Gone to Earth (1950) is a film by the British-based director-writer team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. It stars Jennifer Jones, David Farrar and Cyril Cusack and features Esmond Knight. The film was significantly changed for the American market by David O. Selznick and retitled The Wild Heart.
Gone to Earth is based on the 1917 novel of the same name by author Mary Webb, which was partly inspired by the Diary of Francis Kilvert. The novel was all but ignored when it first appeared, but became widely known in the 1930s, as the neo-romantic revival gathered pace, even inspiring an even more famous and wickedly funny parody, Stella Gibbons's Cold Comfort Farm.
Local squire, Jack Reddin (David Farrar) sees Hazel and wants her. But she has already promised herself to the Baptist Minister, Edward Marston (Cyril Cusack). A struggle for her body and soul ensues.
The film was a co-production with American producer David O. Selznick. Selznick flooded the production with memos, most of which were studiously ignored. Powell summed up the relationship this way, "We decided to go ahead with David O. (Selznick) the way hedgehogs make love: verrry carefully!"
Although he had been involved throughout the filming, executive producer David O. Selznick disliked the finished film and took The Archers, Powell and Pressburger's production company, to court to get it changed. He lost the court case, but discovered that he had the right to have the film changed for its American release. Consequently, he had the film re-edited and some extra scenes shot in Hollywood under director Rouben Mamoulian to make the version known as The Wild Heart (1952). Selznick's changes were mostly additions to the film: a prologue; scenes explaining things, often literally, by putting labels or inscriptions on them; and more close-ups of Jennifer Jones. The most infamous of the alterations are the scenes at the end when Jones is supposedly carrying a tame fox - in the additional scenes, she is carrying what is obviously a stuffed toy fox. Selznick also deleted a few scenes that he felt weren't dramatic enough, some of which were major plot points, so the story doesn't make as much sense as it does in the original film. In his autobiographies, Powell claimed that Selznick only left about 35 minutes of the original film, but, in fact, about two-thirds remains intact. Overall, Selznick cut the film's length by 28 minutes, from the original 110 minutes to 82 minutes.
The original version of Gone to Earth was fully restored by the British Film Institute's National Archive in 1985. A New Statesman review claimed the restored film to be "One of the great British regional films" and, according to Powell's cinematographer, Christopher Challis, "one of the most beautiful films ever to be shot of the English countryside".