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4-H Promotion Compendium: Glenn McCarthy Productions films The Green Promise

A National Compendium of 4-H Promotion and Visibility over the Past Century

Glenn McCarthy Productions films The Green Promise

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"The Green Promise," was co-produced by wealthy Houston oilman Glenn McCarthy and leading man Robert Paige in 1948 to display the concept and meaning of the 4-H Club and highlight farming issues such as soil erosion, government programs, and individual enterprise. Goldwyn Studios in Hollywood helped to produce some of the footage. The film was the first independent project selected for distribution by entrepreneur Howard Hughes' new R-K-O Radio Pictures.

This was Glenn McCarthy Productions' initial film, the idea selected as a way to bring the world a picture of the real America, of the true greatness of this country and of the nature and character of the people who made it great. The Green Promise is a saga of America's youth, a story of the great 4-H organization which has done so much toward making this country the most powerful among the nations of the earth.

The film featured child stars Natalie Wood and Bobby Ellis, along with Marguerite Chapman, Walter Brennan, Robert Paige, Milburn Stone and Jeanne LaDuke (a 10-year-old 4-H girl from Mount Vernon, Indiana). The title refers to a scene where the local preacher gives a sermon on a story from the Book of Exodus of God's "green promise" to lead Moses into a land of milk and honey. The preacher reminds his congregation that the fulfillment of the promise requires faith, difficult journeys and open-mindedness. Jeanne LaDuke was chosen through a national 4-H contest and was selected from 12,000 4-H youngsters to play a featured role in the picture. Although only 10 years old, in addition to having acting talents, Jeanne had already established herself as one of the finest cooks in all Indiana. Baking was her particular project and she was the winner of the drop biscuit contest.

The Green Promise tells the story of a farmer, Matthews (played by 3-time Academy Awards winner Walter Brennan), his son and three daughters. Leaving behind a failing farm, the family travels to pastures new. Help is proffered by county Extension agent, David Barkley, who is immediately attracted to Matthew's eldest daughter, Deborah. Needing Deborah to run his house, and fearing David may take her away, Matthews refuses David's advice and help. He is pig-headed and sleeps through the pastor's sermon on education, understanding and tolerance.

It is Susan's (Matthew's youngest daughter, played by Natalie Wood) yearning ambition to raise lambs. Though only 10 years old, she joins the 4-H Club, secures a loan from the bank and buys two lambs. She cares for them like she is a mother. Barkley strongly advises Matthews against chopping down the forest atop a hill on his land. Matthews goes ahead and sells the land to a logging company. The forest gone, a great storm comes and washes the mud down the incline towards the homestead. Fearful for her beloved lambs, Susan braves the dangerous conditions to rescue the lambs. David returns and rescues both Susan and the lambs. Deborah is atop the hill trying to move rocks in order to build a dam to save their home from the torrent of water. David arrives and pulls her back just as the land falls away. Realizing how close to harm his daughters have come because of his ignorance and selfishness, Matthews apologizes to his family and welcomes David into their home. The community of 4-H members arrive to help them clean up the land following the storm damage.

The Green Promise had its' world premiere at the final banquet of the National 4-H Congress in Chicago on December 2, 1948 and was released on March 22, 1949. Producer Glenn McCarthy, and child stars Jeanne LaDuke and Bobby Ellis were all present. Bobby Ellis appeared in a number of films during the late 1940s and 1950s but perhaps is best known in the role of Henry Aldrich in The Aldrich Family television series.

The film is in the public domain and is offered in DVD format.



Compiled by National 4-H History Preservation Team.

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