and elderly (Una O'Connor, as the mother of Charles Laughton - willing to lie about her neighbors and collaborate if it will protect her son and herself), it is a very sad picture of the reality.

Three characters in particular stand out: Laughton, George Sanders, and Walter Slezak. Laughton is a momma's boy, who is timid. He loves Maureen O'Hara (their second teaming after THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME), but she is more impressed by Sanders, who is involved in running the railroad yard. Slezak, the local Nazi bigwig, makes a habit of showing his "pleasant" side to people like Hall, Coulouris, and Sanders, whom he relies on to make the village run smoothly. So he reassures them about their status and power. But while Hall and Coulouris are corrupt power seekers (or wealth preservers), Sanders has a conscience. He is aware of the Free French fighters, and is aware why they are sabotaging his rail yard, to prevent materiel and men to help the German war effort. When he helps the Nazis kill several (including an old friend) he commits suicide in his office. But this is a Renoir movie...he takes a leaf from the conclusion of Le Grand Illusion. There Eric von Stroheim is forced to kill his French aristocratic counterpart who seemed to be trying to escape. When Pierre Fresney dies, von Stroheim destroys the one element of beauty - a flower - in the drab castle/prison he runs. In THIS LAND IS MINE, a sad faced Sanders opens his office window wide, and releases his pet birds. After he watches them fly away, he kills himself. It makes his end more unbearable to watch that.

Laughton is accused (due to circumstances) of the "murder" of Sanders. As he is a popular teacher, Slezak figures out that he might be amendable to a deal for his life, and visits him for that reason. Laughton is timid, and does not wish to die. He is also anxious for his mother, who is beside herself with fear for him. So he takes the deal, which will enable him to be acquitted. But then (after Slezak leaves), Laughton witnesses the execution of several prisoners, including a man he admired - the principal of his school. He rethinks the entire situation. When he is taken to court, in the present of Slezak, the Mayor, a befuddled Coulouris (who tries to prevent him from speaking anymore), and the judge, jury and townspeople, Laughton eloquently explains the forces that drove Sanders to his suicide, and the same evil forces that infected his town. Laughton is acquitted for the murder, and leaves the courtroom. He returns to his classroom with Maureen O'Hara, and gives a final lesson on freedom and patriotism to his students as the Nazis come to rearrest him again. It is a moving and expert conclusion to a fine film.
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Great American Film, Outstanding performances.
SamHardy28 October 2011
About half way through this film I became aware that I was in the presence of greatness. It may not be perfect but it is about as good films got during the war. Many films at the time were made that painted the Nazi occupation as a black and white issue. You will know after seeing this that that is wrong. All the characters here are in shades of gray. That is the films power. This should be a classic. Why it is not available on DVD in region 1 is a mystery to me.

The lead actors are all extremely good here, and of course a stand out performance by Charles Laughton. I have seen quite a few of Laughton's films and I am always amazed by his range of roles. He goes from heavy to hero and everything in between. He was, in my opinion, one of the very few really great actors of his time. I have seen him in some bad films but I have never seen him give a bad performance!

Speaking of heavies, did you notice that all the male leads have successfully played heavies? They all give very nuanced interpretations here that go way beyond black and white. Go see it.
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9/10
Not to be missed
redhairedlad19 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I am sure that there are many reasons why the brave and exceptional men and women of the "greatest generation" where able to leave their lives behind and put themselves in harms way to defeat the Axis Powers. One reason however must have been films like this one produced by Jean Renoir and directed by Nichols.

I usually cringe at blatant propaganda, but I was quite moved by this one, and I'm sure it is due to the expert direction and also due to the fine performances turned in by Laughton, O'Hara, Slezak, Sands and O'Connor. It is basically a retelling of "The Scarlett Pimpernel", but not so directly as to be called a remake by anyone.

