Blossoms in the Dust is a 1941 American Technicolor film which tells the true story of Edna Gladney who takes it upon herself to help orphaned children to find homes, despite the opposition of the “good” citizens who think that illegitimate children are beneath their interest. It stars Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, Felix Bressart, Marsha Hunt and Fay Holden.
Edna Kahly (Greer Garson) and her adopted sister, Charlotte (Marsha Hunt), are to be married. But, when Charlotte’s mother-in-law-to-be discovers that Charlotte was a foundling, she declares the wedding must not occur, and Charlotte kills herself from shame. Meanwhile, Edna falls for a brash cashier, Sam Gladney, at the bank, and eventually marries him and moves with him to his home state of Texas.
Sam Gladney has a flour mill in Sherman, Texas, and at first the couple has an idyllic life, though after a difficult delivery Sam is told Edna must have no more children. Several years later, their son dies, and Sam’s effort to ease the pain she still endures by trying to get her to adopt a foundling fails. But the little girl’s story touches Edna’s heart, and she starts a day care center for the children of working women.
Sam’s business fails, and they must auction off all their possessions. The local women take over the day care center, and Sam and Edna move to Fort Worth, Texas, where he has a job in a mill. Edna starts a home for orphans and illegitimate children, and works hard to find them appropriate homes, matching parents to child by interests and inclinations. Sam becomes ill and dies. When a young woman comes to try to donate a large sum of money, Edna worms the young woman’s story out of her, and discovers she is in a similar situation as poor Charlotte. After insisting the girl’s fiancé won’t care that she is illegitimate, she decides to campaign to have the word “illegitimate” removed from Texas birth certificates.
After succeeding in her quest, Edna faces one more trial—the little crippled boy she has raised from an infant and nursed back to health finds a new home at last. She is reluctant to let him go, but at last realizes it is for the best, and, as she tends to the two newest foundlings, brought to her door by a policeman, the music comes up and the End title card comes on the screen.