God’s Little Acre: Anthony Mann’s Version of Erskine Caldwell’s Controversial Novel, Starring Robert Ryan

Anthony Mann directed God’s Little Acre, a serio comedy based on Erskine Caldwell’s 1933 novel of the same name.

Though as controversial as the novel, the movie was not subjected to prosecution for obscenity, due to its dealing with issue of marital fidelity. The movie also portrayed a popular uprising, a workers’ insurrection in the South by laid-off millworkers trying to gain control of the factory equipment on which their jobs depended.

Robert Ryan plays widower Ty Ty Walden (Robert Ryan), who raises two daughters, Rosamund and Darlin’ Jill, in the backwoods of Georgia during the Great Depression. He also has three sons: Jim, Shaw, and Buck.

While Ty Ty searches for gold on his farm, his son-in-law Will (Aldo Ray) cheats on his wife Rosamund (Helen Westcott) with Buck’s wife, Griselda (Tina Louise). Ty Ty has been digging for gold on his land for 15 years, searching for the treasure his grandfather left him.

Pluto Swint (Buddy Hackett) arrives to announce he’s running for sheriff. Swint is invited to come around back where Darlin’ Jill (Fay Spain) is taking a bath in an outdoor bathtub positioned near a handpump and spigot. She asks him to pump some more water.

In the end, Ty Ty finds the blade of an old shovel, wondering whether the gold might lie in that spot. As he begins digging again, the camera moves to the marker for God’s Little Acre.

Philip Yordan was credited for the screenplay, but Ben Maddow wrote it. Since Maddow was blacklisted for his suspected but unproven Communist, activities during the 1950s Red Scare, working without credit was the only way for him to function.

The film was restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive under the supervision Robert Gitt. who restored Maddow’s name,


Robert Ryan as Ty Ty Walden, a widower
Aldo Ray as Will Thompson
Buddy Hackett as Pluto Swint
Jack Lord as Buck Walden
Fay Spain as Darlin’ Jill Walden, Ty Ty’s daughter
Vic Morrow as Shaw Walden


Directed by Anthony Mann
Produced by Sidney Harmon
Screenplay by Philip Yordan (front for Ben Maddow), based on the novel by Erskine Caldwell

Music by Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography:Ernest Haller
Edited by Richard C. Meyer
Production company: Security Pictures
Distributed by United Artists
Release date: August 13, 1958
Running time: 118 minutes


TCM showed the movie on June 16, 2020.