If Maureen O'Hara (at that point in her career)would walk in and give me such a kiss, I would happily go to my death. French Resistance films may just have become my newly favorite genre (along with race-track movies, boxing movies, Irish movies and submarine movies.)
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conscience and collaboration
sunon19 January 2012
this land is mine is timeless and a cautionary tale for today. previous revues of this film were offered either before our recent economic crash or very early on when we didn't know the depth of the calamity. now, in the ensuing years, it is becoming clear collaboration exists and requires no occupying enemy. despite the movie was propaganda, it was propaganda of the best kind. the entire film was without theatrics nor a punch-to-the solar plexus message as evidenced in the Laughton soliloquy; the clear measured tenor of a man who has found his heart and courage. casting of the supporting players was inspired. in a film with perhaps three or four second and third part players it may be easy enough to recruit a strong supporting cast but this movie had so many important roles the casting seems a minor miracle.

kudos to all concerned in this gem. the one misstep, if i may be so picky, was the crescendo-ing close as the screen went black.
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7/10
Steady performance by Laughton
vincentlynch-moonoi6 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Of all the actors who ever worked in Hollywood, Charles Laughton is the one, perhaps more than any other, that I wouldn't want to meet. He's creepy.

But that doesn't mean that I can't see good acting, and his performance here as an initially cowardly teacher/mama's boy is uncanny.

The secret love of his life is Maureen O'Hara, a fellow teacher. The role does not provide here with as strong a vehicle as Laughton, but she is very good. George Sanders is a coward of a different sort, who eventually commits suicide in the film (ironically, since that's how he died in real life) Walter Slezak was almost always a gem...and is here...as a Nazi leader, The one disappointment is the performance of Una O'Connor. O'Connor had a reputation for playing off the way mother-type characters...and she certainly does here. But, what was needed was a far lighter hand in the role. It's not a comedy, but she seemed to think it was.

I was delighted to see this out on DVD-R, and immediately purchased it for my DVD collection, because it is one of the best propaganda films of World War II. Una O'Connor as Mrs. Emma Lory
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10/10
An outstanding film, very analytical about Nazism
big_O_Other27 October 2011
I found this gem of a movie on television. Charles Laughton was outstanding. He conveyed perfectly the thesis of the film: that Nazism and the New World Order depended on corrupting those they occupied, tempting them with rewards for betraying their fellow countrymen more than even the brutal intimidation we are all familiar with.

I was also quite interested to see the collaboration between the big industrialists and the Nazis, who corrupted them by catering to their anti-unionism. The fact that being against unions was a pillar of Nazi ideology has not been well known, but Renoir's film made it crystal clear.

All the performances were well above par; Sanders played the self-seeking weasel who has a change of conscience very well, in a very legible, nuanced way. Maureen O'Hara was also excellent, as always.

But it was Charles Laughton, standing before the collaborators, Nazis and his own mother as he comes to realize how crucial the Rights of Man are to living decently and honorably, who wins the day.
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6/10
Underrated propaganda drama of the French resistance!
mark.waltz31 March 2010
Warning: Spoilers
From what I knew about this film, I wasn't expecting all that much since the critical reception I've read wasn't all that good. However, it is actually a rather good story about the Nazi's invasion of France. A milquetoast teacher (Charles Laughton), dominated by his harridan mother (Una O'Connor), finds he must fight for his principals and beliefs when the Nazis take over his town. He is in love with a fellow school teacher (the beautiful Maureen O'Hara---who wouldn't be?) whose brother (Kent Smith) is doing his best to sabotage the Nazis and ends up being betrayed by O'Hara's fiancée (George Sanders), who secretly supports the Nazis. Laughton is accused of his murder and put on trial. He decides to face his fate with dignity and departs his classroom after making a riveting speech to his students that is pure propaganda but magnificent drama! O'Connor may grate on the nerves at times, but everything she does for the obsessive love for her son is believable. O'Hara as always is a combination of graceful beauty and indestructible feistiness. Sanders makes the most scary civilized villain-the worst kind. He makes a good pair with Nazi Walter Slezak (later the Nazi villain in Hitchcock's "Lifeboat"); To see one clean hand (Sanders) washing the other one (Slezak's) and becoming equally filthy (metaphorically speaking) is very interesting, and makes Sanders' downfall most gratifying.
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8/10
excellent propaganda film
blanche-215 December 2009
Charles Laughton, Maureen O'Hara, George Sanders, Walter Slezak, Kent Smith, and Una O'Connor star in "This Land is Mine," a 1943 film directed by Jean Renoir.

