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Simple, easy-to-take evocation of a 19th century rural religious life in
Georgia, "I'd Climb the Highest Mountain" is one of director Henry King's
profoundest and most personal works. I just saw it for the first time. A
friend recommended it to me a while back, told me it's a timeless experience
I would never forget. My expectations were further aroused when I found out
the director had been Henry King, one of the most underrated American
directors of his time.
The screenwriter is Lamar Trotti, who used to collaborate with John Ford, and who previously worked with director King in films "In Old Chicago"(1937), "Alexander's Ragtime Band"(1938) and "Captain From Castile"(1947).
Filled with lush, resplendent scenery of Georgia's Blue Ridge Mountains & gorgeously photographed in Technicolor, "I'd Climb " is the uplifting story of a dedicated, scrupulous preacher William Thompson (William Lundigan) and his marriage to a charismatic city girl Mary Elizabeth (Susan Hayward). They settle in a small peaceful town populated by simple town folk trying to live, survive happily and peacefully.
Hayward and Lundigan are outstanding throughout, and give some of their most moving performances. Narrated by Elizabeth, the story flows nicely through several moments of tenderness. The preacher heals the community, providing hope and support in time of a fever epidemic, and transforms an atheistic neighbor into accepting the community's uncomplicated way of life.
Nothing of significance happens; it is a film of hope and harmony, a sense of time and place, beautifully realized.
I had seen this movie 30 years ago with my Grandad in rural middle
Tennessee and have searched for it any times since. However, I could
not remember the name of it. I found it yesterday on TBN and it was all
I had remembered it to be. The story as well as the scenery was first
class. Many of the homes were still like that in Middle Tn when I first
seen the movie. Based on the scenery, the story, and what my relatives
told me of rural life in the early 20th century this appears like a
pretty accurate portrayal. While life was simpler it was not without
Well worth seeing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'd Climb the Highest Mountain is a representative achievement of one
of Hollywood's most distinguished directors, Henry King. Working from
the 1910s through 1962, King compiled a record of unparalleled
duration, productivity, and artistry. Henry King's career is so long
and prolific, and the documentation so immense, that he has, in effect,
defied analysis by scholars. Born in 1886, he died in 1982, and during
his 96 years he granted countless interviews, some of which have been
published in an oral history; I was one of those so privileged to meet
him, while finishing my Ph.D. at the University of Southern California.
Henry King was gifted with an extraordinary memory and a skillful
intellect that made such encounters particularly memorable. Many of you
have probably seen King's commentary in Kevin Brownlow's series on
Hollywood in the silent era some years back.
King's films are better known than he is, and he prided himself on his ability to handle diverse stories. Examples range from such contrasting genres as historical adventure, like Romola, The Magic Flame, Lloyds of London, Stanley and Livingstone, Little Old New York, The Black Swan, Captain From Castile, Prince of Foxes, King of the Khyber Rifles, and Untamed; to melodrama, like Stella Dallas, I Loved You Wednesday, Seventh Heaven, Remember the Day, Deep Waters, Love is a Many Splendored Thing, This Earth is Mine, and Beloved Infidel; to westerns, like The Winning of Barbara Worth, Ramona, Jesse James, The Gunfighter, and The Bravados; to musicals, like Alexander's Ragtime Band and Carousel; to war films, like The Woman Disputed, She Goes to War, A Yank in the RAF, A Bell for Adano, and Twelve O'Clock High; and concluding his career with a trio of modern literary adaptations, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, The Sun Also Rises, and Tender is the Night.
For some thirty years, the bulk of his creative period, King was associated with a single studio, Twentieth Century-Fox. He was a courtly gentleman of the old school, and his films reflect this mannered tone and pace. In all of his pictures, even his action films, King is most interested in the mind and motivations of his characters. He had a keen ear for the quieter side of life, and unlike so much of modern cinema, there are no displays of raw emotion. King values the ordinary, daily yet largely forgotten aspects of life, and is attentive to the silences, the pauses, the words left unsaid as well as those uttered. His characters tend to be isolated, even when in a group, and he accepts honest sentiment and is expert at depicting a convincing story of two people in love.
I'd Climb the Highest Mountain is a film that reflects King's greatest achievement, the expression of Americana on the screen. Americana is the dramatic capturing of the values, culture, history, personalities, and character of the nation, a vision of the United States as a living entity of people and ideals. Such films can cut across many genres and ideologies. Among King's films of this type are Tol'able David, Lightnin', Over the Hill, the Will Rogers version of State Fair, Carolina, Way Down East, The Country Doctor, In Old Chicago, Maryland, Chad Hanna, Margie, and Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie. King's Americana is more than nostalgia, yearning for the rosy afterglow of a past that never was. He evokes the past in its full light, and memory can prove to be a bitter, wrenching experience, even with the the passing of the years.
King also had a fundamental belief in the efficacy and importance of religious faith; he was a convert to Catholicicism, and his other religious films include The White Sister, The Song of Bernadette, and David and Bathsheba. I'd Climb the Highest Mountain is the key intersection in his work of these themes of faith and Americana, and was based on an old Saturday Evening Post story and filmed in the mountains of North Georgia.
