Beulah Land (1980)

 

 

 

 

Director: Harry Falk, Virgil W. Vogel.

Starring: Lesley Ann Warren (Sarah Pennington), Michael Sarrazin (Casey Troy, Sarah's love interest), Eddie Albert (Uncle Felix Kendrick), Hope Lange (Mrs. Deborah Kendrick), Paul Rudd (Leon Kendrick, Sarah's husband), Dorian Harewood (Floyd, childhood best friend of Leon), Martha Scott (Penelope Pennington, aunt of Loretta and Sarah), Paul Shenar (Roscoe Corlay, the cruel overseer), Allyn Ann McLerie (Mrs. Edna Davis), Jenny Agutter (Lizzie Corlay, wife of Roscoe Corlay), Don Johnson (Bonard Davis, Selma's husband), Meredith Baxter (Lauretta Pennington, sister of Sarah), Madeleine Stowe (Selma Kendrick Davis, sister of Leon and wife of Bonard Davis).

TV mini-series; poor man's Gone with the Wind; the troubles of the Davis, Pennington and Kendrick families of Georgia before the Civil War, during the Civil War and after the Civil War

 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.

 

PART I.

An older woman with two girls, her nieces, are being driven in a coach to Deborah Kendrick's plantation, known as Beulah Land. The woman's name is Penelope Pennington, while the two girls are Sarah and Loretta. Loretta says she bets that the whole city of Savannah, Georgia could fit inside Beulah Land.

Beulah Land was settled in 1783. The name came from the Bible, the book of Isaiah.

In the kitchen the slave Lovey is in charge. Mrs. Kendrick comes into the kitchen and tells Lovey to call for her son Leon Kendrick to come inside now.

Leon is out near the slaves where they are picking cotton. He lies flat on the ground so the overseer can't see him. He whistles to a young male slave and the fellow sneaks off the cotton field to get to Leon. Now the two of them start running away from the cotton fields.

Georgia. Early October 1827. The coach arrives and Mrs. Kendrick and her daughter Selma plus the kitchen staff are right there to greet the Penningtons. The driver goes looking for Leon and finds him with Floyd, the driver's son. Dad is mad that Floyd is helping the young master to do bad. Dad also scolds Leon. His mother has had Lovey calling for master Leon and he's out here catching fish, rather than greeting the family's guests, the Penningtons.

Leon runs into the mansion house and starts to go up the stairs. He has to stop abruptly because his mother is coming down the steps. Mrs. Kendrick slaps Leon hard across the face. She says Leon deliberately ran off to avoid greeting the guests. Mom grounds him for the entire weekend.

The overseer, Roscoe Corlay, rides his horse fast to the slave quarters. He brings his whip with him as he walks over to the blacksmith building. The smithie is busy working and his boy Floyd is next to him. Dad asks Mr. Roscoe what's he got in his mind to do? Whip Floyd. Dad says the young master came and got Floyd out of the cotton fields and, therefore, only the young master or Mrs. Kendrick can say if Floyd is to be whipped. He goes on to say that he will work Floyd until the moon comes up and then he will have a lot more tasks for Floyd to do.

Roscoe backs down, but he threatens harm to the smithie if he ever gets between Roscoe and Mrs. Kendrick. He also warns Floyd that his black snake (the whip) is thirsty for blood, so the young fellow better stay out of its way.

At night in the slave quarters there is music and dancing. At the mansion Lauretta Pennington is flirting with a young fellow. That upsets sister Sarah who really likes the young man.

Selma Kendrick goes to the slave quarters and sits down by Lovey's daughter. After a long pause, Selma asks the slave girl if she would like to dance? Yes. They start dancing along with the adults.

Floyd with a dinner plate filled with good food calls up to Leon. Leon comes over to the window, but now Floyd doesn't know how he's going to be able to get the plate up to Leon. Sarah comes along and offers to take the plate up to Leon. Floyd tells her not to let anyone see her with that plate. Sarah agrees and off she goes with the plate. Meanwhile, Leon throws a rope down to Floyd so he can climb up to the second floor bedroom window.

Penelope talks with Uncle Felix Kendrick. He introduces her to some of the other guests. Kendrick says that the Davis boys, Benjamin Jr. and Adam, were busy today bragging about their plantation. Mrs. Davis says she will have to have her husband talk to those boys.

Penelope says that Mr. Kendrick is only joking. The boys behaved like absolute gentlemen. In fact, they even invited Sarah and Loretta over to the Oaks plantation. Sarah sneaks up the stairs without being noticed. Leon thanks Sarah with a big smile on his face.

Sarah sees the overseer on his horse whipping a male slave over and over again and the slave begging him to stop. Sarah runs as fast as she can to Mrs. Kendrick to tell her what she saw. Penelope and Mrs. Kendrick explain to her that is just the overseer doing his job. "But aren't you going to stop him?" Mrs. Kendrick says that Mr. Corlay has a job to do and they mustn't interfere with his work. Sarah runs off.

The Penningtons are leaving. Sarah waves goodbye to Leon and he waves back at her.

Seven years later, 1834. The Penningtons have returned to Beulah Land for another visit, except this time Lauretta stayed back in Savannah.

Sarah and Selma come riding in with two young gentlemen. Leon was with Sarah and Bonard Davis was with Selma.

In the Kendrick kitchen Selma works along with her slave friend, Lovey's daughter. Lovey tells Selma that should be studying how to be a lady and not hanging around the kitchen. Selma just ignores her.

Leon and Bonard are in Savannah getting drunk. Bonard says that he has a hankering for that Lauretta Pennington girl. Leon asks Bonard what about Sarah? Bonard says Sarah is going to remain a virgin. Leon tells him that he is getting very serious about Sarah. So now Bonard says he's in love with Leon's sister Selma. Leon is thrilled about the prospect of having Bonard for a brother-in-law.

