The Southerner

The Southerner is a 1945 American drama film directed by Jean Renoir and based on the 1941 novel Hold Autumn in Your Hand by George Sessions Perry. The film received Oscar nominations for Best Director (the only Oscar nomination Renoir received), Original Music Score, and Sound. Renoir was named Best Director by the National Board of Review, which also named the film the third best of 1945. The film, now in the public domain, portrays the hardships of a poor family struggling to establish a cotton farm in Texas in the early 1940s.


The film opens with a Texas share-cropper, Sam Tucker, picking cotton in a sunbaked field alongside his wife Nona and his elderly Uncle Pete. Pete suddenly collapses due to the extreme heat and to what he blames as "my darned old heart". Before he dies, he tells his nephew, "Work for yourself; grow your own crops." Sam heeds his uncle's advice, so he, Nona, their children Daisy and Jot, and "Granny" leave the migrant camp and set out to work a vacant 68-acre tenant farm with little more than two mules, a second-hand plow, and some cotton seed and fertilizer. The land the family leases includes only a decaying shack and a dry well. In immediate need of drinking water, Sam visits a gruff neighboring farmer, Henry Devers, who reluctantly allows the Tuckers to share water from his well.