The story takes place in a nameless small town in Europe where the Nazis have taken over - somewhere in France, perhaps. In this town, you can find a microcosm of all citizens living under oppression: there are collaborators, secret collaborators, and resistance workers. The majority of the people simply go along with what is happening, live by the rules, and hope to survive. Albert Lory (Charles Laughton) is one of the latter, a wimpy schoolmaster with a pushy mother and an out of control classroom. He's secretly in love with the beautiful Louise Martin (O'Hara), who is engaged to George Lambert (Sanders). Lambert is secretly collaborating with the Nazis, while Louise's brother Paul (Kent Smith) acts for all the world like a collaborator but is secretly a resistance worker. When an act of sabotage occurs, the Nazis take hostages until the perpetrator is found. Albert is one of them. This sets off a series of events that will lead to Albert becoming a changed man.

"This Land is Mine" is a beautiful, stirring film and a great piece of propaganda that, in its day, set box office records when it opened. Charles Laughton is magnificent as a coward who finds his voice, and uses it to convey his message in several monologues, delivered with simplicity and honesty. Acting as good as you will find anywhere, at any time. Great acting never goes out of style. Walter Slezak is excellent as a Nazi leader, having nailed down this type of role for himself after playing the superman German in "Lifeboat." All of the performances are very good.

I do agree with one reviewer here that they could have cast someone else as Albert's mother besides Una O'Connor. She's a little too cartoonish. I'm thinking of someone truly menacing like Margaret Wycherly from "White Heat." At the time of this film, she would have been 62; Laughton was 44. She would have been fantastic.

Highly recommended - this film probably meant a lot to movie audiences during World War II.
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Hard Hitting
Michael_Elliott28 February 2008
This Land is Mine (1943)

*** 1/2 (out of 4)

Jean Renoir directed this drama about a coward school teacher (Charles Laughton) who must find bravery when Nazis overtake his small French town. I really wasn't sure what to expect from this film as I've read some negative reviews of it, which I really don't understand. A lot of reviews called this film dated but I think it holds up a lot better than any of the political movies of the 1940's. God knows there were countless movies made to make people feel strong about the war but this one here is very smart and intelligent about its subject matter and Renoir incredibly sensitive direction makes this a highly memorable movie. The performances are all great with Laughton turning in one of his finest performances. He perfectly shows his characters coward side at the start but his final speech in the courtroom was highly emotional and heartbreaking. The supporting cast is equally great and that includes Maureen O'Hara as another teacher, George Sanders as her informant boyfriend and Una O'Connor as Laughton's mother. Kent Smith nearly steals the show as a man who people thinks is supporting the Germans but instead has his own plans. I really found this film to be suspenseful and heartbreaking from start to finish. The movie never pulls any punches and even the uplifting ending isn't a cop out.
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10/10
Their are no spoilers.
idelapa14 April 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This is more than a little picture.It is about reality in the world of today.Change does not mean it is good, and usually is not good.In many places like North Korea freedom taken by communism,Indonesia torture and murder by rabid Muslims,even mutilation of children because of their hatred for Christians. The cheap politics of the nations are creeping into America and our own politicians do nothing or they even welcome it. They use slanted words to hide the truth and people are lulled to sleep or excuse their selves because they refuse to stand for what is right.But unlike the school teacher, people can call their courage in to activity against tyranny.This land is ours if you are an American.Tell the jackasses and prevaricators to get out if they do not like our Constitution and our individuality and sovereignty.GREAT Movie; far above any thing that has come out of Fairywood in many years.
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7/10
"The hungrier we get, the more we need our heroes"
ackstasis4 December 2008
WWII propaganda reached its glorious peak in 1943. You can find anything from gripping war-time thrillers like Wilder's 'Five Graves to Cairo' to preachy, predictable full-blown propaganda pieces like Dmytryk's 'Hitler's Children.' Jean Renoir did his duty, as well. When Germany invaded and occupied France in 1940, the French director fled to the United States, where he found it difficult to find film projects that suited his unique skills and interests. 'This Land is Mine (1943)' was obviously very close to Renoir's heart, for his own homeland was now under Nazi control; indeed, despite an opening title card that vaguely specifies a city "somewhere in Europe," he obviously has a French locale in mind. The film works, aside from Renoir's skills as a director, because of the level of respect shown towards the audience. It doesn't speak down to them from a podium, but rather addresses them as comrades, all men and women being equal. It's a call for action; a plea for courage. If the Germans are to be defeated, we must be willing to place everything on the line.

