Stars in My Crown (1950)

Stars in My Crown (1950)

Directed by Jacques Tourneur much of this excellent Western drama’s story is narrated by Marshall Thompson as the now grown-up boy who’s played by Dean Stockwell in the rest of the film. It’s a terrific period piece with McCrea as a gospel preacher Josiah Dozier Grey in a small rural town that emphasizes (sometimes at the point of a gun) fair treatment and ethical ways to his nephew (Stockwell) and his parishioners.

McCrea’s character had fought in a losing effort for the Confederacy during the Civil War; Ellen Drew plays his supportive wife. Alan Hale plays an immigrant settler who though he and his wife (Connie Gilchrist?) don’t attend church services with their large family of boys themselves supports his friend Josiah and what he’s trying to do in their community. Lewis Stone plays the town’s older respected doctor; James Mitchell plays his son who’s returned to town a doctor himself. Mitchell’s character doesn’t practice medicine with the same “hands on” personal touch as that of his father’s and his emotionally detached ways causes mistrust among the settlers when an epidemic of typhoid hits the town. Amanda Blake plays the school teacher that the young doctor courts which eventually softens his edges. Unfortunately Mitchell’s character then suspects McCrea’s is the one who’s inadvertently spreading the typhoid which has “infected” Stockwell’s character. Juano Hernandez plays a black man a friend of Stockwell’s who’s made it on his own as a free man. Ed Begley plays a racist (typecast?) who wants Hernandez’s land to mine and is so determined that he organizes a KKK group to destroy his farm. McCrea Hale and his boys (James Arness appears uncredited as one of them) restore it. There’s a powerful scene near the end with McCrea the former Confederate turned preacher standing up to the riotous group with his nephew (and Hale’s character?) by his side attempting to keep them from lynching Hernandez … and I refuse to spoil it for you. It’s reminiscent though it pre-dates To Kill A Mockingbird (1962).

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