Classic Film Review -Our Vines Have Tender Grapes (1945)


Our Vines Have Tender Grapes is the story of the Jacobson family as told through the eyes of young Selma. The Jacobson’s live in the rural community of Benson Corners, Wisconsin, where Martinius Jacobson farms the land. They are a close knit loving family. Selma experiences many daily adventures along with her younger cousin Arnold who is occasionally a thorn in her side. But it is a happy idyllic life even with the daily struggles of living in a farming community.

Along with the Jacobson’s, Benson Corners is also home to newspaper editor Nels Halverson. He falls in love with the new teacher Viola Johnson. Viola comes from the big city of Milwaukee. She is just biding her time in small time environs until she can move back with her teaching experience behind her. There is also Bjorn Bjornson. His new barn is the talk of the community and the envy of Martinius. Martinius’ big dream of a modern, fully-equipped barn conflicts with his wife Bruna’s financial practicality as well as her desire for indoor plumbing. Selma’s great love is her new little calf named Elizabeth. But when tragedy befalls one of their own, Selma makes a sacrifice which will inspire all the inhabitants of Benson Corners.


I’m ashamed to admit I’ve put off watching Our Vines Have Tender Grapes for a long time now. But I’ve recently become a fan of child actress, Margaret O’Brien, so I decided to give it a go.

Oh my goodness, how I loved this little film! As I’ve come to expect, O’Brien is charming and believable as little Selma Jacobson. She carries the film well on her little shoulders and is one of very few  child actors with the talent for dramatic roles like this.  Her interactions with her cousin Arnold, are so realistic and remind me of my own love/hate childhood relationships with friends and cousins alike. No one can irritate you like a sibling or close cousin, but then no one inspires more loyalty and understanding either.

Edward G Robinson is just not one of my preferred actors, but he is so tender and thoughtful as the Jacobson patriarch. He is the conscience of the film. His loving, patient relationship with Selma is the kind of father all children need. As my mother would say, he is a “salt of the earth” type of character. Agnes Moorhead plays an unusual role as Bruna Jacobson, pioneer wife and mother. She is a bit brusque, but has a heart of gold.

I think one of the things about Our Vines Have Tender Grapes that really resonated with me is how closely it resembles my own family heritage. Though my parents aren’t Swedish, but German, I have heard stories from both of them about growing up in similar circumstances. They both come from a long line of farmers with roots in immigrant farming communities, where neighbors helped each other, Sunday’s were for church and rest and families were tight knit. Watching this movie really helped me imagine what their lives and those of my grandparents might have been like.

Our Vines Have Tender Grapes does not have a main plot. It is actually more a series of vignettes, portraying the day to day life of Selma and her parents. It has a slower pace, but never lags.  Though there is no central theme, certain elements of the film come together for an emotional ending which literally left me in tears.

After finishing Our Vines Have Tender Grapes, I am now kicking myself for waiting so long to watch it. This film has heart and soul, something many films lack. It’s characters and story line are sweet but deep. It is a look at how average everyday people living simple lives display greatness of character. It reminds viewers that integrity, honor and sacrifice are the backbone of our country. I highly recommend it.

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9 Replies to “Classic Film Review -Our Vines Have Tender Grapes (1945)”

  1. Nice review and I share your sentiments and admiration of the entire film. Well casted and well acted. It appears the artist who painted the poster did not see the movie. The painter used the standard caricature image of Edward G and not the characters Mr Robinson played. Loved the relationship between the father and daughter.

  2. I happened to watch this film last night, unwittingly, on Margret O’Brien’s birthday 1/15/(‘37).
    Subtle virtuous themes are at play. This type of film, like Babette’s Feast, circa ‘86, should be viewed several times to unearth and imbibe the positive ethics and values it supports.
    Most striking is Selma’s evolution from that of valuing self possession to her final selfless free fall which inspires us, reaching our lives across the span of nearly 80 years.

    Ray Parenti, Long Island 🙋🏻

    1. Hi Ray, I’m glad you found my little corner of the internet and thank you for commenting. You have a much deeper understanding of the value of this film than I do, with mine being more of a nostalgic perspective. I always appreciate hearing how films I love affect others who watch them.

  3. Hi Brittany

    Yes, I love a good story, book or film. The story must edify, encourage, inspire, or in a word, “touch” me, in order for me to like it.
    Yesterday, I listened to a 1981 interview with Dana Andrews. He was asked, What makes a film become a classic? He answered, “Timeless themes that touch all generations”. So, well acted films depicting honesty, courage, bravery, the sacrificial nature of love, romantic or otherwise, are classics.
    Have you watched Shadowlands, 1993, Anthony Hopkins & Debra Winger? It will reach you across 31 years.
    1964’s Becket, Peter O’Toole & Richard Burton, is perhaps my favorite of many favorites. I just watched it for perhaps the 100th time a few nights ago. I was smitten with this film upon first viewing it in my late teens. It was shown as a PBS fund raiser.
    It’s my lifelong classic. Sometimes, we must sacrifice even friendship for a higher purpose and call, and be true to that call, no matter the consequences.

    Ray Parenti 🙋🏻

    1. That’s a great definition for a classic. That’s one of the things I find so fascinating about classic films is how so many of the themes they feature are still relevant now, decades later. I have not seen Shadowlands, but I did enjoy Becket.

  4. i have probably watched this film 5 times in the last year or 2. if this film doesn’t make you cry then you’re probably dead and just don’t know it. it never fails to make me sob no matter how many times i watch it. it’s themes of love, integrity and decency are themes that todays america seem to have forgotten. not by all but, in todays world of social media and news that seeks sensationalism instead of honesty can be pretty discouraging. it’s films like this that inspire hope for a better tomorrow through the eyes of the past. thank you for the review. it was wonderful.

    1. Hi Steven, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree with your assessment. It’s definitely one of those feel-good films we need more of these days.

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