Corlay is over at a brothel asking for Lizzie again. Lizzie finishes with a client and comes over to soothe Corlay's jealousy. She says she only loves Roscoe Corlay. She takes him upstairs to have sex.

Bonard rushes into the house to speak to Selma's mother. He asks for Selma's hand in marriage. Mother says she's delighted. This news is not viewed as delightful by Selma's friend, Pauline.

Roscoe and Lizzie marry. A desperate man stops their carriage and tells Roscoe that he just has to have $100 dollars, otherwise his goose is cooked. Roscoe says that the collateral for the loan will have to be Clarence's farm. Clarence already has the papers drawn up.

Roscoe tells Lizzie that one day he'll have Clarence's farm. In fact, he is going to become rich and then even Mrs. Kendrick will have to eat some crow.

Roscoe introduces his wife to Mrs. Kendrick. Then Leon comes over. When they are alone Lizzie tells Leon that she hopes he will not tattle on her. Leon says he was just thinking the very same thing about Lizzie.

Savannah. Loretta is packing. She is also crying. She tells Sarah that she does not want to go to Selma's wedding to Bonard. And now Loretta tells Sarah a secret. She has secretly been going out with a young man named Douglas Savage. But now Douglas is moving out with the traveling theater group to Atlanta. She cries, saying she loves Douglas. Sarah tells her sister this will pass.

Loretta has eloped with the actor. Sarah and her aunt are late to Selma's wedding. They arrive at Beulah Land after dark and apologize for being late, but Loretta has eloped with an actor.

Oaks Plantation. Bonard is drunk on his wedding night. Selma looks frightened of Bonard and as he comes toward her she keeps moving backwards. She begs him not to consummate the marriage tonight. Drunken Bonard just starts tearing her clothes off her.

She gets away from him. He asks is she going to take her clothes off or is he going to have to do it for her? Selma says: "I hate you, Bonard." When he starts forward she slaps him hard. Bonard slaps her right back. He tells her to stop trying to involve everyone else in their private business. He slaps her again and she falls onto the bed. So Bonard in a sense rapes his own wife because she did not want to have sex with him at this time.

A slave boy known as Roman goes berry-picking with Sarah. He runs a little ahead of her and discovers Selma laying on the ground still clutching at what remains of her dress.

Selma's mother comes to see her daughter. She is shocked at her appearance. She asks Selma if she refused to consummate the marriage? She shakes her head yes. Mother says: "You have humiliated me and disgraced your family."

Leon and Sarah go out riding. They discuss the matter of Selma and Bonard. Then they race each other back to the mansion.

Bonard knocks on the door saying he wants to see his wife. Lovey says she's sleeping right now. Bonard says he wants to see Selma now. Lovey says if he goes running in there, he is going to cause even more damage to the relationship. She suggests he give Selma a little while until she settles down. So Bonard agrees to wait, but he demands that Lovey tell Selma that he's coming back for her.

Lovey sees her daughter Pauline with a knife. She runs over to her and tussles for control of the knife. Lovey gets it away from her daughter and then slaps her down to the ground. Pauline says she's not going to let Bonard do that to Selma ever again. She runs up the stairs to see Selma. Selma has a very strange, distant look on her face, but she reaches her out to take Pauline's hand.

Sarah tells Leon that they have to go back to Savannah now. Leon tells her to stay here at Beulah Land and marry him. Sarah says she will marry Leon. They both are happy about that. They have never kissed before, but now they kiss. Leon picks her up and twirls her around.

Several months later. Leon goes down to speak with Floyd at the blacksmith place. Floyd made a ring for Sarah from a bent horseshoe nail. Leon now shows Floyd that he has had the ring dipped in gold. Leon is so excited about getting married, but kind of scared too.

Bonard arrives at the wedding. His parents tell him to behave himself if he see Selma. The blacks sit in the back during the wedding ceremony. Bonard sees Selma looking out a second floor window.

The bride and groom marry. At the reception the wedded couple dance with many other couples. Working in the kitchen, Lovey sees a young woman named Dorothy with a sad look on her face. Lovey tries to cheer her up, but it's difficult because Dorothy has seen some rough times. The governor sent all her family away to other plantations, but keeps Dorothy as his sex servant. She says bitterly: "No matter how they treats you, you're still just a nigger, ain't yah? Still just a slave. Still just nothing."

The governor tells Mrs. Kendrick that she is violatilng the law teaching some of her slaves to read. She says: "It's a bad law, Governor."

Bonard bangs on Selma's door. He says she's coming home with him. Pauline opens the door and points a derringer at Bonard's head telling him that Selma never wants to see him again. Some of the family go up and drag Bonard away.

Sarah is mad that the overseer whipped Skeeter recently. She tells him that she sent him a note that she does not approve of whipping. Since Corlay did not honor her wishes, she now strictly forbids any whipping of the slaves. Corlay has a defiant attitude.

Sarah is also upset that Corlay grabbed Roman out of the school and put him back to working in the cotton fields. Corlay says showing this kind of preference for just one of the slaves breeds envy and spite among the slaves. Sarah says he is her slave and she will decide what her slave will do.

Selma and Pauline are teaching the slave children how to read. Sarah comes to them and asks if Roman could be their assistant. Selma agrees to take him in. Roman is thrilled and takes off running.

And it's now that Sarah learns that Roman's father was a white man. Gubber is really the boy's step-father. How the heck can Sarah not known the ins and outs of the slave business? She's way too naive to be a Southerner. Selma finally has to tell Sarah that she really doesn't want to know who's Roman's father.

