Tuesday, August 5, 2014

I'd Climb the Highest Mountain

Getting away from TCM for a bit, over on FXM Retro you have a chance to catch the period movie I'd Climb the Highest Mountain, tomorrow morning at 9:30 AM.

Susan Hayward plays Mary, a woman in the first decade of the 20th century who has just become the new Mrs. William Thompson. William Thompson is actually Reverend William Thompson (William Lundigan), a Methondist minister. Rev. Thompson has been assigned by the church to a congregation in the isolated hill towns of northeast Georgia. Nowadays it would only be a couple of hours by car to Atlanta, but back then almost nobody had cars, and certainly not the lifelong residents of that part of Georgia, so the area feels like it belongs to another time completely. Mrs. Thompson, for her part, belongs to another place: she was born and bred in the big city, and she's not exactly a devout Christian. Still, she married the reverend, so she's off to follow him wherever the Church tells him to go.

It's not going ot be an easy life for her, though, not least because she being a city girl isn't the handiest around the house. In fact, the very day the new couple arrives and has a party thrown in their honor, who should show up but one Jack Stark (Rory Calhoun). He has his eyes on the lovely Jenny Brock (Barbara Bates), and the feeling is definitely mutual. But he's apparetnly the black sheep of the community, because Jenny's father (Gene Lockhart) don't like him, and everybody in town but the Thompsons seems to understand that his presence outside the Thompsons' house is going to lead to trouble. The on-again, off-again romance between Jack and Jenny is one of the themes that runs throughout the movie.

Something that affects the Rev. Thompson more than Mrs. Thompson in making his job difficult is the presence of one Tom Salter (Alexander Knox). He's a Harvard man, which makes one wonder how he ended up in the back woods of anywhere. This especially because he's a free thinker, which is a wuphemism for somebody who doesn't believe in God and dammit, he's going to raise his kids to make certain they don't believe in God either. In a time when belief in God was much stronger and whole communities seemed to attend the same church, Salter's presence is clearly a thorn in the side of Rev. Thompson.

Along the way, there is a series of other events that eventually show how the Rev. Thompson becomes loved by his community before he's reassigned to another congregation because those are the rules, and how Mrs. Thompson learns to be a good wife. One particularly humorous scene involves a woman from the city (Lynn Bari) who claims to be taking an interest in Rev. Thompson's sermons and the Bible, but may just be taking a bigger interst in the reverend himself.

All in all, I'd Climb the Highest Mountain is a nicely done movie, another of the many many movies from the studio era that feel like they were churned out on an assembly line: it succeeds in entertaining, but it never feels as though it's going to be an all-time memorable movie. The color cinematography, however, is quite good and location shooting makes the movie worth watching. Susan Hayward is good as always; William Lundigan was bland as always. Alexander Knox doesn't have a particularly big role and it feels as though he could have played his part in his sleep. As for Jack and Jenny, you want them to end up together, even if it's never really made clear why everybody seems to have a problem with Jack.

I'd Climb the Highest Mountain is available on DVD from Fox's MOD scheme.

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