Full of good performances & boasting excellent production values courtesy of Paramount Studios, this fine drama brings to its viewers a not-so-subtle message of peace & tolerance. The vividly depicted consequences of mindless, violent behavior give the film a real punch.
The film's romantic triangle consists of barefoot mountain lass Sylvia Sidney, her decent, uncomplicated cousin Henry Fonda, and mining executive Fred MacMurray, who, as a newcomer to the backwoods, rebels against the traditions of violence & revenge he finds there. All three deliver compelling performances, with a slight advantage going to the gentlemen, as their roles do not require as much shrill, fickle behavior as does Miss Sidney's.
The marvelous character actress Beulah Bondi appears as Miss Sidney's mother, one of the first in a decades-long line of stubborn, proud old women she would play; her eyes tell of the world of trouble her character has seen on the mountain. Cuddly Nigel Bruce is MacMurray's associate - gruff & grumbly, but with a heart of gold.
Special mention should be made of seven-year-old Spanky McFarland, who plays Miss Sidney's little brother. Already the star of numerous OUR GANG comedies, the tiny tyke here displays the talent that placed him in the front rank of child movie stars. Precocious & poignant, Spanky's character is quite unforgettable.
Fred Stone & Robert Barrat play the heads of the two feuding clans, one gentle - the other fierce. Movie mavens will recognize Clara Blandick as a frightened landlady and Samuel S. Hinds as the Gaptown sheriff.
The film is stitched together by the evocative, nostalgic singing of Fuzzy Knight, who introduces Twilight On The Trail' & A Melody From The Sky,' (both by Louis Alter and Sidney D. Mitchell). The tune for the chorus of The Trail Of The Lonesome Pine,' by Ballard MacDonald & Harry Carroll, can be briefly heard during the opening credits; viewers will need to watch Laurel & Hardy's WAY OUT WEST (1937) to hear this fine old song actually sung.
Famous as the first outdoor film produced in full Technicolor, THE TRAIL OF THE LONESOME PINE benefits greatly from its location filming near Cedar Lake, in California's San Bernardino Mountains.