Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Good Earth (1937)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Good Earth (1937)

In Sidney Franklin's dramatic epic - an adaptation of Pearl S. Buck's famous novel published in 1931:

  • the arranged-marriage wedding day scene of self-sacrificing O-Lan (Luise Rainer), a kitchen slave sold from the "Great House"; to young peasant famer-bridegroom Wang Lung (Paul Muni), who was told: "She has a strong body, and will work well for you in your house and your fields. Take her and use her well! O-Lan, obey him! And bring him many sons. Bring the first son for me to see. Well, go, go, go!"; outside the palace, he had his first look at O-Lan and was dismayed by her crouched posture
  • as they were waking down a pathway together, she knelt down and picked up a discarded peach pit and said to her newly-wed young peasant farmer-husband Wang Lung (Paul Muni): "A tree will grow from this seed" - and later, she planted the seed that grew into a flowering peach tree; he looked at her in disbelief
  • the sequences of severe drought and famine, forcing O-Lan and Wang Lung to relocate to the city, after O-Lan had wisely insisted that he not sell their land: "No ! Not the land. We'll not sell the land. We'll keep it. We'll go south and when we return, we'll still have the land"
  • the terrifying revolutionary mob scene (filmed with 100s of extras) in which the palace "Great House" (of the powerful local rulers) was ransacked/looted and pregnant O-Lan was knocked down and trampled, and her stomach was stepped on during the mad rush (causing a miscarriage)
Discovery of Bag of Jewels - Fearful of Death
  • after she gained consciousness, O-Lan discovered a discarded bag of jewels, but her joy was short-lived; she fearfully realized that it would endanger her life when she saw a firing squad freely executing others who were suspected looters; fortuitously, she was saved from certain death when the regiment of soldiers was ordered to leave ("Prepare to march"); the jewels allowed her family to return to their land and become very prosperous ("Look! We can go back, we can go back to the land!") - she kept only two pearls for herself ("If I could have 2, only 2 small ones, 2 white ones... I wouldn't wear them, I'm much too plain-Iooking...But I could hold them in my hands, sometimes"
  • the scenes of straying husband Wang Lung entranced by seductive and pretty young tea house dancer Lotus (Tilly Losch) - he married her (she became his second wife) and gave her O-Lan's two pearls
  • the amazing, brilliantly-photographed battle against the locust plague and invasion devastating the crops and farms, when there was a buzzing, marauding locust attack on the land recreated with special effects, accompanied by the frantic efforts of poverty-stricken farmers to save their lands
  • the exhausted O'Lan's poignant deathbed scene in the film's ending when husband Wang Lung came upon the deathbed of his selfless and ailing first wife O-Lan; from a pouch, he returned the two pearls to her; he affirmed that she was always the one: ("But now I know that you are the one, and the best a man can have"); he was sorrowful about her coming death: ("This I cannot bear. I'd sell all my land if I could heal you...I beg you. Stay here with me"), but she told him: "I cannot. Forgive me" (she closed her eyes, and her head went limp on the pillow) - and as she died, the two pearls rolled from her outstretched hand and rolled onto the bed
O-Lan's Death
Pearls Rolled From Her Outstretched Hand
Wang-Lung: "O-Lan, you are the earth"
  • in the conclusion, Wang quietly walked outside to an adjacent, flowering peach tree planted by O-Lan on their wedding day; as he grasped two limbs, he spoke in a reverential tone as the film ended with a final fade-out - his words next to the peach tree outside were: "O-Lan, you are the earth"

O-Lan to Wang Lung: "A tree will grow from this seed"

Pregnant O-Lan Stepped On During Mob Scene

The Seductive Lotus

Locust Plague

Final Scene


Greatest Scenes: Intro | What Makes a Great Scene? | Scenes: Quiz
Scenes: Film Titles A - H | Scenes: Film Titles I - R | Scenes: Film Titles S - Z