This Land is Mine
Charles Laughton is a quiet mama’s boy, a school teacher in occupied France (well, it says “somewhere in Europe,” I don’t know why, but it’s obviously France). He don’t get no respect, not even from his students and frankly, he doesn’t really seem to deserve it. But when the chips are down, when the Resistance begins hitting at the Nazis, he turns out to have more spine that most of his fellow villagers. Laughton liked to make films where he could make moral speeches near the end, I’ve seen several that followed this pattern, and he was damn good at it. This is one of his best, he has two speeches, one in court, and one to his students reading from The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen just before he’s marched away to be shot. The film is blatant propaganda, but I see nothing wrong with that, in a good cause. It was directed by the great Jean Renoir, son of the painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and co-stars Maureen O’Hara, George Sanders, and a great performance as a suave Nazi by Walter Slezak, who played a lot of bad guys during and after the war. It’s a great film.