Tap Roots Morna Dabney is engaged to soldier Clay MacIvor in the days before the War Between the States. Morna’s grandfather Big Sam Dabney founded their Mississippi plantation near Levington, which thrives in the Deep South, but he remains loyal to the Union, as does his son Hoab, Morna’s father. As Mississippi secedes, Hoab plans to withdraw the area around his plantation and remain neutral, and he gains support from local newspaperman Keith Alexander. Keith falls in love with Morna, whose fiancé Clay has joined the Confederate Army. Clay plans to punish the would-be neutral citizens of Levington by raiding the area, but Morna, with the help of her grandfather’s Choctaw friend Tishomingo, attempts to thwart the attack. Morna sacrifices greatly to protect her home and the man she really loves.
Tap Roots Half backed shenanigans down plantation way. A story of a wealthy family of farmers who wish to remain separate from the insanity of the Civil War and the fiery minx who is the eldest daughter of said family.
More interesting for what it represented to its leading lady than for how the film turned out. When Susan Hayward landed in Hollywood after being spotted in a magazine advertisement she was still Edythe Marrenner a green kid from Brooklyn who along with a flock of other young hopefuls tested for the role of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. Obviously she didn’t get the part and if you’ve ever seen her test it’s obvious she was nowhere near ready. However it planted the seed for her desire to if not play Scarlett then at least play a Southern belle.
Within a short time she was discovered by producer Walter Wanger who recognized her potential and through the years carefully cultivated her career eventually making the film which won her the Oscar, I Want to Live! Along the way, about a decade after her initial GWTW test, Wagner developed this mint julep mediocrity for her to fulfill her dream. The thing is it’s an odd choice to achieve that goal. Her character, the interestingly named Morna Dabney, after making a memorable entrance disappears for great swathes of the film’s running time, first through infirmity and then being removed from the main action of the story for most of the climax. When the camera does train itself on her she is breathtaking, at the peak of her beauty in gorgeous Technicolor but the script hands her a confused character to play, one minute pining for the lout who runs off with her hussy of a sister, a young and lovely Julie London who is given little to do, the next passionate about Van Heflin playing another murkily defined role. Around the edges of the story are Boris Karloff ludicrously cast as an Indian and Ward Bond who by the end is hamming it up to the nth degree.
This is beautifully produced but a moderate affair. However for fans of Miss Hayward it’s worth watching once but she has many much better movies in her filmography.