It's also beneficial that Renoir had a stellar cast with which to work. Maureen O'Hara is pretty and independent as a patriotic school-teacher who doesn't bother to hide her disdain towards the Germans. Her boyfriend, played by the ever-charming George Sanders, is a smarmy businessman who would rather cooperate with his enemies than feel the sear of their bullets. Walter Slezak, the captured Nazi captain in Hitchock's 'Lifeboat (1944),' plays the German commander who manipulates the oppressed French with sickly appeals to their sense of righteousness. But the film belongs to Charles Laughton. Though he himself only helmed the production of one film (a little thriller called 'The Night of the Hunter (1955)'), directors easily related to him because, unlike most of Hollywood's leading men, he was not a generically handsome and romantic lover, but a generously-proportioned man with substantially more personality than looks. Furthermore, he could play it mean, which pleased directors like Hitchcock and Wilder, or he could play it sympathetic, which more closely suited Dieterle and Renoir.

In his excellent book "The Hitchock Murders," critic Peter Conrad proposes that Charles Laughton's characters in two Alfred Hitchcock movies, 'Jamaica Inn (1939)' and 'The Paradine Case (1949),' served to symbolise the director's own unspoken thoughts and desires; Laughton, in effect, played the role that Hitchcock himself would have played had he been comfortable with any more than a brief appearance in each of his films. I can see Jean Renoir utilising Laughton in the same manner, employing him as a doppelganger of sorts. Renoir was quite used to playing important roles in his own films, but obviously his leading man in a Hollywood production had to be somebody more recognisable. Not only did he choose an actor with whom he shared a reasonable physical likeness, but his character is reminiscent in many ways of Renoir's role in 'The Rules of the Game (1939). Like Octave, Albert Lory is humble, softly-spoken and utterly lonely in love, but clearly forms the emotional backbone of the picture, for it is he with whom the audience most closely sympathises.
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6/10
Promising film descends into melodrama
timothy-j-schere30 August 2005
I'm no film expert - I'll admit at once that this is the only Renoir movie I've seen. I have a few comments to add to zetes' review, which is a good overview.

1) Laughton is excellent, as always. His performance is at times a bit broad (see below) but conveys the character beautifully. The character's development is the plot of the movie, so I won't give it away, but in other hands it might be laughable.

2) Sanders is very good in a restrained role, and O'Hara is...the same as always, very solid.

3) Walter Slezak is good in a very interesting role as the Nazi major in charge of the occupation of the nameless town. Renoir and the writer give him a history and a motivation, more than most war movies provide for the bad guys. This was very interesting to me, as a student of politics, to see this characterization of Nazism and the attractions of the National Socialist movement (which are debunked, of course, this is an anti-Nazi movie!).

4) The lovable Una O'Connor (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0640547/) plays Laughton's mother, and is a major problem for the film. Perhaps my view of her is anachronistic, but everything the woman did is funny. She has better bug-eyes than Gene Wilder, and was a terrific comic actress. She has a critical role in this film, and I find her totally unconvincing...but fun to watch anyway. When she has to express what should be moving emotions, I was laughing out loud. Such a strange casting choice in such a deadly serious movie! The movie sets up very well, with the four interesting characters (O'Connor and Kent Smith playing smaller but important roles) put into play and the themes laid out. The middle section to the critical turning point is still strong, with the above-noted exceptions. But what follows is so focused on the anti-Nazi message, and so hell-bent on stirring the US wartime audience to action, it gets much too heavy handed and (I think) implausible to enjoy purely as entertainment. As zetes mentions, the direction is lackluster, very straight-forward...at least it doesn't get in the way.

So, this is by no means a great film.

However, Laughton is great, the speech zetes refers to is great, and the movie is a very interesting historical document, in my opinion. And the weird, fun work of Una O'Connor is, as noted, fun to watch even if it is out of place in this film....even when she's sobbing on O'Hara's shoulder, she's funny.

