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Western films, from silent to today

Stars in My Crown (1950)

Stars in My Crown (1950) posterJoel McCrea plays Josiah Doziah Gray, a new minister who settles in the small southern town of Walsburg and makes it his home, marrying a pretty young woman named Harriet (Ellen Drew) and adopting an orphan boy named John Kenyon (Dean Stockwell).

The Rev. Gray becomes a well-loved fixture of the community, liked even by those who don’t attend church, such as his good friend Jeb Isbell (Alan Hale). But that doesn’t mean his life isn’t without worries.

He finds himself at odds with young Dr. Daniel Harris Jr. (James Mitchell), who has no room for religion in his life and believes science, not God, saves lives.

He’s nearly driven to pick up a gun by shop keeper Lon Backett (Ed Begley), who also operates a mine with an ore deposit that runs directly under the land of freed slave Uncle Famous (Juano Hernandez).

Famous refuses to sell that land, prompting Backett to harrass and try to intimidate him with KKK-style Night Raiders.

Perhaps most of all, he’s challenged when typhoid hits the community, starting with his son and claiming several lives. In fact, for a while, he blames himself for the spread of the disease.

The slow fever not only threatens his son’s life, it threatens Gray’s future in the community he loves so much.

Review:

Wonderful little family Western which manages to move viewers with barely a gunshot being fired. The last 10 minutes or so are particularly effective.

McCrea sometimes came across as a bit too mellow in some of his Western roles, but he’s perfect as the preacher who’s grown along with his community.

As for trivia, check this: The film features two future stars of “Gunsmoke” in early roles. This marked the film debut for Amanda Blake — the future Miss Kitty; she plays the school teacher in Walsburg. James Arness (the future Matt Dillon) plays an uncredited part, the eldest son of Jeb Isbell in just his fourth film.

On the other hand, this marked the final film for Alan Hale, father of the Alan Hale of Gilligan’s Island fame; he died later the same year. It was one of the final films for Charles Kemper, who was killed in a car crash the day after this film opened. Hale was 50 at the time of his death; Kemper, 49.

Joel McCrea as Josiah Grey and Ellen Drew as Harriet Grey in Stars in My Crown (1950)Directed by:
Jacques Tourneur

Cast:
Joel McCrea … Josiah Doziah Gray
Ellen Drew … Harriet Gray
Dean Stockwell … John Kenyon
Alan Hale … Jeb Isbell
James Mitchell … Dr. Daniel Harris Jr.
Lewis Stone … Dr. Daniel Harris Sr.
Amanda Blake … Faith Samuels
Juano Hernandez … Uncle Famous Prill
Charles Kemper … Prof. Sam Houston Jones
Connie Grilchrist … Sarah Isbell
James Arness … Rolfe Isbell
Ed Begley … Lon Backett
Jack Lambert … Perry Lokey
Arthur Hunnicutt … Chloroform Wiggins
Marshall Thompson … Narrator

Runtime: 89 min.

Memorable lines:

Josiah Gray: “Souls don’t always enjoy perfect health, you know? No more than bodies do.”
Dr. Harris Jr.: “Well, I’m not interested in souls, Mr. Grey. And when I want a sermon on the topic, I’ll come to church for it.”

Josiah Gray: “When you coming to church, Jed?”
Jed Isbell: “Just as soon as you get God to plow that bottom land for me.”

John Kenyon: “Why do I have to wear these (new shoes) to school anyway? They don’t make me any smarter.”
Harriet Gray: “Well, we can always hope.”

Josiah Gray: “Night riders? Yellow-backs in fancy dress! You shame me and you shame the Lord that made you and called you men.If I wasn’t his servant, I’d take a buggy whip to the lot of you.”

John Kenyan, afrter Uncle Famous’ will saves him from a lynching: “There ain’t no writing on here. This ain’t no will.”
Josiah Grey: “Yes, it is son. It’s the will of God.”

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