When Bette Davis hit her stride at Warner Brothers, the result was a remarkable string of thoughtful, usually unglamorous performances in smart, beautifully put-together dramas. One of these, The Corn Is Green, is now available on demand from Warner Archive.
Davis plays an unconventional, “modern” spinster who rides her bicycle into a Welsh village dominated by the local coalmine, which is owned by an arrogant and foolish example of English gentry (played by Nigel Bruce, which is all you need to know). For reasons of her own, she’s determined to run a school that teaches everyone (including adults) to read, and her struggle with the locals includes learning to curb her honesty and anger in favor of flattery and subterfuge when necessary. This quest for education sets up potential pupils against a pre-ordained lifetime in the mines and the forces that benefit from that, and one promising student in particular (Oscar-nominated John Dall, adopting a nice Welsh accent) must navigate various emotional conflicts.