The Trail of the Lonesome Pine
In 1936 producer Walter Wanger and director Henry Hathaway struck box-office gold by taking the newly perfected Technicolor process outdoors for the first time, adapting John Fox Jr.’s 1908 novel about a railroad company caught in the crossfire of a hillbilly blood feud. California’s Big Bear Lake stood in for Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains to stunning visual effect, and Hathaway made sure the scenery didn’t upstage the story by coaxing his stars to the top of their games: Sylvia Sidney as a barefoot mountain lass; Fred MacMurray as the railroad representative; and, in the role that put him on the Hollywood map, Henry Fonda as a jealous local boy. Hathaway got fine work, too, from Fred Stone and Robert Barrat as the feuding patriarchs and 6-year-old George “Spanky” McFarland in a rare dramatic role. It’s authentic Americana and a too-long-neglected classic.