I hope that's helpful!
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5/10
Conventional story heavy with wartime propaganda...disappointing to say the least...
Doylenf16 April 2005
With such a fine cast under direction by Jean Renoir, one would expect this patriotic piece of flag-waving propaganda to be much deeper than it is. Instead, we have a conventional story of a French schoolteacher during the Nazi occupation--as timid as Uriah Heep--who suddenly finds the courage to transform his character to become a noble speechmaker filling the courtroom and schoolroom with his lengthy lectures full of idealism and democracy and contempt for those who have taken over his land.

It's all as subtle as a sledgehammer--and there is no excuse for letting the last half-hour become a series of preachy statements that show just how dated the technique of telling this kind of story was in the '40s, when the world was facing all the evils of World War II. The attempt is a noble one, but it's a failure.

Not even CHARLES LAUGHTON can overcome the trite script which has him reciting heavy speeches to a classroom of young boys just before the Nazi soldiers take him away. MAUREEN O'HARA is given some generous close-ups that reveal her beauty, but her face is like an impassive mask with only the hint of tears to show emotion. Her character is so ill defined that it is not entirely her fault that she can do little but look concerned from the sidelines.

Impressive as the supporting cast is, they all have conventional character roles that they play with their usual skill--Kent Smith, Walter Slezak, George Sanders and Una O'Connor. O'Connor has some over- the-top scenes of maternal stress and she goes just a little too far in expressing the love she has for her son (Laughton). In fact, she overplays virtually all of her scenes with Laughton. Sanders is impressive in a part that calls for vulnerability rather than his usual sarcasm.

The trouble lies chiefly in the script by Dudley Nichols which relies too heavily on speech after speech instead of a dramatic series of events. Propaganda here is laid on with much too heavy a hand.
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8/10
The Anatomy of a Mama's Boy...
LobotomousMonk10 March 2013
He comes down the stairs to his mother's insistence, carries the cat, drinks up his milk as requested, wipes his pudgy mouth, is helped into his clothes while listening passively to his mother's diatribe of the latest gossip about town, is told to hurry up before being late for school and is kissed on the cheek and seen off. A perfect mama's boy sets up the definition for a born coward (ironic because Renoir claimed himself to be a coward). But there is a catch! The cat does not belong to "mummy". The pudgy school teacher fancies his neighbor in fact... but a love triangle will get in the way... and all with Nazi stormtroopers goose stepping through the romantic drama. How perfectly Hollywood... and totally inappropriate for Renoir (whose own romantic drama WW2 film made no direct reference to the Nazis whatsoever). The story lacks in subtlety... the 'united front' is saccharine and cheesy leaving an awful taste in the mouth. The stylistic system allowed for Renoir is no better - one-shot closeups, shot-reverse-shot suture systems, uncreative use of exteriors, tableau depth of field. The film won an Oscar for sound?!! Was it the annoying and unrealistic children's chorus as bombs drop on their heads? My niece cries when the dog barks. This Land is Mine purveys a warped sense of manifest destiny and has a real Stalinist Socialist Realist feel to it. Some will defend that a united front bound by hope and uplift was necessary at the time, but why the moral highfaluting? And why the insidious organization of its presentation? "Heroism is glamorous for children" gets an add-on later by Keller who claims "America is a charming cocktail of Irish and Jews. Spectacular but childish". The only grace that this film would have is if it tripped over its own shoelaces and fell flat on its face. Even Renoir must have recognized this as he implements a bit of directing that could not have been a mistake when in shot one of hands about to go in pockets is jump cut to shot 2 of hands firmly planted in pockets. The loss of continuity is reflective of Renoir's misplacement in the production. Or perhaps it was the producer's choice...a kind of Hollywood branding. There are a couple of exciting moments and good directing when a high angle shot frames urban rebellion in deep space which leads to traceur stunts in a parkour rooftop escape and later when said rebel executes his ultimate escape plan (reminds of Boudu). Like La Chienne, Albert (pudgy teacher) provides a speech to a courtroom. This resistance speech is a far cry from the realism of poison pen letters in Le Corbeau, but it is an understandable device for the occasion. If I were living in France in 1943 and knew of the film, I would hail This Land is Mine as wonderful support for the Allied war effort. I would be proud that it was directed by a fellow Frenchman and I would hope that it would bring France and America even closer on issues of liberty and the fight for freedom. Given that I was born in 1979, I simply expect either clever allusions and allegories or realistic blood and guts portrayals of the experience of war. Somehow the romantic drama genre placates the horrors of war in an obscene way (for this reviewer at least).
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6/10
This land is you land this land is my land
sol121827 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
***SPOILERS*** Overly talkative with almost no action WWII era film about the Nazis attempt to brainwash a local population in an unnamed French town in the glories of the Aryan race and eternal wisdom of their leader Adolph Hitler. Of course the people in town know that's all BS but have no choice but to go along with it in order to keep from being sent to the nearest Nazi concentration camp or gestapo firing squad.