Sarah figures it out and now confronts Leon about his being the father of Roman. Leon does not appreciate Sarah's moral outrage about Roman's paternity. He doesn't know why she is making such a fuss, when this is standard procedure on the plantations. He flat out tells her: "A Southern lady would never mention such a matter to her husband."

Mrs. Kendrick lost her husband who died. Mr. Davis also died.

Mrs. Kendrick asks Sarah what's wrong with her marriage? Sarah says she found out that Leon is Roman's father. The mother-in-law says that happened when Leon was just a boy. She also admits that she was hard on Leon, but that was because she did not want him to turn out like his father whose flesh was weak. "I gave him discipline, not love." She asks Sarah to work with Leon and Sarah says she will because she loves both her husband and Beulah Land.

Two years later. Roscoe comes in the house with Floyd. He wants permission to whip Floyd for not listening to him. Floyd told Roscoe that the North Field was to be plowed under and left fallow for a year. Sarah backs up Floyd and she scolds Roscoe for not following her orders to him about plowing the field under. Leon says that he told Roscoe to prepare the field for planting. So Sarah backs down. But Leon says that Sarah's idea sounds much better so they will leave the field fallow. So Roscoe has to leave empty-handed.

After Roscoe and Floyd leave, Leon asks Sarah why couldn't she have let him handle the situation by himself? He says she makes him the laughing stock of Beulah Land. Sarah apologizes, but Leon is still angry. He says she treats him like a child and makes all the key decisions about Beulah Land. "Well, if that's the way it's to be, so be it." Leon walks out of the house rather than work out a better working relationship with his wife.

Charleston. Leon goes to the opening night of Macauley's Theatre. He is taken back stage to see Lauretta. She is really glad to see Leon. She asks if he has any children? He says no. He asks about Mr. Savage and Loretta says that Mr. Savage is no longer with the company.

After dinner and wine, Loretta says that it turned out that Mr. Savage was already married with one child. Leon says that Lauretta is just wonderful. Boom, they kiss.

Mrs. Kendrick dies. Sarah has to tell Selma that her mother is dead. Selma says that Sarah is a good person and she's sure Sarah will have a wonderful funeral for her mother, but she won't be there.

Leon and Lauretta have sex in a room in the Charleston Hotel. Lauretta asks Leon not to tell Sarah what happened. Leon agrees to that.

Leon rushes home asking about his mother. Sarah tells him that his mother wanted to see him. Leon hugs Sarah and cries on her shoulder.

At the reading of the will Floyd and Lovey's little family are all freed. Lovey's daughter tells the lawyer that she knows that it's against the law to free slaves in one's will. The lawyer, Felix Kendrick, admits that, but he still wants them to sign the documents because one day they may be extremely valuable to them.

Loretta is coming for a visit to Beulah Land. Sarah is ecstatic over her sister's coming. She gets a big surprise when she realizes that her sister is very pregnant. Sarah asks where is Mr. Savage? Loretta tells her that she has no idea of where he is. Now Loretta virtually begs Sarah to let her stay at Beulah Land. Sarah says: of course.

When Loretta makes her grand entrance, Leon is shocked to see her so pregnant. She says hello to Bruce and Trudy, all grown up now, Bonard, Felix, Mrs. Davis and, of course, Leon.

Loretta later asks Leon why has he been ignoring her? He has hardly said anything to her since she came to Beulah Land. Leon asks her what does she want him to do? To make her feel welcome in the house and respect her.

Leon mentions that Bonard Davis and she have something going on between the two of them. Loretta says that Leon's just jealous.

Leon comes home drunk. Mrs. Corlay asks him to talk to her for awhile. She also says that Roscoe is out currently with his nigger girl Lucille. She says she doesn't care about that because". . . the more time he spends with his slaves, the less he beats on me." She wants to have sex with him, but Leon says it's too close to home.

Leon arrives home drunk. Floyd helps Leon up to his bed. Then Leon turns on Floyd and says he doesn't want any niggers taking him up to bed. Floyd gets offended and leaves. Also upset is Sarah and she tells her husband that he hurt Floyd's feelings. She also is upset because Leon is coming home drunk again. Sarah says he should stay home more because Beulah Land needs him. Leon says no, this place belongs to Sarah, not to him.

Leon accuses Sarah of having a relationship with Floyd. He goes on and on, until he starts crying. Sarah holds him and tells him she loves Leon.

Loretta has left her baby behind to go off riding with Bonard. The baby girl is crying because she is hungry.

Floyd has fixed the broken dinning table for Sarah. As she examines the table underneath and runs her finger along the piece of metal there, her hand touches Floyd's hand. There is an awkward silence. Lovey sees this and she breaks it up by saying she has something to show them. She also calls for Leon.

All four go to the porch where a slave woman is feeding both her own son and Loretta's girl. Lovey says that's just the way she did it with Master Leon on one side and Floyd on the other. She calls the two men "Milk Brothers".

Floyd's father says that Floyd has a hankering for something that he just can't have. Floyd tells him: "Leave me be, daddy." Father tells him that he is going to go to hell and he is going to drag all the family down with him. It appears that now Floyd is going to take off and go someplace else.

Lovey and her husband and Roscoe talk to Sarah about Floyd suddenly just running off. Lovey says something must have happed to Floyd for him to leave without saying goodbye to any one. Roscoe says Sarah must let him go after Floyd and bring him back. And then Sarah must let him punish Floyd for running away.

Uncle Felix hears this and he tells the four people that it's not that bad. Last night he ran across Floyd. He says that Floyd is free, so he gave Floyd a horse and a saddle. Roscoe challenges the veracity of this, but Sarah steps in to say that Mr. Kendrick is Leon's beloved uncle and he can do whatever he wishes with the items on Beulah Land. Roscoe leaves.

