Farmer Takes a Wife, The (1935): Victor Fleming’s Comedy of Manners, Starring Henry Fonda (in screen debut) and Oscar Winner Janet Gaynor

Victor Fleming directed The Farmer Takes a Wife, a mildly entertaining comedy of manners, starring Janet Gaynor, Henry Fonda (in his screen debut) and Charles Bickford.

Edwin J. Burke’s script is based on the 1934 Broadway play “The Farmer Takes a Wife” by Marc Connelly and Frank B. Elser, with Fonda reprising his stage role as the farmer.

The film was released on August 2, 1935, by Fox Film Corporation.

The Farmer Takes a Wife
The Farmer Takes a Wife (1935 film) poster.jpg

Theatrical release poster

Dan Harrow goes to work as a driver for Samson Weaver on the Erie Canal, but his goal is to buy a farm and settle down, though his father was a canal man. His ambition and distaste for fighting puzzle Molly Larkins, the girlfriend and cook of Jotham Klore.

When Samson wins $5000 in a lottery, he gives Dan half share of his boat. This prompts Dan to propose, but Molly wants to stay on the Erie Canal, not live on a farm.  Thus, she goes working for him, much to Jotham’s displeasure.

Molly is ashamed of him, thinking he is a coward, but he declares his goal to go to Utica to purchase a farm. He departs for his new farm, leaving his share of the boat to Molly and warning her that the Erie Canal’s prosperity is over, as the railroads move in.

Molly is miserable, but refuses to admit it. She tells her friend Fortune Friendly that she might have gotten used to being a farmer’s wife, but she could never marry a coward.

Fortune then goes to see Dan. He lies and tells Dan that Molly is being shunned and insulted for having worked for a coward. Dan decides to have it out with Jotham. Molly then tries to prevent the fight, but without success.

When Dan beats Jotham, Molly tells him he is the new champion of the Canal and that he should stay, but he gives up on her, and heads home.

In the end, however, she follows him to his place.

Gaynor is really too nice a person to be playing bad girls like Molly Larkins.

Janet Gaynor as Molly Larkins
Henry Fonda as Dan Harrow
Charles Bickford as Jotham Klore
Slim Summerville as Fortune Friendly
Andy Devine as Elmer Otway
Roger Imhof as Samson ‘Sam’ Weaver
Jane Withers as Della
Margaret Hamilton as Lucy Gurget
Sig Ruman as Blacksmith
John Qualen as Sol Tinker
Kitty Kelly as Ivy
Robert Gleckler as Fisher


Directed by Victor Fleming
Produced by Winfield R. Sheehan
Screenplay by Edwin J. Burke, Marc Connelly, Frank B. Elser, based on The Farmer Takes a Wife by Marc Connelly and Frank B. Elser
Music by Cyril J. Mockridge
Cinematography Ernest Palmer
Edited by Harold D. Schuster

Production company: Fox Film Corporation

Distributed by Fox Film Corporation

Release date: August 2, 1935