Gone to Earth

UK-USA 1950, 111 mins
Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger

In 1950, austerity and rationing still prevailed in Britain, but the Archers – Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger – chose to continue their series of post-war Technicolor melodramas (following Black Narcissus, 1947, and The Red Shoes, 1948) with an adaptation of Mary Webb’s Thomas Hardy-esque novel of 1917, Gone to Earth.

Under a co-production agreement between Alexander Korda (London Films) and David O. Selznick, sultry Hollywood star Jennifer Jones played heroine Hazel Woodus. The conflict for Hazel emerges when her husband and Baptist minister Edward Marston (Cyril Cusack) fails to consummate their marriage, and she is relentlessly pursued by the rich squire and hunter Jack Reddin (David Farrar).

This tragic story articulates the dilemma of female autonomy trapped between conflicting male desires of love and lust. Shropshire writer Webb wrote, ‘They did not live her life. She had to live theirs,’ but ultimately, ‘She wanted neither. Her passion, no less intense, was for freedom.’

As a motherless, half-gypsy girl, Hazel’s wildness and freedom are expressed through her close affiliation to her pet fox and to the wild landscape of the Welsh/Shropshire borders, the film’s main location. This landscape ‘with its abrupt change from civilisation to savagery’ (Powell) is captured by Christopher Challis’s powerful cinematography and contributes significantly to the film’s thematic and visual impact.

But Hazel’s rebellion is finally steeped in blood and suffering. Designer Hein Heckroth’s use of reds for Hazel’s costumes hint at her final doom, while Brian Easdale eloquently scored this fate in his music.

As the film neared completion, the British Field Sports Society took objection to its perceived anti blood-sports stance and members were advised not to lend hunting packs to the production company. Powell appealed for help in The Times (October 1949) and a Cardiganshire farmer finally lent his own hounds to finish the shoot.

In 1950, Selznick attempted to sue Korda’s company for not keeping to the spirit of Webb’s novel, but was overruled in court. Consequently, London Films was given the British rights to the film, while Selznick retained the American rights. Selznick later hired Hollywood director Rouben Mamoulian to re-edit the film, which was released in the USA as The Wild Heart.
Trish Sheil, BFI Screenonline

Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Production Companies: London Film Productions, British Lion Film Corporation, Vanguard Films
Production Company: British Lion Production Assets Limited *
A Presentation by: Alexander Korda, David O. Selznick
Producers: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Assistant Producer: George R. Busby
Assistant Director: Sydney S. Streeter
Screenplay: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Adapted from the novel by: Mary Webb
Photographed by: Christopher Challis
Technicolor Consultant: Joan Bridge
Process Shots: W. Percy Day
Camera Operator: Frederick Francis
Chief Electrician: W. Wall
Special Portraits: Fred Daniels *
Editor: Reginald Mills
Production Designer: Hein Heckroth
Art Director: Arthur Lawson
Assistant Designer: Ivor Beddoes
Hairdresser: Betty Cross *
Assistant Hairdresser: Eileen Bates *
Music Composed/Conducted by: Brian Easdale
With the: Boyd Neel Orchestra
Sound Recording: Charles Poulton, John Cox
Animals Supplied by: Captain C.W.R. Knight
Animals Trained by: Jean Knight

Jennifer Jones (Hazel Woodus)
David Farrar (Jack Reddin)
Cyril Cusack (Edward Marston)
Esmond Knight (Abel Woodus)
Sybil Thorndike (Mrs Marston)
Hugh Griffith (Andrew Vessons)
Edward Chapman (Mr James)
Beatrice Varley (Aunt Prowde)
George Cole (Albert)
Frances Clare (Miss Amelia Clomber)
Valentine Dunn (Martha)
Richmond Nairne (Martha’s brother)
Owen Holder (Brother Minister)
Raymond Rollett, Bartlett Mullins, Arthur Reynolds, Gerald Lawson (chapel elders)
Anne Tetheradge (Miss James, Mr James’s daughter)
Peter Dunlop (cornet player)
Gerald Lawson (roadmender)
Louis Phillips (country policeman)
Raymond Rollett (Hunter’s Arms landlord)