Sarah hears noise outside and then noise inside the house. She gets up and sees that Loretta is leaving. Loretta says she's going away with Bonard. Sarah objects that Bonard is still married to Selma. Loretta says that's no marriage.

Sarah tells her that she can't just leave her baby behind to run off with Bonard. Loretta says that Sarah is being very cruel to her. And in her anger, she blurts out: "I have had a child that you couldn't conceive. . . . She's Leon's child. . . . And I'm giving her to you." Sarah tells her: "Get out! Get out!"

Sarah goes up and confronts Leon. She tells him that she knows about his child with her sister. He tries to console her, but she says he can't touch her anymore. Leon apologizes. She runs out.

A little later Sarah goes in to see her new baby girl. She says to the baby: "You're gonna grow up loved."

Part II.

Richmond County, Georgia, 1839. Roscoe says to his wife that it's been two years since they left Beulah land. He is gleeful because the Kendriks are strapped for cash these days. He goes on to promise Lizzie that one day he shall be the owner of Beulah Land.

Roscoe gets a surprise because Sarah tells both Roscoe and Leon that they are not strapped for cash. She says that they are not going to sell the land or their slaves. And if they are forced to sell, they will not sell to Roscoe. Roscoe leaves.

At night, Lovey wakes up the masters saying that there's a fire. It's the warehouse that's on fire. Leon comes running out saying they are going to lose everything. Sarah says that Roscoe Corlay did this.

Working on the fire line, Uncle Felix collapses of a heart attack.

Now Roscoe has the nerve to come and try to buy Beulah Land. Sarah tells him off saying she is not ever going to sell Beulah Land to him. Roscoe leaves.

Aunt Penelope Pennington brings a very large check and gives it to Leon and Sarah. The couple is overjoyed with their aunt's generosity.

Floyd comes back to the slave quarters of Beulah Land. The people are glad to see him back. He quietly sneaks up on his parents. Lovey runs to him. She tells her husband Ezra to come on over here and get a hug. Ezra is super delighted to see Floyd.

Sarah and Leon warmly welcome Floyd back to his home. And now they want him to be their overseer. Floyd says he'll take the job.

Seven Years Later, 1846. Sarah visits the grave of Ezra. Floyd comes over to her and says she should be at her own party. Sarah returns to the house.

Leon dances with the pretty blonde Annabelle Davis. She asks Leon to introduce her to Casey Troy. He dances her over to meet Casey. Casey is the portrait painter and he just finished a portrait of Selma and Pauline. Mrs. Davis does not like the painting because it looks like the white woman and the black slave are just too friendly to each other. She says, as a painter, that Casey is a dangerous man.

Sarah visit with Uncle Felix in his bed. He says he's okay. When Sarah leaves, the black female slave with him closes and then locks the door. It appears that the two are together. Felix gets out some liquor and has a stiff drink.

Casey dances with Sarah. He says he wants to do her portrait but she never seems to have the time to sit for him. He says her husband is going away for a week and maybe she would have time then to sit for him. She says she will try.

Sarah sits for him but the artist does not like the setting nor the dress. He puts her in a low-cut gown and sits her in the living room. They talk about the abolition of slavery. Again the artist wants to move his subject elsewhere.

Sarah asks Leon to stay with her, but he says he has people that are expecting him and he has to go. Sarah acts like she does not really trust the artist as he keeps having her sit and sit for him again.

Casey now sketches Sarah outside. One of the slave men, Alonzo, comes over to check on the two people. Casey says he believes that there will be a war over slavery. He now kisses Sarah and she kisses him too. Soon she is in his arms and he lays her back on the leaves.

Alonzo runs home. His mother wants to know what's wrong with him because in the house he just runs right past her, flies into the bedroom and slams the door shut.

Sarah shows the portrait of herself in the low-cut gown. Two women indicate that they don't like it. Sarah says that's the way the artist saw her. One of the women says then it's a good thing the artist is leaving.

Alone at night Sarah speaks with Casey. He says he was just thinking about her and their future. She tells him that a woman said that the portrait lacks the authority and dignity befitting a mistress of Beulah Land.

Sarah says, tearing up, that tomorrow Casey will be gone. He indicates that he would like to marry her, but Sarah is already married to the plantation. Sarah says if she wasn't married to her husband and Beulah Land, she would marry him.

Alonzo sees Mrs. Kendrick go walking in the woods. He decides to follow her. She goes to the place where Casey sketched her and they had a little affair. She is in a dream state, so she doesn't hear Alonzo walking up to her. She snaps out of her trance and asks him what is he doing here? He says just like her, he sometimes comes out to this quiet place. He says he saw her with that artist. Sarah starts to leave, but Alonzo has other plans for her.

When Sarah doesn't come home, the residents and slaves start looking for her. It's Roman that finds her. He sees her clinging to her ripped up dress. Roman shouts out that he has found Miss Sarah in the glade.

Alonzo starts getting drunk at home and his mother tells him she is going to call his daddy. Roman throws open the door. He says: "That's her shawl." Roman pulls a gun out and shoots Alonzo in the chest. Mother cries over her son.

Sarah asks Lovey if Roman is well-hidden. Oh, yes.

Lovey comes over to the doctor and he tells her that he is only going to tell the authorities that Sarah was attacked and beaten severely.

Uncle Felix gives Roman directions and names of people along the way for his journey to Philadelphia. Roscoe calls up to the window looking for Leon. Floyd says he'll go down and see what Roscoe wants.

Roscoe says that Leon killed one of his slaves and he wants a half-white slave in his place. Floyd says that the half-white bastard that was killed was one of Roscoe's boys. And if Roman had not killed Alonzo, then Floyd would have.

