The Great Miss Moffat
After inheriting a large house in a Welsh mining village Miss Lilly Moffat (Katharine Hepburn - Guess Who's Coming to Dinner) arrives with her housekeeper Mrs. Watty (Patricia Hayes - Carry on Again Doctor) and her daughter Bessie (Toyah Willcox) and immediately finds herself at odds with the local Squire (Bill Fraser) who believed that a military man was moving in to the house. To make matters worse Miss Moffat decides to set up a school for the young boys who find themselves working down the mines as soon as they are old enough to swing a pick. But despite these battles she finds in a young man Morgan Evans (Ian Saynor) someone with potential and a desire to learn and invests everything she can in giving this young man every chance of recognizing his potential despite his own doubts.
"The Corn Is Green" is based on the biographical play by Emlyn Williams and over the years the central role of Miss Moffat has been played on stage by Ethel Barrymore and in an earlier movie by Bette Davis. Because of that this 1979 made for TV version needed a big actress and to be honest at the time there was no one better than Katharine Hepburn for the role. The fact that Hepburn had in the previous decade played several stoic characters made her ideal for the role of Miss Moffat and you can see similarities in how she plays Moffat to how she played Eula Goodnight in "Rooster Cogburn" just 4 years earlier. It is partly because Hepburn seems so at home in the role, playing to her strengths that you don't want to miss a minute of this charming drama.
But "The Corn is Green" is more than just a movie about the wonderful Katharine Hepburn, for a made for TV movie it has a great look. I believe it was filmed on location in Wales which with its luscious green hills makes for a fabulous backdrop. But the costumes are also first rate and the direction by legendary director George Cukor, who 47 years earlier directed Hepburn in her debut movie, is solid and shows off the costume work brilliantly. In fact considering this movie is now 35 years old it doesn't automatically strike you as something made in the 70s.
And of course there is the storyline and whilst the synopsis I put together makes this seem like a tale of a teacher bringing out the genius in a young man there is more to it than that with a storyline which evolves to involve Bessie Watty. Now on that subject I was taken aback when I discovered it was Toyah Wilcox playing young Bessie having only been aware of her as a singer during the 80s but Wilcox, whilst a little shaky, does a decent job especially when having to act alongside the likes of Hepburn and Anna Massey. In fact all the cast play their parts well although it is Katharine Hepburn who dominates and makes this TV movie work and more importantly still work.
What this all boils down to is that "The Corn is Green" is a charming drama which starts of as one thing and nicely evolves. But it works because of another good performance from Katharine Hepburn who even in her old age was delivering performances which dominated movies.