Publisher’s Note: We join The Ohio State University at Mansfield in celebrating Bromfield Anniversary Week by sharing stories from our archives centering on the Pulitzer Prize-winning author. Today’s story was posted last November.
For Thanksgiving 1943, Louis Bromfield wrote a drama that centered on a young couple, shaped by their American experience – and whose engagement is secretly influenced by deceased ancestors. (The story bears resemblance to Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, with those no longer living taking part in the play).
“Feast From the Harvest” was performed on the radio show Cavalcade of America, which aired different stories each week, and Bromfield was on hand to narrate his tale.
By November 1943, Americans had officially been in World War II for almost 2 years, so this forms the backdrop for Bromfield to express ideas of American spirit, shared heritage and innate strength. As Bromfield says in his introduction, “The story happens on Thanksgiving night and the people of the valley – young, old and middle-aged – are gathered together in the assembly room of the valley church to celebrate the richness of the harvest that is to feed us all – ourselves, our allies and – perhaps a little later – the starving women and children of our enemies. It is a tale of the land, and of fertility, without which all else – even civilization itself – waivers, sickens and dies. It is the story of the earth, which is the foundation of everything.”
This is a lot to promise for a play that lasts only about 20 minutes, but Bromfield seems to be using his writing to inspire Americans during wartime.
This radio play was not considered big news, but there was a mention of the broadcast in the Mansfield News Journal at the time. They noted that Bromfield placed his story in Pleasant Valley, which is also the name of the valley where Malabar Farm is located, and that much of his description of the landscape could have been based on the view out the window of the Big House at Malabar.
Here’s the link to the full broadcast if you would like to take a listen to Louis Bromfield and his Thanksgiving story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TIajzyCAgEk.