As Katharine Hepburn, Walter Huston, Aline MacMahon, Akim Tamiroff, and all the rest of the very competent cast troupe it, they make Dragon Seed for all its two-and-a-half hours a compelling saga. Hepburn and MacMahon and Huston are especially effective histrionically, and one soon forgets Tamiroff’s vodka accent in the Chinese setting.
It traces the valley of the good earth, with its peaceful inhabitants, to whom the roar of the Japs’ cannons is still leagues away. But Jade (Hepburn) learns to read, and eventually Lao Er (Turhan Bey), her husband, is brought from petty marital jealousies into a full realization that their love must carry them beyond their village. They must help Free China remain free, and even the venerable Ling Tan (Huston) and his devoted wife (MacMahon) realize that turning-the-other-cheek is no way to cope with the aggressors.