Roman says goodbye to Miss Sarah. Later Sarah goes up to her portrait and touches the signature of Casey Troy. She starts crying.

Seven years later, 1853. Young lawyer Adam Davis tells his girlfriend Rachel Kendrick that they can't marry right now. She says that his sister Annabelle was married when she was 16. Adam says Annabelle was exceptionally mature for her age. They will have to wait until his beloved is 17 before then can marry. Rachel says she wasn't even talking about marriage. When she asked if he was sure he can wait, she was talking about sex, not marriage. Adam wants to wait. Rachel tells him that sometimes she wishes Adam was more like his Uncle Bonard Davis.

Leon runs into one of Roscoe's boys, Jubal, riding in a fancy rig with a pretty girl on his arm.

Oaks Plantation. Sarah goes to visit the Davis plantation. Young Doreen greets her at the door. Mrs. Davis says that it must be bad news, if Sarah is here. Sarah says it is bad news. Bonard has been killed. Shot. He was playing cards with the prospectors, was accused of cheating and shot. Mother says she's not surprised. He never wrote the family. He didn't care.

Leon goes riding and runs into Lizzie Corlay. Lizzie says he doesn't look good. Leon says he's been grieving over his old pal Bonard. Lizzie can't remember Bonard. Lizzie drinks Leon's flask dry and asks him to bring her periodically some liquor. Leon agrees.

Loretta returns to Beulah Land. Sarah is reluctant about inviting her into her house, but she says that Loretta is family. Loretta has already remarried. She adds that right now she can't even think about her husband.

Loretta wonders about Rachel. Sarah says she will marry Adam Davis of the Oaks Plantation when she turns 17. She adds that Loretta told her when she left Beulah Land that Rachel is Leon's daughter. "You gave me that child." And now Rachel is her daughter, not Loretta's. Sarah tells her sister that she can only live at Beulah Land if she doesn't tell Rachel about her "real" mother.

Lauretta finds life at Beulah Land boring. She goes and finds Rachel. And, of course, Loretta blurts out that she is the mother of Rachel. Loretta finds out that Rachel already knew this. She says she will acknowledge Loretta as her biological mother, but her real mother is the mother that brought her up. Rachel walks away from Loretta.

Seven years later, 1860. There is talk about the coming of a war between the North and the South. Sarah damns the Yankees for talking about war. Leon says he has already enlisted in the army. Of course, Sarah wants him to stay at Beulah Land, but Leon is raring to fight. He says this will be a short war because the Yankees can't afford to lose business, which is done at the expense of everyone else.

Leon tells Sarah that he is going to meet with the cotton exchange directors. He says he will return by dinner time.

Selma and Pauline march their students in a military manner, complete with wood carved to look like rifles. Rachel tells Selma that she does not want her son Benjamin mixed up in playing war. He is not going to be a soldier. Benjamin, of course, wants to be a soldier.

Sarah tells Uncle Felix that Casey Troy has sent a coded letter to her saying that he will be at the Hotel De Kalb in Atlanta, January 10-15. Felix says if she wants to go, go. She says Leon and her do not have a husband-wife relationship. She really wants Felix to tell her that she does not have to feel guilty considering all of Leon's extra-marital activities. And that's exactly what he tells her. He says he considers this just a little bit of "justifiable skullduggery".

Hotel De Kalb, Atlanta. There is a knock on Sarah's hotel room door. Troy is there. They hug and kiss each other. At night they sleep in the same bed. They have their meals together. Sarah is so happy to be with Troy. Troy tells her that he has to go back up North because there is going to be a war. They hug and kiss.

Leon tells Floyd that they are witnessing the end of a way of life. Floyd asks Leon: "Is that bad or good?"

Leon and Sarah are wrapping bandages getting ready for war. Floyd comes in to say that the bombardment of Fort Sumter has begun. Some people are happy to hear the news while others are worried about what war will bring them.

Roscoe speaks to Leon in private. He says that he now recognizes his two sons: Alonzo (who was killed) and Jubal. He adds that the war will make it possible for him to pass down his land to Jubal. "Your time is done Leon."

And now Roscoe tells Leon that Alonzo told him he saw Sarah and Casey Troy "rolling" on the ground in the glade. Leon opens a drawer in his desk, pulls out and pistol and shoots Roscoe in the forehead. Sarah hears the shot. That is followed by another shot.

Sarah runs next door and opens the door to her husband's office. There she sees the dead body of Roscoe. Then Sarah sees that her husband has shot himself in the head. She cries over Leon's lifeless body.

Four year later, 1864. Rachel has been bed-ridden because of her worrying about her husband Adam in the war. The doctor visits her and he says that Rachel has worn herself sick with worry. Her two children ask if their mother is going to be alright? Yes.

Mrs. Davis tells Sarah that those Godless Yankees are overrunning the South. She says she wishes she died before the coming of the war.

Sarah tells Mrs. Davis that Loretta was up in Philadelphia with the theater troop, but when the audience heard her southern accent they booed her off the stage.

Atlanta, November 15, 1864. Atlanta is burning and southerners are becoming refugees trying to get away from the Yankees. Cannon balls explode on the roads headed toward Savannah.

Loretta is in amongst the refugees asking for help. Down by the railway track the wounded are being laid down on the ground. Walking by the soldiers is Loretta. She walks up to a woman helping with the wounded and the woman asks her is she is a nurse or a nurse's aide? Loretta says she is just looking for a place to stay so she can get some rest. The woman can't believe this woman could ask her for help in finding lodging while they are both surrounded by moaning men.

