Louisiana Story

Released:  1948

Cast:  Joseph Boudreaux, Lionel Le Blanc, E. Bienvenu, Frank Hardy

Oscar Nominations:  Best Writing, Motion Picture Story (Frances H. Flaherty, Robert J. Flaherty)

SUMMARY:  In a bayou in Louisiana, a Cajun boy named Alexander lives with his mother, father and pet raccoon.  He spends his days paddling around the bayou in his pirogue (a small, shallow boat), fishing and exploring.  One day, his father signs a lease that will allow an oil company to drill on the family’s land.  The peace of the bayou is soon broken by the huge machinery that is brought in, including an oil rig that is brought in by barge.  All of this fascinates Alexander, who now spends many hours watching the progress.  He soon befriends the men who work on the rig, who marvel at his ability to catch huge fish with a simple pole.  The men invite Alexander onto the rig, and although he initially declines, he is soon making frequent visits, and observing he men and machinery at work.  However, he soon has another distraction:  an alligator has apparently eaten his pet raccoon.  Alexander decides to hunt and kill the alligator by himself, and though he does manage to catch it, he is pulled into the water by the much stronger gator.  Luckily, his father is nearby, and after Alexander finally lets go of the line, his father pulls him out of the bayou.  Together, they go out after the gator again, and ultimately catch it; Alexander is the one who kills it.  They take the hide by the rig to show to the workers, who are again impressed by Alexander’s skill.  Only a short time later, the workers have a problem of their own:  the drill hits a pocket of gas and salt water, which completely shuts down the drilling.  It takes several days to cap the hole, and it is rumored that the drilling will cease, and the well will be declared a dud.  However, Alexander sneaks aboard one evening and pours a small bag of salt (carried to ward off evil spirits) down the hole.  A few days later, drilling resumes, and the rig hits oil.  Having completed their job, the workers leave after a fond farewell from Alexander and his father.

MY TAKE:  I’ve always been kind of fascinated by the show Swamp People, which mainly focuses on alligator hunting in the bayous and swamps of Louisiana.  At the beginning of each show, a title notes that the way of life dates back hundreds of years.  This movie, which is semi-biographical, proves that (although to a shorter extent).  The movie might by almost 70 years old, but the actors have the same Cajun accent and speech pattern as the people in the TV show; both use pirogues, especially for children, and finally, they hunt alligators basically the same way.  This is what really surprised me, because frankly, it’s hard to imagine that with all the ways technology has evolved in the last 70 years, the original method is still the best.  Basically, a piece of meat (usually rotten, so that the alligators can really smell it) is hung over the water on a fishing line; when the alligator eats the meat, it also swallows a hook.  The hunter then pulls the line in until the alligator is close enough that the hunter can shoot it in the quarter-sized kill spot — otherwise, the bullet will basically bounce off the gator’s thick hide.  From watching the TV show, I know that pulling an alligator in is difficult, and hunting alligators alone is pretty dangerous.  Even more dangerous is getting pulled into the water, because the alligator has the definite advantage there.  Consequently, I started shouting at the screen when Alexander was pulled into the water, and the shouting grew more emphatic when he kept hanging on to the line.  He did make it out, but the whole thing originated because he wanted revenge for his pet raccoon.  This is another thing that occurs in the TV show (pet raccoons), but personally, I think anybody that keeps a raccoon for a pet is nuts.  Those things can be really, really nasty.  Apparently, Alexander’s raccoon thought it was an otter, because the thing was forever hopping out of the pirogue and swimming around.  I always thought animals were pretty in tune with potential danger, but this raccoon was obviously lacking in that area.  I knew that sooner or later, somethin was going to happen to the thing.  I think he actually makes it out alive somehow, but it was completely realistic to believe that he had been eaten.  This brings me to one other thing I consider rather foolish:  who lets their preteen son out on the bayou, by himself, with a pet raccoon, in an itty-bitty boat for the majority of every day?  Seriously, it’s a miracle that the KID didn’t get eaten by an alligator.  I’m sure that this was just a different way of life, and a different age, but that just seems ludicrous to me.  The movie is obviously a bit of a plug for oil companies (it was commissioned  by Standard Oil), because the relationship between the locals and the oil workers is hard to believe.  I can’t accept that nobody resented the intrusion on their area, and the side effects of an oil well.  The film also shows the well as being very eco-friendly, but I’m sure that to some extent, things had to be cleared or destroyed in order to set the rig up

RATING:  Interesting but an obvious plug.

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