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Documentary Government sponsored film
“The Land Army fights in the fields. It is in the fields of Britain that the most critical battle of the war may well be fought and won” – Lady Denham, 1939
The need for women to take the place of male agricultural workers who had joined the armed services was recognised early in 1939. Similar circumstances during World War I had seen the formation of the Women’s Land Army, and in June 1939 Lady Gertrude Denman – a former campaigner for women’s suffrage who had been active in the WLA in 1917-18 – was asked to reform the ‘land girls’. Initially through volunteering and later through conscription, she helped to build an army some 80,000 strong.
The film is an honest tale of old-fashioned prejudice within a rural community. The chauvinism and discrimination it reveals is no doubt characteristic of its time. Its shrewd method is to allow its nameless heroine to overcome the hostility not by argument, but simply by pulling her weight with the plough. Finally the farmer is forced to concede, “we’ll make a ploughman of you yet”. Thus the film [i.e. remove ‘thereby’] manages to challenge prejudice without generating conflict – a vital task.
Land Girl was directed by John Page and commissioned from Paul Rotha Productions. Rotha was a powerful presence, and the film unsurprisingly bears his stamp.