UK-USA 1950
111 mins
35mm – A BFI National Archive print


Rynox + Hotel Splendide
Mon 16 Oct 18:10; Fri 10 Nov 18:10
A Matter of Life and Death
Mon 16 Oct 20:45 (+ intro by Thelma Schoonmaker and Kevin Macdonald); Sun 29 Oct 12:10; Sat 4 Nov 15:00; Tue 7 Nov 18:10 (+ intro by academic Lucy Bolton); Sun 19 Nov 18:30
Farewell (Abschied)
Tue 17 Oct 18:40 (+ intro by filmmaker Kevin Macdonald); Wed 1 Nov 20:40
His Lordship
Tue 17 Oct 20:50; Sat 4 Nov 12:20
The Fire Raisers
Wed 18 Oct 18:40; Sat 11 Nov 12:30
Black Narcissus
Wed 18 Oct 20:50; Sun 22 Oct 18:30; Wed 8 Nov 18:15; Sun 12 Nov 18:50; Thu 16 Nov 20:50; Sat 18 Nov 20:50; Mon 20 Nov 20:45 (+ intro by author Mahesh Rao)
The Edge of the World + Return to the Edge of the World
Fri 20 Oct 18:20; Wed 8 Nov 20:30; Wed 15 Nov 20:50
The Thief of Bagdad: An Arabian Fantasy in Technicolor (aka The Thief of Bagdad)
Fri 20 Oct 20:30; Tue 24 Oct 14:40; Sat 28 Oct 15:00; Sun 26 Nov 12:00
The Spy in Black + Smith
Sat 21 Oct 15:30; Sun 29 Oct 15:30 (+ intro by Bryony Dixon, BFI National Archive Curator)
The Boy Who Turned Yellow + Heavenly Puss
Sun 22 Oct 12:00
49th Parallel
Sun 22 Oct 12:20; Mon 6 Nov 20:30
One of Our Aircraft Is Missing!
Sun 22 Oct 15:10; Tue 31 Oct 20:40 (+ intro by film historian Ian Christie)
Mon 23 Oct 17:50 (+ intro by Miranda Gower-Qian, BFI Inclusion Lead); Mon 30 Oct 20:30
Red Ensign + The Night of the Party
Tue 24 Oct 20:30; Sun 5 Nov 14:40
A Canterbury Tale
Wed 25 Oct 20:20 (+ intro by academic Thirza Wakefield); Sat 11 Nov 14:50; Fri 24 Nov 20:35
Library Talk: The interior life of an archive: an evening with the Michael Powell Collection
Mon 27 Nov 18:00
The Elusive Pimpernel
Sat 28 Oct 12:20; Mon 13 Nov 18:00 (+ intro by Bryony Dixon, BFI National Archive Curator)
Gone to Earth
Sat 28 Oct 18:20; Wed 22 Nov 20:45; Sat 25 Nov 17:50
Silent Cinema: The Magician + The Riviera Revels + intro by Bryony Dixon, BFI National Archive Curator
Sun 29 Oct 15:00
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
Sun 29 Oct 17:20 (+ intro by Kevin and Andrew Macdonald); Sun 5 Nov 17:45; Thu 23 Nov 17:45; Sun 26 Nov 14:00 (+ pre-recorded intro by Stephen Fry)
Paths to Partnership: Powell + Pressburger before The Archers
Tue 31 Oct 18:30
Projecting the Archive: The Queen’s Guards + intro by Josephine Botting, BFI National Archive Curator
Thu 2 Nov 18:20
Twice upon a Time
Mon 6 Nov 18:10 + extended intro by James Bell, BFI National Archive Senior Curator
Talk: Philosophical Screens: A Matter of Life and Death
Tue 7 Nov 20:20
Talk: Centre Stage: The Leading Women of Powell + Pressburger
Thu 16 Nov 18:20
Ill Met by Moonlight
Fri 17 Nov 20:40; Sat 25 Nov 12:40
The Battle of the River Plate
Sat 18 Nov 18:20; Mon 27 Nov 20:30
Behold a Pale Horse
Sun 19 Nov 11:50 Wed 22 Nov 17:50
The Wild Heart
Sun 19 Nov 15:10
Miracle in Soho
Mon 20 Nov 18:10; Sun 26 Nov 18:30

Course: The Magic of Powell + Pressburger
Wed 25 Oct to Wed 22 Nov 18:30

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