It when acts of sabotage is committed against the occupying German troops that the man in charge German Army Major Eric Von Keller, Walter Slezak, takes the gloves off and threatens to takes hostages and have them shot if the sabotage continues.The person who''s behind all this is hot headed Paul Martin, Kent Smith, who despite his out front love of the German occupiers, he's alway seen partying and drinking with them, secretly hates their guts and does everything to make their stay in town as uncomfortable as possible. Including dropping a bomb on a German army military car and killing two of its occupants.

As things turn out Maj. Von Keller has a bunch of Frenchmen taken hostage and threatened to have them shot at sunrise if the killer of the two German solders doesn't give himself up.Two of those held hostage by the Germans are school teacher Albert Lory, Charles Laughton, and history and philosophy professor Sorol, Philip Merivale, who later met his end before a German firing squad. It's then that things get real interesting in that the wanted man's-Paul Martin-sexy sister Louise, Maureen O'Hera, works together with Albert as a French History teacher whom Albert is madly in love with.

As things turn out it's Albert's mom Mrs. Emma Lory, Una O'Connor, who fingers Paul as the bomber by telling Louise's fiancée train superintendent George Lambert,George Sanders, that it was Paul who snuck into the Lory home with a wounded hand after he escaped from the German Army dragnet after doing in the two German solders. Lambert the butt kissing and gutless wonder that he is in order to save his behind puts the finger on Paul,by reporting him to major Von Keller, and at the same time hoping that no one in town, especially Louise, would ever find that out!

It's when Paul is finally killed in a shootout with the Germans that Albert is released from prison which has Louise suspect that he fingered her brother in order to gain his freedom. The fact that Albert had nothing to do with Paul's death,in fact it was his concerned mom Mrs. Emma Lory who was responsible for it, made his go down to the train depot to confront George Lambert who he in fact knew was the person,after Mrs.Lory revealed that Paul was the mysterious saboteur, who fingered Louise's now dead brother Paul. As things turned out George, when forced by Major Von Keller to turn over his girlfriend Louise to the gestapo for aiding and abetting her brother Paul's escape, blew his brains out moments before and enraged Albert got to his office.

***SPOILES*** Arrested for George's murder Albert decides to for once in his cowardly life to take a stand and not only takes responsibility for George's murder,in killing him in his mind not in real life, and let the chips fall where they may; Which is a volley of bullets from a German firing squad. The movie gets a bit ridicules with Albert getting all the time he needed to make a fool of not only the Germans but their French collaborators as well with the German soldiers and authorities at his trial doing nothing to stop him acting as if their brain dead or suffering from the advanced stages of Alzheimer's Disease. With Albert going on endlessly on the stand with how the townspeople should stand up for their rights and that George did the right thing in blowing his brains out was so surreal and unbelievable, in that not one of the Germans attending his trial bothered to stop him from talking, that it just destroyed every point he tried to make in his long winded speech. One of those points was that he was not allowed freedom of speech that he claimed the German authorities took away from him and his fellow Frenchmen and women.

****MAJOR SPOILER***The ending was a bit bizarre in that Albert was found innocent of murdering George yet is arrested and possibly shot, off camera, for moments later reading to his students the Bill or Right and US Constitution! And even more bizarre after Albert is taken away Louise picks up where he left off, reading to her student class, within earshot of the German soldiers and gestapo the very same thing without being arrested and put before a firing squad!

P.S Both Charles Laughton and Maureen O'Hara were united in "This Land is Mine" some four years after they starred together in "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" where they played very similar parts. The homely non attractive and deformed hunchback guy-Charles Laughton-in love with the beautiful hot blooded and sexy gypsy girl-Maureen O'Hara.
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