|The Sun Shines Bright|
|Directed by||John Ford|
|Produced by||Merian C. Cooper
|Written by||Laurence Stallings
Irvin S. Cobb
|Music by||Victor Young|
|Edited by||Jack Murray|
|Distributed by||Republic Pictures|
|U.S. theatrical cut:
The Sun Shines Bright is a 1953 American drama film directed by John Ford, based on material taken from a series of Irvin S. Cobb stories. Ford had adapted some of the same material in 1934 in his film Judge Priest. That film originally had a scene depicting the lynching of Stepin Fetchit's character (and Priest's condemnation of the act), but it was cut by 20th Century Fox. The omission was one of the reasons Ford loosely reshaped the Cobb stories two decades later as The Sun Shines Bright for Republic Pictures, this time keeping the lynching scene (and Fetchit in a supporting role). Ford often cited The Sun Shines Bright as his favorite among all his films, and in later years, it was championed by critics such as Jonathan Rosenbaum and Dave Kehr, who called it "a masterpiece".
Ashby Corwin returns to his native Kentucky on a steamboat. He encounters young Lucy Lee, ward of Dr. Lake, and is struck by her beauty.
In court, Judge Billy Priest, who is a candidate for reelection to his post, adjudicates a number of cases, as well as finding a new job for "You Ess" Woodford in a tobacco field. Ashby learns that while old General Fairfield is said to be the grandfather of Lucy, he denies it. On the street, after Lucy is the subject of insults by Buck Ramsey about her true heritage, Ashby gets into a whip fight with Buck before the judge comes by and puts a stop to it.
Lucy eventually discovers who her real mother is. Meanwhile, the daughter of Rufe Ramsuer is assaulted and Woodford is blamed and arrested, causing racial tensions to rise with a lynch mob ready to form. Violence seems imminent until Rufe's daughter points to Buck as being her true attacker.
It is election day and some of those from the lynch mob have voted against Judge Priest, who discovers that the result is tied. It is pointed out to him that he hasn't yet remembered to cast a ballot himself, so he wins reelection by a single vote, his own.
Herbert J. Yates, the head of Republic Pictures, had about ten minutes cut from the film against Ford's wishes. According to film historian Joseph McBride, the full 100 minute version (which did play theatrically overseas) was rediscovered when Republic inadvertently used it as a master for the 1990 videotape release. This full version is currently available from Olive Films on their high-definition Blu-ray release.
Will Rogers stars in John Ford's 1934 portrait of life in a small town in the old south, one of the most deeply felt visions of community in the American cinema. Ford's later partial remake, The Sun Shines Bright, is a masterpiece, but the accomplishments of this version are impressive enough.
In what appears to be a violation of Argosy's contract with Republic--which guaranteed Ford final cut in the United States unless scenes had to be omitted for censorship reasons--Yates cut ten minutes from The Sun Shines Bright before its domestic release.