The charm of the North Georgia Mountains as they used to be, coupled with the human warmth of the acting captured on beautiful color filming, makes this film a perennial classic. The story of a moderate minister and the ordeals he faces, as his wife faces her own. They come to combine their trials as well as their triumphs. A glimpse at olden times, but which reveals that folks back then were quite like us. Yet wholesome and safe for the entire family.
Lamar Trotti, one of the finest writers in Hollywood during its golden
age, was a native of Atlanta. The year before he died, he was both
producer and screenwriter for this tale of a Georgia mountain preacher
and his beautiful wife in the early years of the 20th century. The
movie was shot on location in what was then a very rural area of the
state, and Trotti promised the locals that their culture would be
He kept his word. "I'd Climb the Highest Mountain" avoids condescension toward the people of Appalachia and their religion, which makes it an unusual film. But thankfully it's not too sentimental either, though it is ultimately an inspirational film.
The story is adapted from a 1910 novel by Corra Harris, a Georgia writer who was once nationally famous, and somewhat controversial, though she was not much remembered by the time the movie was made. Harris had been married to a minister herself, but the story was not autobiographical. It does have the ring of authenticity, though. The backwoods was really the backwoods a century ago, and a stylish, city-bred woman would have felt restless even if she was deeply in love.
Henry King was a great choice to direct the film. He was religious himself, and at home with the material, and he had begun his long filmmaking career in the era in which the story takes place. Stars William Lundigan and Susan Hayward do an adequate job, though she seems just too glamorous for her surroundings. Ironically, from today's perspective, the fact that Lundigan is no longer much of a "name" makes him a better fit for the role of the preacher.
The scenery is a big part of the film's appeal. North Georgia is not as spectacular as the Rockies, or even the Great Smokies, but it is a gorgeous area. And it was largely unspoiled when this movie was made.
I notice that many Georgians writing about this movie have strong memories of the time when it was being made. In those days, it was rare indeed for a motion picture to be shot in Georgia. People drove from hours away to see what Hollywood types looked like.
Susan Hayward's move to Georgia in the late 1950s had nothing to do with this film, and her new home wasn't in the mountains, but what she did was unusual for a Hollywood star of that era. She met and married a Georgian with the unglamorous name of Eaton Chalkley, and she lived with him on his farm when she wasn't making films. Chalkley was the love of her life. When he died, she moved out of the state because she couldn't bear to live at their home without him. When she herself passed away, she was buried beside him, in the cemetery of a church near his farm.
Whenever I see "I'd Climb the Highest Mountain," I think of the Chalkleys.
This movie was being filmed in the mountains of Cleveland, Georgia, at the time I had just finished high school in Atlanta, and one of my co-workers was from that town. I saw it as it was first released the following year, and enjoyed the beautiful mountain scenery as well as fine acting by Susan Hayward, who later married a Georgian and made her home in Carrollton. The author, Cora Harris, was married to a Methodist circuit riding pastor, and had a good understanding of the trials and triumphs of pastors. I would heartily recommend this film along with "A Man Called Peter" and "One Foot in Heaven" as among the best that Hollywood offered when it sought to inspire better behavior.
William Lundigan and Susan Hayward starred in this 1951 film regarding
the trials and tribulations of a preacher and his wife.
The scenery was truly beautiful in the part of Georgia where the film was made.
Alexander Knox, so memorable in 1944's Wilson, steals the film in another wonderful performance as the dirt farmer, a non-believer, whose child drowns accidentally while under Hayward and Lundigan's care. That scene in itself will just tug at your heart.
A film of the human spirit beautifully realized by Lundigan and Hayward.
They were simpler times, in the 19th century N. Georgia Mountains. A good portrayal of period-referenced American sentiments and sensibilities overall. A very high-profile cast performs in poetic unison against the pleasing backgrounds. A full range of human emotion is encapsulated within a smoothly flowing plot and dialogue. Hope prevails over life's challenges. Kudos to the director for capturing it all within a wonderfully coordinated conceptual frame.
This was a pretty good movie in that the main character was a solid
preacher, not the flawed one seen in all modern-day films. The only
chink in his armor was that he married an unbeliever, something a
sincere minister (William Lundigan) such as the one shown here, would
Susan Hayward's character, the minister's wife, is annoying at times but at least she admits her weaknesses and doubts and then realizes the doubts were unfounded. However, her allegiance, even at the end with a quote from Scripture, is not to God but to her husband. She thinks her purpose in life is to follow him, not Him!
Interwoven in this story are a couple of touching stories of relationships that are transformed from hardened to soft with the patient help from the preacher. It's basically life in strict small Georgia town in Protestant church setting.
Overall, a nice story and good family viewing, as the cliché goes, but nothing extraordinary to be honest. Worth at least one look
I believe that everyone involved with the story itself, screenwriter,
director, production as well as the actors' portrayal was very good. It
showed an accurate glimpse back to a much simpler place and time in
rural Southern customs and attitudes concerning the human plight, as
well as the controversy that always surrounds religion even in a small
community in the mountains of North Georgia.
My family's roots were started there and many who have passed on lie underneath the red clay, where I too one day shall lay this body down. They don't have writers or actors today who could do this film. 20th Century Fox did well in backing this story. Don't know if it made them money at the box office, though it made a lasting impression of a precious moment in our past when life was lived at a much slower pace. A neighbor was a person you knew. Ahhh, to love thy neighbor as thyself.......what a radical idea !!!!!!! ENJOY !!!
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