A little boy sees his father die waiting for help. Another soldier asks for someone to shoot him. Small boys are also among the wounded. A nurse helping a doctor amputate an arm collapses. The doctor now grabs Loretta who was standing nearby and has her hold what's left of the arm while the doctor puts a clamp on it. The doctor tells her that what she did was "well done". "And now put the arm in the box." Loretta feels sick.

It's much latter now and Loretta is performing like a nurse, tending to the suffering men. She gives them water and tries to keep their spirits up. A man with bandaged eyes asks for water and Loretta goes to him. While talking to the man, he tells her that he is Adam Davis. Loretta can't believe it. She tells him that she is Loretta Pennington, Rachel's aunt.

Loretta asks her son-in-law to fill her in on what's happening at the Oaks and Beulah Land? She learns that her Aunt Penelope died not long after Uncle Felix died.

Loretta runs over to the doctor she helped and asks about the condition of the man with the bandager around his eyes. Doc says that his legs will heal, but both of his eyes are gone. Loretta says what will happen to all the men when the Yankees come? The doctor replies: "If the Yankees get into the city, God save us all."

Loretta goes back to Adam and asks how does he feel? He only says that his head hurts. So Lauretta asks him how would he like going home with her? He would love that, but how? Loretta says she will just have to figure that out, but they have to get away from the oncoming Yankees.

Oaks Plantation. Rachel asks her mother-in-law why doesn't Adam write her? Mrs. Davis says that Adam is busy fighting those Yankees. Suddenly, Rachel says she hears a carriage. Mrs. Davis tells her to rest. Rachel listens intently and suddenly shouts out that Adam is here!

Rachel runs out on the terrace and Mrs. Davis goes after her. She starts climbing over the railing and Mrs. Davis tries to stop her. Both women fall to their deaths.

Loretta helps support Adam on his right side and a cane helps Adam on the left side. They are walking along with other refugees.

A Yankee cavalry group comes riding up the road and Loretta gets herself and Adam off the road to hide. The Yankees pass without noticing anything.

Loretta and Adam sleep where they are. A wagon comes rolling along with a family in it. Loretta puts her shawl under her dress to seem pregnant. She takes Adam up onto the road and flags the wagon down. They get their ride, but after awhile Loretta and Adam have to get off because they have to go left when the wagon is turning right.

They get to Beulah Land and see Lovey. Loretta starts calling out for help. Sarah runs out to greet them.

 

Part III.

Oaks Plantation, 1865. Adam listens as Loretta reads from a book to him. Sarah tells Floyd to disassemble the saw mill and hide it. Floyd tells her that he is going to marry Lotus. Sarah says they will have a drink to celebrate. She adds that as a wedding present, she will give Lotus her free papers.

Sarah and Lovey talk with each other. Lovey gives Sarah some peanut tea with a little ground chicory in it. Lovey reminisces about those who have passed on. She starts crying and Sarah tears up too.

The news comes that from 35-40 Yankees are headed toward Beulah Land.

The officer in command is none other than Casey Troy. He explains to Sarah that they are on a foraging expedition and will require provisions. Sarah says she will willingly cooperate so that no one on her property gets hurt.

Sarah is furious and walks away from Casey. He comes after her saying that he came to her place to avoid a worse fate befalling her. Sherman is marching across Georgia with 60,000 men. He has to feed the men off the land.

Sarah is still angry and she tells Casey to leave her alone. Meanwhile, the cavalry troops are grabbing the animals, the feed and grain and anything else edible they can find. They also grab wagons and horses.

Sarah watches the cavalry leave from her second floor terrace.

Union Army Headquarters, Highboro, Georgia, 1865. Jubal Corlay and his family stop at army headquarters. He and his family are greeted by Sergeant Smede, who says that Captain Ponder is waiting to see them.

Jubal tells the captain that there is a saw mill over at Beulah Land. He has lots of timbered acres and he could cut the trees down if there was a saw mill in the area. He also implies that the captain will receive a handsome sum of money if he finds the saw mill. The captain is definitely interested.

Jubal's boy sees a white boy, Ben Davis, trying to handle a huge wooden box and having great difficulty. So the boy offers his assistance. The white boy recognizes his helper as Roscoe Corlay. They exchange names and shake hands. They load the box on the wagon. Roscoe goes back to waiting for his parents.

Sgt. Smede goes over to examine the box. Annabelle Davis expresses her disproval of the Yankees having to check so many things.

Jubal comes out and asks his son if that's not Sarah Kendrick's grandson:. Roscoe says he thinks so. Jubal tells him to stay away from that Ben Davis. Annabelle has a handkerchief of the rebel flag. The sergeant takes it from her, throws it on the dirt road and steps on it. This makes Annabelle and Ben very angry and they more or less threaten him with repercussions flowing from his desecration of their beloved flag.

Sarah and Floyd load up a wagon with the valuables Sarah wants to keep. Floyd is going to take them to a relatively safe place. After Sarah goes into the house, Floyd grabs the painting of Sarah and loads it on the wagon.

The Yankee soldiers are going over to the Oaks Plantation. Sgt. Smede is in charge. He talks with Bruce Davis, who says the family has assurances from Gen. Sherman that their place will not be ransacked. Sgt. Smede says he has direct orders from Capt. Ponder to check out the Oaks.

In the back of the mansion the troops are trying to ride a horse that just won't cooperate. One of the soldiers says he can ride anything. So the soldiers hold the horse still so the expert can ride the horse. The horse, however, has a different idea. He really bucks and the horse and rider go down to the ground. The horse has broken its leg. Sgt. Smede shoots the horse in the head with his pistol.

Aunt Doreen cries and cries over her horse, so the soldiers take her away from the house to where she can't be heard. With rope, the soldiers tie the men of the plantation to a large tree. The soldiers don't bother to tie-up the blind Adam Davis. When they let him go Adam tries to kick the men, but keeps missing them. Adam won't settle down, so the sarge shoots him dead. Now the sergeant points his pistol at the head of Bruce Davis. Another shot rings out. The people at Beulah Land see smoke rising up from the Oaks Plantation. Sarah sends the former slaves into the woods to hide.

