The neon lights and promised excitement of Hollywood are sure different from the peepers and the cicadas of an Iowa night ― lots better ― at least according to Pa Boyers who had retired to the tinsel city after a fulfilling but hard life as an Iowa farmer. Although Boyers still gets a few hundred a year from his old farm, supporting his wife and daughter is proving to be a bit more expensive than he expected and he begins to ponder a future as a Hollywood handyman.
Gosh darn, in the nick of time, Colossal Pictures begins shooting a film about rural life in Iowa and Pa (a movie enthusiast) screws up his courage and moseys on over to try out for a job as an extra. The movie folk can see the green corn waving and the pink pigs playing when they see him (Pa even cusses bucolic) and surprisingly (ahem) Pa is the only person on the set who knows anything about farming! Quicker than a peeper peeps, Pa is promptly offered a small speaking part.
So begins a charming and slightly sardonic newcomer-in-Hollywood story complete with smart and savvy country folk, honest and capable and free of artifice, and Hollywood directors, actors, and extras who find themselves willingly succumbing to “a soul-cleansing bath of rustic simplicity”.
The author wrote Farmer in the Dell while in Hollywood when his book, State Fair, was being made into a movie. In 1936, Farmer in the Dell was adapted for the screen and made into a movie starring Fred Stone and Jean Parker. Lucille Ball played a small part as Gloria Wilson.