Starring Susan Hayward, William Lundigan, Rory Calhoun, Barbara Bates, Gene Lockhart
Directed by Henry King
Plot: "The simple told story, based on Corra Harris' biographical book, of a Methodist minister, called to a north-Georgia mountain-community in 1910 who, with his gently-bred new bride, meets the problems and crises of his circuit-riding congregation fearlessly and honestly." (From IMDb)
I originally saw this film when I was a kid, but for the longest time I couldn't recall the name of it. Then, one day I stumbled across this review that Laura had posted. That was it! I proceeded to immediately interloan it from my library system (thankfully they had it!). I'm really happy I found this film because it is quite a gem. At least I think it is—though my view could be altered a bit by nostalgia. I do think I view this film very differently as a twenty-year-old than I did at, say, age six or seven. If anything, I think that I am able to appreciate it more.
I can’t quite put my finger on what appeals to me about this movie. I think it is the honesty and simplicity of it. Despite having some sad moments, the film feels very calming. This tone is set with the voiceover of the older Mary that narrates the picture and strings together the different vignettes that comprise the story.
I also really like the two leads—William Lundigan and Susan Hayward—and I think their performances are what carries the film. I’m not even the type of girl who likes to go camping, but even I would consider moving to the backwoods and roughing it if it meant marrying someone as kind and nice (not to mention handsome) as William! In Laura’s review she mentioned that Jeanne Crain was originally slated to play Mary but backed out due to pregnancy. No offense to Miss Crain, but I am really glad that Susan Hayward got the role. I feel like she brings a lot of spunk to the part and keeps the character from being too bland and one-dimensional. It definitely makes me want to check out some more of her movies. Together, Lundigan and Hayward make a charming couple and their interaction feels very genuine.
As much as I enjoyed this movie, there is one part (where a tragic accident occurs) that really threw me. I did not remember it at all from my previous viewing and I wasn’t expecting it. But lest you think the film is all sadness, it’s really not. Mixed in with the more serious subject matter is a good deal of humor and fun. (Just watch out for that one part!)
In some ways, this movie is similar in subject matter to 1955’s A Man Called Peter, although that story is about a more famous minister and covers a longer amount of time. The setting also brings to mind films like The Music Man, Oklahoma!, or Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (though this isn’t a musical, and the time period is probably closer to Anne of Green Gables or Pollyanna). So that should give you an idea of the ‘feel’ of the movie.
I wish I could make some screencaps (I watched it on VHS) from this because the Technicolor scenery, sets, and costumes are really quite lovely (I especially loved Hayward’s clothes). The lobby cards and black and white promotional stills (click on image for source) don’t do the film justice. Unfortunately, this isn’t available on DVD. It would be great if this could be restored and released, but I’m not sure what the status is on 20th Century Fox’s old films. (Anyone know?)
One thing that I might change about this film is to make it a little longer. At 88 minutes it breezes by, and I for one was sorry to see it end.