Thursday, February 25, 2021

Erie Canal Scenes: Are They Realistic?

In an attempt to provide a realistic—and brief—illustration of life on the Erie Canal, I have excerpted canal and boat scenes from the movie, The Farmer Takes a Wife, and arranged them in four one-minute clips.

The 1935 film, The Farmer Takes a Wife (1935) (Wikipedia) (IMDB), takes place on the Erie Canal, although it was actually filmed on the Lehigh Canal. If the canal scenes in the movie present a realistic reflection of life on the Erie Canal, they could make a great teaching resource.

I would like to know to what degree these scenes are realistic or not. Can you point to specific elements of these scenes that are not realistic? Please share your observations in the comment section below or send me an email.

There are four clips. Each is about one minute long. Please let me know if you spot anything that strikes you as typical or atypical of the Erie Canal at the time. (The movie was set in 1850.) 

1. Canal & Boats

These clips show the canal its boats. There is one brief segment that shows a packet boat.

2. Neighbors

This collection of clips is intended to illustrate the neighborliness of life on the canal.

3. Canal Towns

I purposefully removed the soundtrack from these scenes so it doesn't draw attention from the views of the town. Further I would ask people to focus their attention on the background scenery to get a sense of the town (rather than focus on the actors in the foreground). Are there particular elements in these scenes you would draw attention to?

4. Life Aboard

I have not come across any illustrations of the interior of a freight boat. If these film scenes are anywhere near realistic, I think they would help to convey a sense of life aboard a boat. The furnishings are surely Hollywoodified and, consistent with the story line, the owner of the boat has been furnishing it in anticipation of buying a farm, so they are perhaps oversize for a canal boat. In this case too, I have deleted the soundtrack.

I would appreciate your feedback.


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