Sgt. Smede now plans to rape and pillage Beulah Land. He tells the men that Captain Ponder told him to give special treatment to Beulah Land. The men ride up to Sarah who is waiting for them. He says that Annabelle told him that her family is a big family and they were plotting to attack and kill Yankees. Sarah says Annabelle is a fool.

Sgt. Smede pushes Sarah out of the way and the men start raping, destroying, pillaging, etc. Sgt. Smede rapes one of the pregnant former slaves. Lovey cries and pounds on the door. Lovey later tries to stop the soldiers trying to move her husband's headstone by hitting one of the soldiers with her cane. The soldier pushes her hard and she hits her head on a stone. She dies.

Now the Yankees start burning down all the buildings on Beulah Land. Sarah pounds her fists on sarge telling him to stop all this. He pushes her down. Then he takes her wedding ring.

A corporal reports to the captain that Beulah Land is on fire. The captain is with Jubal and his family. Husband and wife are jubilant over the news, while Roscoe is not happy at all. With tongue in cheek, the captain says that Smede directly violated his orders and did dreadful things to Beulah Land. So he has set up Smede as the fall guy.

Floyd gets a pistol out of the well. Sarah tells him to give it to her. Reluctantly, he does so, but he says he found out that Smede is heading for Savannah to get a train heading north. Twelve year old Benjamin says he's going with Floyd after Smede.

Floyd takes off at night. He thinks someone is following him. So he waits and here comes Benjamin on a horse. Floyd tells him to get on back home. He is not going to take responsibility for Benjamin getting shot. Benjamin defends himself verbally by saying he's white and Floyd is black, so Floyd can't boss him around. Floyd gives in and lets him come along.

Floyd and Benjamin see a fire burning and they figure that's where Smede is going to be. Floyd trries to sneak up on the rapist, but one of the mules smells Floyd and makes a noise. Smede catches Floyd. Floyd starts speaking like an uneducated black slave who has just escaped from his cruel masters.

Smede frisks Floyd for any weapons and finds nothing. So Smede says he needs to get some sleep. He says if Floyd moves, he's going to shoot first and then ask questions.

Benjamin walks over toward the fire. Smede hears somebody moving around out there and he says he thinks he's going to have to kill Floyd in order to get some sleep. He gets up and walks over to Floyd. Benjamin has a long branch and hits Smede's hand with it. Smede drops the weapon and Floyd picks it up.

Smede tells the pair that they are going to be in terrible trouble if they kill a federal soldier. Benjamin and Floyd tell him how he killed their family members and raped Floyd's wife. So now the bravado goes out of Smede's voice and he starts to try to bribe his way out of trouble.

Smede tries to jump Floyd, but ends up shot. He falls to the ground and Benjamin jumps on his back and starts stabbing him in the side.

By morning Ben and Floyd return to Beulah Land. Floyd tells his people that he was just out looking for strays and he came upon Benjamin here. The people ask Floyd about the big pack the mule is carrying. Floyd says he did some shopping for Miss Sarah.

Floyd returns Sarah's wedding ring to her.

Several weeks later. Loretta and Annabelle come out to see Sarah. Sarah wants to know what Annabelle said to those Yankees to give them the impression that she and Bruce Davis were rebels to be punished. Annabelle refuses to answer, but Sarah is not going to leave her alone. She says to Annabelle that she made the Yankees think that Bruce and she were going to raise an uprising against the Yankees. Sarah blames Annabelle for the death, rapes and destruction that fell upon the Oaks and Beulah Land. Sarah gets so angry that she slaps Annabelle across the face and goes after her saying she's going to kill Annabelle. Annabelle says since she's a Christian, she will forgive Sarah. Sarah tells her that she does not forgive her and Sarah never will forgive her.

Colonel Casey Troy comes riding up on his horse. He tells Sarah and Floyd that Gen. Robert E. Lee has surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse. The war is over. And Captain Ponder has been disciplined and relieved of his command.

Sarah is very angry at Troy and uses a sharp tone with him. Before he leaves, Troy tells Sarah that now would be a good time to put up her sawmill which she so successfully hid from the Yankees.

Seven years later, 1872. Down by the dock. Priscilla and Benjamin Davis like each other. Ben wanted to br with Priscilla in church and walk her home from the dock, but her mother calls out for her to get back in the carriage. She runs toward her mother.

Sarah sees a man named Blalock and asks Floyd about him. Floyd says he burned down three colored churches and dragged a colored teacher to his death behind a horse. Why hasn't the man been arrested? Because the only witnesses were colored. He then says that Reconstruction is over for colored folks.

Sarah walks over to the sheriff to tell him that he should be keeping better company than being with a man like Blalock. The sheriff doesn't seem much interested in what Sarah Kendrick thinks.

Roman gets off the boat at Highboro Landing. Sarah gives him a warm welcome. Roman then introduces Roscoe Corlay to Sarah. Sarah says she didn't know that the two men knew each other. They don't. They just met on the boat.

Roman tells Floyd that he was sorry to hear about the death of his wife Lotus. Benjamin Davis comes up and introduces Rachel's grown-up son to Roman.

Benjamin comes into a bar and Blalock asks Benjamin, doesn't he ever get tired of taking orders from that nigger overseer Floyd? Benjamin hits Blalock and knocks him down. The sheriff puts a stop to the fight. He warns Benjamin that he could have arrested him and thrown him in jail for assault. He shoves Benjamin toward the door.

