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The Yearling

The Yearling on DVD

By Johnny Bray

Before I begin, I should mention that my dislike for this movie does not come because it’s a bad movie. It comes because I’m a lover of modern films, and I often have a hard time watching older movies, especially slow-moving tearjerkers like The Yearling. (Editor's note: at least he's honest!)

Jody (Claude Jarman, Jr., who won a special Oscar for his performance) lives in 1870s Florida with his parents (Gregory Peck & Jane Wyman), hunting and fishing and planting and telling stories. Jody is a lonely boy whose best friend is an orphaned fawn named Flag, and the two are inseparable wherever they go.

The Yearling is a renowned film that, while it may not be as highly regarded as Casablanca or Gone With the Wind, many people mention as one of their all-time favorites. The locations and photography are stunning, and it’s the kind of heartwarming story that educates as well as entertains.

Unfortunately, the movie never struck gold with me. I found it very slow and difficult to pay attention for long periods of time. But then, I’m part of the MTV generation, and we apparently have much shorter attention spans. The Yearling has a second half that is considerably more interesting, though in some ways it reminded me too much of Old Yeller. You can bet, though, that it will bring a lot of people to tears on more than one occasion.

I’m not denying the movie’s greatness, or even saying it’s bad in any way: quite the contrary. I’m sure it’s a classic in the same league as other great older films we have a soft spot for. But personally I just found it too uninteresting to be entertaining. (Ed: what, no laser battles or sex?) Maybe if I had seen it when I was younger I would have appreciated it more.

If you’re already a fan of this movie, or other similar films (like the aforementioned Old Yeller), you don’t need to be told to pick it up.

Like many classic movies coming to DVD, The Yearling is surprisingly impressive in terms of quality. The picture is absolutely stunning, and the sound is fine for what it is.

Though presented in 1.33:1 full screen, the picture quality is amazing; especially considering the movie is over 50 years old. It’s perfectly crisp, with very little grain or softness present at any point. Some scenes don’t look quite as good, but I assume that’s due to the original print, and not the fault of the DVD producers.

What can you say about the sound? It’s a mono track, and sounds it.

Special features include a 1946 Tom and Jerry cartoon, a “Jody’s World” adventure, and some awards.

The Yearling, from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
128 minutes, full screen (1.33:1), Dolby Digital mono
Starring Gregory Peck, Jane Wyman and Claude Jarman, Jr.
Produced by Sidney Franklin
Screenplay by Paul Osborn
Directed by Clarence Brown

 

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Updated May 13, 2006