The Yearling. 1946. USA. Directed by Clarence Brown. 135 min.
Screenplay by Paul Osborn, based on the novel by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. With Gregory Peck, Jane Wyman, Claude Jarman, Jr., Chill Wills. Told with extraordinary sensitivity, depth, and visual beauty, The Yearling brings to the screen Rawling’s Pulitzer–winning tale about a boy and his beloved pet fawn in late 1800s Florida scrub country. Director Clarence Brown comes by his emotions honestly, coaxing understated yet moving performances from Peck, Wyman and an astonishingly self-assured 10-year-old Jarman, Jr. The film’s theme of innocence and experience—and its sense of enchantment, even mysticism, in a harsh and unforgiving landscape—is exquisitely evoked in the film’s cinematography (Charles Rosher, Leonard Smith, Arthur Arling) and art direction (Cedric Gibbons, Paul Groesse, Edwin B. Willis), both of which garnered Academy Awards. The great Charles Rosher, who began his career in the silent era as Mary Pickford’s favorite cameraman (and also shot F. W. Murnau’s Sunrise with Karl Freund), figures prominently in this exhibition as one of Technicolor’s premier artists; he made of The Yearling a study in chromatic contrasts of vibrant yellow and red (life) and cool blue (death), while also embracing Clarence Brown’s instinct to photograph the actors’ faces naturalistically, without makeup. 35mm print from George Eastman House; courtesy Warner Bros.