Roman rides home with Sarah and Floyd. He tells Sarah that she never wrote and told him that Jubal Corlay had bought the Oaks Plantation. Aunt Doreen is the one who sold the place to Jubal.

St. Alban's Church, Highboro, Georgia. Loretta introduces an ex-colonel to Benjamin and Sarah. Benjamin sees a horse with a wagon behind it running down the middle of the street. He shouts that's their wagon. Two men grab the horse and stop it. In the back of the wagon is the dead body of Floyd.

Sarah shows such great sadness over the death of her overseer that it shocks the good white people of Highboro. Sarah got in the wagon with the body and was just about to kiss Floyd when Benjamin has to chloroform her to stop her from social disaster. Priscilla's parents were repulsed by the show of affection shown by Sarah for a colored man. They pull Priscilla away saying that they have all seen enough.

Sarah attends the burial of Floyd. Floyd's son Abraham is going go live with Selma and Aunt Pauline in town to keep him safe.

Sarah thinks about Casey and the affair they had. She misses Casey.

Highboro, a few months later. Sarah sees Priscilla in town and she stops her to talk with her. She says that Benjamin is the new overseer at Beulah Land. She also tells Priscilla that Benjamin is lonely and he would love to have a visit from Priscilla. Priscilla says if Benjamin wants to see her, he can just come over to her house. Sarah says but that's exactly what Priscilla's mother told him not to do. Priscilla is shocked at this news.

Oaks Plantation. At night Roscoe sees his father sneak into the apartment of one of the servants. He is shocked at this behavior. He runs into the house and his mother stops him to ask him what's wrong? He has been acting strange ever since he came back from that fancy school he went to. Roscoe says he doesn't want to talk about it. Mother says her son is going to tell her what's bothering him. She even slaps Roscoe to get him to talk.

Roscoe says that his father is in that cabin with the young girl who works in the fields. He tells mother to go over and see for herself. And that's exactly what mother does. On her way she grabs an axe. She opens the door and a scream is heard from the young girl. Roscoe tried to stop his mother but he was too late.

Coming out on a horse to Beulah Land is none other than Priscilla. She tells Ben that Jubal Corlay has been killed by his own wife. They took the woman to an insane asylum. Ben says he's sorry, but he can't get choked up about the death of Jubal. Then he says that means that Rosco Corlay, a friend, will own the Oaks Plantation.

Ben says that he's so happy that Priscilla came to see him. This 100 acres of land belongs to Ben. He asks her to marry him by asking if she would live with him on this land?

The locals attend the opening of Roman's new school, the Corlay Institute. Loretta comes over to tell her sister that there are a bunch of ruffians gathering at the gate. Annabelle says she will alert the men.

Loretta now tells Sarah that Casey Troy recently painted her and the colonel's wedding portrait. Sarah acts as if she is not interested. But Loretta says that Casey has taken up photography and has agreed to take photos of the head officials of the new school if all officials are there. Sarah says damn you, Loretta. She says Loretta is trying to manipulate her.

Loretta fights back asking why does her sister still blame Casey for the deaths of several members of the Davis family? Why does she refuse to see Casey when now even Sarah is working with Northerners on the school board?

It's the sheriff and some men waiting at the entrance to the Oaks Plantation. The school children are marching up the road to come to the opening of the school. Selma and Pauline head the group. There are other white people coming with the mostly black children.

The men start shooting at cans on the ground so that no one can enter the place. Selma demands that Sheriff Barns stop these men from firing their weapons so they can continue their walk.

The redneck sheriff says that the men are not on any private land and there is no law against target practice. One of the men with Selma tells the sheriff that he should not be associating with the likes of Blalock and be embarrassing the town of Highboro. The sheriff retorts that the man should not be associating with a bunch of Northerners from Boston.

Wagons now come to the entrance. Troy is in one of the wagons. Troy says hello to Sarah. He then introduces to the sheriff the new federal marshal for the area. The sheriff says he was just about to start arresting niggers for vagrancy.

Casey takes a picture of the sheriff and his redneck thugs. He then says that these people are protected by the Ku Klux Act of 1871. This could result in the sheriff being sent to prison. So the sheriff and his nasty men leave.

Casey now rides off in his carriage. Sarah tells Abraham to run and stop Mr. Troy from leaving. Troy stops. Sarah runs up to him. She tells him to stay here with her at Beulah Land. She also says that she needs Troy. She gets in the carriage with Troy. They hug each other. Troy drives the carriage back to the mansion at Beulah Land.

 

This is a poor man's version of Gone With the Wind (1939). It covers the same times and similar subjects to the more famous film. The final end is happier than that of Gone With the Wind. The film's portrayal of the lives of the slaves lets them keep more of their dignity than in the famous movie. The scenes from the Civil War are similar to that of the other film. Atlanta is burned down and the residents become refugees. There is also a scene like that of the scene in Gone With the Wind with the railway lines all covered by wounded soldiers. And the sister of the heroine nearly faints like Scarlett did when she was around the soldiers being operated on. Reconstruction painted the Yankees like the villains instead of using, say, the Southern Ku Klux Klan members as the villains, acting as terrorists to restore the racist order in the South.

Sarah Pennington Kendrick is not Scarlett O'Hara. She is much more caring of the concerns and situations of others. Sarah works to help others. She is a good businesswoman, but she does not have the driving ambition of Scarlett. Sarah does not become very wealthy like Scarlett, but she does hold onto Beulah Land.

The overseer in Beulah Land is a mean son of a bitch, just like the overseer in Gone With the Wind.

In other words, the two movies share many of the same faults and are very similar.

Of course, Lesley Ann Warren (as Sarah Pennington Kendrick) is no Vivian Leigh, but I thought she did a good job.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 

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