|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 including Judge Priest's defusing of the mob determined to lynch U.S. Grant Woodford (played by the young black actor, Elzie Emanuel), with Stepin Fetchit playing the part of Judge Priest's assistant. 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".
In court, Judge Billy Priest, who is a candidate for reelection to his post, adjudicates a number of cases, including finding a job for "Uncle Plez" Woodford's idle nephew, U. S. Grant Woodford. 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, a prostitute recently returned to town. Meanwhile, the daughter of Rufe Ramsuer is assaulted and young Woodford is blamed and arrested, causing racial tensions to rise and a large lynch mob to form. Violence seems imminent until Judge Priest confronts the mob at the jail house and defuses the confrontation with an eloquent and brilliant argument. Later, Rufe's daughter points to Buck as being her true attacker.
It is election day. Those in the lynch mob realize that Judge Priest has saved them from themselves, and they vote for him en masse, producing a tie with the other candidate, Horace K. Maydew (played by Milburn Stone). It is pointed out to the judge 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.