The three words that leap to this blogger's mind when discussing The Farmer's Daughter (1947) are sheer, unadulterated charm. As I watched this classic romantic comedy for the umpteenth time, I couldn't wipe the goofy grin off my face for at least the first thirty minutes into the film. This winsome piece of confection has often been called "Capraesque" and its a very fitting moniker. It's a David vs. Goliath Cinderella Story ala big game politics. Think Katie the Swedish maid Goes to Washington.
Katrin Holstrom (Loretta Young) or Katie, as she is affectionately known, is a fetching farm girl with a thick Swedish accent who leaves the farm and heads for Capitol City (any state capitol, USA, though with all the Swedish farm roots involved, one would assume the upper Mid West) to begin training at a nursing school there. When she loses the money saved for her nursing course to a fast talking, slimy painter with shady intentions, Katie reaches Capitol City in need of a job. She lands employment as a second maid in the home of an urbane congressman (Joseph Cotten) and his straightforward mother (Ethel Barrymore), who is an influential leader of the reigning political party in the state. Katie has definite political leanings in her comely blonde head and they don't always coincide with those of her well heeled employers. Nevertheless, she endears herself to them with her down to earth charm and common sense outlook. Romance and a potential Senate seat ensue.
The Farmer's Daughter was based on a play called Hulda, Daughter of Parliament, which was bought as a potential film project by producer David O. Selznick for his contractee, Swedish born Ingrid Bergman. When Bergman wasn't interested, ice skating star Sonya Henie, also of Scandinavian descent, was proposed. Finally, after much debate with Dore Schary, the films producer, Loretta Young was offered the role. Young had doubts about her ability to master the strong Swedish accent required for the part. Ruth Roberts, a dialect coach of Swedish ancestry, who had been hired to tone down Ingrid Bergman's accent when she came to the United States, was assigned to see that Young developed one. The actress had been in Hollywood for 20 years, starting out as a teenager. The majority of her roles had never required much in the way of range and depth. Yet for her role as Katie, she was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar, going up against her friend and colleague Rosalind Russell in Mourning Becomes Electra. Although Russell was favored to win the award in her heavily dramatic role, underdog Young won in an upset that surprised everyone.
Joseph Cotten, as Congressman Glenn Morley, shows a fine hand for light romantic comedy, something rarely seen by the actor during his tenure in Hollywood. Ethel Barrymore is her usual soft spoken, all knowing, high bred self. One of the true delights of the film is Charles Bickford as the Morley Manor butler, Mr. Clancy. Bickford's usual hard as nails curmudgeon is tempered here with humor and sincere admiration for his young Swedish charge. Rounding out the cast are Rose Hobart, Harry Davenport and as Katie's three strapping, barrel chested brothers, Keith Andes, future Tarzan Lex Barker, and future Gunsmoke star, James Arness.