Cat no. 164

The Harvest Shall Come

Running time33:17 Black & White Sound 1942 Suffolk

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The working and living conditions of farm workers.



The titles of the film are shown over scenes of corn being stacked.

In the opening scene, set in 1900, Tom is shown leaving a tumble-down cottage, trunk on back, to look for his first job. The commentary points out that conditions were better than when his father did the same thing in 1870. He is interviewed by the farmer's wife in the kitchen. He learns ploughing and how to use various horse drawn implements as well as a scythe and a bill hook. The commentary describes the farm labourer as the lowest paid, worst-housed worker in the community. At 21, Tom changes job. He receives a 'full man's wage' of 14/ a week. As he wishes to marry, he is given a tied cottage. The cottage is dilapidated with plaster falling off the ceiling, but Tom and his fiancee realise that nowhere else in the district will be any better. The tied cottage proves to be aptly named.

Some years later, Tom is seen with his wife and three small children. His wife complains about conditions in the cottage, for example, they have no sink. The scene shifts to the First World War and the German U-boat campaign. With the new emphasis on the importance of food production, farm workers are able to form a union and gain a pay rise. After the war the farmers and workers have a meal in the barn and a politician gives a speech that promises better times for farm workers. Two years later and at a meeting of farmers and farm workers it is clear that promises haven't been kept. The Corn Production Act has been repealed and the price of wheat has fallen to 30/ a sack. The meeting can reach no agreement on wage levels and in the next scene Tom is seen collecting a wage of 30/ - he had been expecting 43/. Tom tries to hand in his notice but is told that he will be expected to leave his cottage by 'Saturday week.' He realises that this isn't possible. At home he gives his wife the reduced wage. Conversation is about how they will pay the instalments on the carpet and for their children's' schooling.

General comment shows imported corn leading to a decline in agriculture; scenes show farms for sale, neglected fields, cottages fallen down and machinery rusting in the fields. Improvements in general living standards and schooling are mentioned, as well as the establishment of the national grid. In the next scene Tom is digging ditches on the side of the road 'on relief' having been 'stood off'. He meets an old colleague from the farm who left when wages were cut and went to the town. His friend is doing well, riding a motorbike, but recognises that many aren't. Back at his cottage, Tom's son explains that he is giving up farm work to look for a job in the town. Commentary points out the drift from the land to the town during the 1920s and 1930s and describes various government schemes to improve matters. However, farm workers did not get the dole until 1936.

In 1939, war breaks out again. Now it is necessary to reclaim as much land as possible. Tom is seen ploughing, using a tractor-drawn plough, and receiving his wartime wages. Tom is able to give his wife extra housekeeping and still have money to go to the pub. However, he calculates that beer and tobacco have doubled in price. A threshing scene is shown. Tom returns to his cottage and changes into his Home Guard uniform. The radio news announces that farm workers' wages are to rise to 60 shillings a week, together with comments on the responsibility of government to look after the farm worker. "They said all that in the last War" comments Tom's wife. The speech continues with sentiments about the need to support world agriculture over scenes of world farming. Tom, in uniform, throws his rifle over his shoulder and leaves.

Background Information:

Most of the film was shot on Hill House Farm, Needham Market. In 1942, this was owned by William Hunt. The scene of young Tom knocking on the farmers' door at the beginning of the film was shot at Badley Hall. The council houses filmed during the road building scenes were at Willesham. Many local people worked as extras on the film. In May, 1942, `Documentary News Letter' credited `The Harvest Shall Come as' the first genuine story film made with the documentary purpose and with the documentary method. The film has all been photographed on location. Even the cottage interiors were shot in the village. The film marks the emergence of one of the best documentary makers for many years - Max Anderson - and of the actors it should be said that John Slater .. is an outstanding interpreter of working class character. Writing in 1943, Arthur Elton, of the films division of the MOI, called `The Harvest Shall Come' one of the best documentary films that has been produced.

Featured Organisations:

The Home Guard

Featured Buildings:

Badley Hall


Max Anderson

Basil Wright

A.E. Jenkins

H.W. Freeman

Edmund Willard; Bruce Belfrage

William Alwyn


Ernest Borrow Squire
Richard George Farmer
John Slater Tom Grimwood
Victor Woolf Bill
Eileen Belden Lil
Maurice Taylor Young Tom

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