Stars in My Crown (1950)

"Take Your Choice...Either I Speak...Or My Pistols Do!"

The story of a young pastor coming to a small town in the United States to set up his ministry. The movie tells of the various relationships and struggles he goes through as he goes about raising his family and preaching to the community.

Yellow backs in fancy dress.
Stars in My Crown is directed by Jacques Tourneur and written by Joe David Brown and Margaret Fitts. It stars Joel McCrea, Ellen Drew, Dean Stockwell, Alan Hale, Lewis Stone, James Mitchell, Amanda Blake and Juano Hernandez. Music is by Adolph Deutsch and cinematography by Charles Schoenbaum.
It's post the American Civil War and we are in the Southern town of Walsburg. Preacher Josiah Gray (McCrea) arrives in town and promptly settles down to become an important part of the community. Soon he will come face to face with two killer diseases, that of typhoid and racial hatred.
First off it should be noted that some plot synopsis' and poster art are off base, McCrea's preacher is not a gun toting dude willing to use guns to further his causes, it's a brief scene flecked with humour. Also note that the Ku Klux Klan is not mentioned in this, the gang at the centre of the race hatred here are called The Night Riders (Nightriders perhaps?).
A veer from what we know as the norm for a Tourneur movie, this only really suffers from being a little too precious and naturally dated in its depictions of small town church life and racial bigotry. But that said, it's such a warm involving picture that is performed and directed with skill, it's almost impossible not to feel good about things come the closure of the play.
Story thrives on community strengths and weakness, delicately blending both to show optimism on offer in spite of human fallibilities. The battle between faith and medicine in nicely played, refusing to force feed one or the other, whilst the key scene as the racial hatred reached its vilest peak is potent and hits all the right notes.
Cliches and stereotypes are within, perhaps unsurprisingly for the era of film making, while Hernandez's black character is written as far too passive to be utterly comfortable. It also would have been nice to have had more of Charles Kemper's ebullient medicine show host, but complaints are small here and Stars in My Crown is a worthy and comfort food kinda picture. 7/10

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer by Jacques Tourneur, Joe David Brown, Margaret Fitts.
Stars: Joel McCrea, Ellen Drew, Dean Stockwell, Alan Hale.

Genres: Drama, Family, Western

Keywords: based on novel or book small town pastor typhus orphan nephew 19th century


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