The Film, “Intruder in the Dust” Succeeds

Intruder in the Dust (1949 film)
Intruder in the Dust (1949 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A brave old lady (Elizabeth Patterson) initiates the digging up of a dead body after nightfall to see what kind of bullet was used to kill the person.  The boys who assist her are brave too.  What prompts this action—a plot device in Clarence Brown‘s Intruder in the Dust (1949)—is the swift arrest of a black man, Lucas Beauchamp (Juano Hernandez), for the murder of a white man.

The film, based on a William Faulkner novel, is set in the South and was shot in Faulkner’s home town of Oxford, Mississippi.  A finely directed piece, it concerns the perennial struggle for the rule of law, for just procedures for every accused individual (a lesson needed in today’s America).  Lucas has a friendly relationship with a white boy called Chick (Claude Jarman, Jr.) and, in fact, with money, for he is a well-off farmer in a slowly changing America.  But the townspeople disdain his pride, and desire a lynching, and yet scriptwriter Ben Maddow does supply a few essentially good people.  In the case of the murdered man’s father (a strong Porter Hall), this seems to be due to the gent’s having been seasoned by harsh life—the very thing Faulkner never ignored.

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