On Location: The Central Florida Of 'The Yearling' The film version of Marjorie Rawling's Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel was shot on location in Central Florida's "Big Scrub," the very region that inspired Rawling's book. Our series looks back at the troubles the region caused for the production, and how inseparable it is from the finished film.
NPR logo

On Location: The Central Florida Of 'The Yearling'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/138561573/138587321" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
On Location: The Central Florida Of 'The Yearling'

On Location: The Central Florida Of 'The Yearling'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/138561573/138587321" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

The movie was filmed in a densely wooded and sparsely populated part of Florida known as the Big Scrub. As part of our series On Location, NPR's Greg Allen takes us there.

GREG ALLEN: A good place to start the story about the film of "The Yearling" is here, where Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings wrote the novel, in Central Florida at her cottage in Cross Creek.

SHEILA BARNES: OK, here we are on the front porch, and this is where Miss Rawlings did very much of her writing at the round table that you see here.

ALLEN: If you drive 20 miles north from Cross Creek, you'll find Rawlings' manuscript and notes for "The Yearling" in Gainesville, at the Rawlings archive at the University of Florida. Archivist Flo Turcotte says in "The Yearling," Rawlings wrote about one of the state's most unforgiving landscapes.

FLO TURCOTTE: I mean even the name The Scrub, it sounds excoriating. It sounds like friction is involved. And it is quite a bit of rubbing up of humanity against an unforgiving kind of atmosphere and setting.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE YEARLING")

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREGORY PECK: (As Penny) And here was the Scrub country. Not many people lived here then, just a few pioneers. I found myself a wonderful wife in a little village nearby.

ALLEN: Turcotte pulls out a Forest Service map of the area on which Rawlings marked where scenes in the novel took place and where she believed they should be filmed.

TURCOTTE: Her idea was you need to go to these different places where I've marked. You need to do your filming of Baxter's Island right where I imagined Baxter's Island to be, which of course is a fictional place.

ALLEN: Richard Mills, now 90 years old, still lives nearby. He remembers working on the set when he was a young man.

RICHARD MILLS: They had a regular village there. My Lord, they had - most all of it was real quick construction, but they had an avenue you could walk down.

ALLEN: In the lead roles of Ma and Pa Baxter, MGM cast Anne Revere and Spencer Tracy. But as soon as the actors hit the location, they were confronted by the bugs and the heat. Film historian Robert Snyder says Tracy also found the Pulitzer Prize-winning story corny. Finally, Snyder says, Tracy got fed up, called a cab and left.

ROBERT SNYDER: He took off. The Hollywood people went back to Hollywood. The first shoot was scrapped even though MGM had invested at that point $500,000 in the film.

ALLEN: To cast the 12-year old Jody, Brown conducted a nationwide search and found Claude Jarman, Jr., in Nashville. Jarman is now in his 70s. He remembers shortly after his casting, he was working seven days a week in the Florida scrub.

CLAUDE JARMAN: Clarence Brown was a real perfectionist. And it's very hard dealing with animals and particularly wild deer. And it was also dealing with someone like myself, who didn't have much experience. And, I would say the average take for the movie was probably 20, 21 times. And today you see it done in two, three.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE YEARLING")

JARMAN: (As Jody) The calf and a shoat, the barn door on the other end was broke down.

PECK: (As Penny) Take it easy boy.

JARMAN: (As Jody) But what happened, Pa? What done it?

PECK: (As Penny) Bear, big one, look there.

JARMAN: (As Jody) One toe is missing on the right front paw, Old Slewfoot.

PECK: (As Penny) Old Slewfoot.

ALLEN: J.T. Glisson, now in his 80s, grew up in Cross Creek and still lives nearby. When he was a teenager, he was Rawlings' next-door neighbor. On the day the MGM crew was shooting the bear-hunt scene, Glisson says Rawlings convinced his parents to let him skip school so he could go along to watch.

GLISSON: And they turned the dogs in. And the old bear just looked up, and he knew they were damn city dogs. And one of them half-barked at him. And he got up, and man, he chased them round and around the damn thing, I mean up and down.

ALLEN: Glisson says Rawlings bet Clarence Brown $20 that she could find dogs that would be able to catch the bear so he could film his scene. The next day, he went with Rawlings to a local hunter where they picked up dogs they brought to the set in her Oldsmobile. After the crew and the actors were ready and the cameras were rolling, they turned the dogs loose.

GLISSON: That old bear looked around and smelled, he knew these wasn't no city dogs, this was trouble. And God, they sailed into it. I mean he hit one, and knocked him as far as from here to that TV, I mean in the air. And man, the bear finally had had enough, and the bear turned down and went into the Silver Glen Run and swam across. Now, they had rented the damn bear. Now, the bear, they lost their bear.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE YEARLING")

(SOUNDBITE OF DOGS)

(SOUNDBITE OF BEAR)

ALLEN: Rawlings got her $20, and director Clarence Brown got a scene that's unlikely ever again to be equaled.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE YEARLING")

(SOUNDBITE OF DOGS)

(SOUNDBITE OF BEAR)

JOHNNIE POHLERS: You know what that is don't you? Slewfoot, possibly.

ALLEN: Oh, you think it's a bear track.

POHLERS: Oh yes, I don't think I know. Look at this. It's pretty good size. I mean, he's not the biggest, but...

ALLEN: Retired forest ranger Johnnie Pohlers has brought me here, to the heart of Ocala National Forest, to the place where "The Yearling" was shot and where Rawlings was first inspired to write her novel.

POHLERS: And this is the Calvin Long home site. And of course, there's nothing here left, you know, other than that mound of dirt. There is some little pieces of brick and stuff where their fireplace was at.

ALLEN: Greg Allen, NPR News.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.