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» » Robert Montgomery Presents Harvest (1950–1957)

Short summary

A young man in love with a sophisticated woman from the city is torn between his desires and those of his family. His parents wish him and his brother to stay and work on their small Minnesota wheat farm while both want to escape the tough life and move to the city. It's up to the mother to keep the family together in spirit during their Thanksgiving holiday reunion.

Dick Van Patten originally had the part played by James Dean but had to give it up as he was going into the army. Dick was later rated 4-F.

Vaughn Taylor, who played Gramps, was younger than both Ed Begley and Dorothy Gish, who played his son and daughter -in-law

User reviews


  • comment
    • Author: Bev
    A modest wheat-growing family prepares for their "Harvest". The southern foursome are: mother Dorothy Gish (as Ellen Zalinka), father Ed Begley (as Karl), son James Dean (as Paul), and elderly Vaughn Taylor (as "Gramp"). Mr. Taylor is looking forward to celebrating his 100th birthday. Ms. Gish has bought some new clothes, anticipating a healthy harvest. Mr. Dean is ending a summer affair with "city girl" Rebecca Welles (as Arlene Ross); but, he hopes to marry her, and leave the family farm. However, Dean is racked with restless guilt; his two older brothers have already moved away, and he is the farm family's last hope. Father Begley thinks, "Farming's the most important thing in the world," but Dean wants out. Suddenly, a violent hailstorm destroys the family's crop. Taylor dies, without realizing his 100th birthday dream. Then, Dean loses his girlfriend and joins the Navy…

    This "Robert Montgomery Presents…" drama certainly features a terrific "ensemble" cast. Mr. Montgomery promises "a talk" with Gish at the hour's conclusion; but, it consists of only a "thank you", and invitation to return for another teleplay. Mainly, "Harvest" is an opportunity to see Gish and Dean perform together, as mother and son. They do well, considering the medium. After performing a good scene together, Gish and Dean are unfazed by a stubborn coat rack (there were no re-takes).

    By the fall of 1953, Dean was appearing so frequently on television, he might as well have had his own weekly dramatic program. He was a popular "juvenile" player. Dean's best scene may be the dinner he shares with the sophisticated "city" family in their summer cabin; don't miss him offering to help "Herb" into his chair. The "city" and "country" table manners are fun to watch, thanks to Dean and Gish.

    Also, keep an eye out for "middle son" John Connell (as Chuck), who outperforms (albeit in a smaller role) Begley, Dean, and Gish. Congratulations, Mr. Connell, you win the farm! Montgomery hosts and narrates, in his typically pleasant manner.

    However, the drama's very LOUD "chorus" is so annoying, it just about turns "Harvest" into a Thanksgiving turkey.

    ***** Harvest (11/23/53) James Sheldon ~ Dorothy Gish, James Dean, John Connell, Ed Begley
  • comment
    • Author: Olwado
    In general I found the story dialog and Robert Montgomery's narration difficult to follow, but I got the gist of it. A mid-Western farming family is banking on a good wheat harvest but is devastated when a major thunderstorm wipes out their crop, putting them in the hole with no way to pay off a three thousand dollar loan. Ellen Zalinka (Dorothy Gish) and her husband Karl (Ed Begley) lament their situation but there's not much they can do, while Mrs. Zalinka's father (Vaughn Taylor), looking forward to his hundredth birthday, doesn't quite make it, adding another touch of melancholy to the production.

    Much of the story though has to do with son Paul (James Dean), conflicted about his role in the family and his desire to strike out in the world on his own. When his relationship with girlfriend Arlene (Rebecca Welles) breaks up, the brooding and restless young man reacts spontaneously to a recruitment poster and joins the Navy. As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, mother Ellen seeks to unite her family and offer prayerful thanks for the blessings they share even through hardship.

    A few evenings ago, Turner Classics offered up a handful of James Dean's televised anthology programs from the early 1950's, this one among them. This was the first of four in which he did not portray an ex-con or a troubled youth, and by comparison his portrayal here is not as noteworthy as when he was playing a bad boy. For one thing, some of the distinguishing features of his method acting style were missing, things he would do to draw attention to himself were not as apparent in this low key presentation. Nevertheless, if you're a James Dean fan, this minor detail won't make much of a difference.

    Watching these old programs today is quite instructional regarding the days of early television. Though nominally this show was called 'Robert Montgomery Presents", when the actor completes his introductory remarks and the story begins the screen makes mention of 'The Johnson's Wax Program' since they were the major sponsor. Other editions of the show would have gone by 'The Lucky Strike Program', as did episodes of the Jack Benny Show that I've happened to catch recently.

    This show was originally aired as a Thanksgiving Holiday special on November 11th, 1953. Until it premiered on the Turner Classic Movie Channel this past Friday, September 25th (2015), the show had never been seen since the first time it was shown. That just seems incredibly fascinating to me.
  • comment
    • Author: Nejind
    HARVEST is a decently written story for one of the anthology shows that brightened 1950s television. It has some good situations and it is interesting to me to see Dorothy Gish in her fifties, looking exactly like her better-remembered sister Lilian in NIGHT OF THE HUNTER. James Dean, Rebecca Welles and Ed Begley also give fine performances.

    However, not everyone in the cast is up to their standards. Vaughn Taylor, as Dorothy's hundred-year-old father-in-law -- even though he was a dozen years younger than Miss Gish -- is obnoxious and Joseph Foley as Miss Welles' father is way over the top.

    Like another commenter, I was annoyed by the constant, intrusive choral music; even more, presenter Robert Montgomery feels it necessary to comment on everything, from the thoughts of the characters to the quality of worms used for fish bait. The lack of confidence in cast and crew to tell a story interestingly makes this one only for the dedicated completist.
  • comment
    • Author: Trex
    "Harvest" is an old TV teleplay that has two positive distinctions. First, unlike many of these old shows that was performed live, they STILL have a copy of the program--most were lost or never kept at all. Second, it has James Dean in it--and with so few credits to his name, it's one of the few chances you'll have to see him act. Unfortunately, it's also extremely heavy-handed and very old fashioned and this really distracts the viewer from Dean's performance or any of the other actors (including Lillian Gish's sister, Dorothy, as well as Ed Begley Senior).

    The story is a Thanksgiving tale about a young man who longs to leave the farm in Minnesota and experience more of life than just wheat fields. Paul (Dean) seems very clean and nice...and is in love. There's more to it than that but I frankly lost all interest. Why? Because of the ever-present chorus that kept singing and made the entire production seem ludicrous.
  • Episode cast overview, first billed only:
    Robert Montgomery Robert Montgomery - Himself - Host
    Dorothy Gish Dorothy Gish - Ellen Zalinka
    Ed Begley Ed Begley - Karl Zalinka
    Vaughn Taylor Vaughn Taylor - Gramps
    James Dean James Dean - Paul Zalinka
    Rebecca Welles Rebecca Welles - Arlene (as Reba Tassell)
    John Connell John Connell - Chuck
    John Dennis John Dennis - Joe
    Joseph Foley Joseph Foley - Herb
    Nancy Sheridan Nancy Sheridan - Louise
    Mary Lou Taylor Mary Lou Taylor - Fran
    Tommy Taylor Tommy Taylor - Kip
    Frank Tweddell Frank Tweddell - Mr. Franklin
    Pidge Jameson Pidge Jameson - Kitty
    Peter Lazer Peter Lazer - Billy
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