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Count Three And Pray finds Van Heflin one weary Union veteran from the
Civil War, tired of all the killing he's seen and participated in. When
a parson from the town he's from in the west is killed at Vicksburg,
Heflin decides right then and there he's received a calling to take his
Before the war Heflin was quite the roughneck character, a gambling, fighting, and loving man if there ever was one. A lot of folks in the town just don't quite think he's changed. Some like town boss Raymond Burr are out to prove it in any way possible. Some like saloon owner and town madam Jean Willes have different ideas about getting Heflin back to his old ways.
If that isn't enough Van's got two other problems. One is a young orphan type girl, a budding Calamity Jane in Joanne Woodward who's decided to just move into the parsonage that Heflin's set up shop in and won't leave. Not good for a righteous preacher to be cohabitating with a girl just this side of minority.
But secondly Van's forgot that he has to get himself ordained somewhere. Minor little detail, but still one of those things folks can be sticklers about.
Count Three And Pray is a good western that sadly has the potential to be something far better. The cast is uniformly good and this was Joanne Woodward's big screen debut. She was quite lucky she didn't get herself typecast in roles like these.
A whole lot of issues are not resolved in Count Three And Pray and the ending is not quite satisfactory for me. Still it's a well made and very earnest film that seems to have been crafted by some skilled people.
A former drinker and womanizer, returned from the Civil War, comes home as a newly converted preacher. He takes up residence in the old parsonage with a high spirited young girl and begins rebuilding the church. He finds a lot of trouble along the way, mostly from the local store owner who resents the new preacher because he fought for the north. Lots of action and drama made for a very good picture and Joanne Woodward as the rambunctious Lissy stole the show. She had me laughing all the way through. 4 stars.
This picture is a great intro to Joanne Woodward with good dialog and solid performances by all. Van Heflin is perfect as the repentant womanizer and Raymond Burr is always a good heavy. I think Joanne W. is wonderful as the feisty young woman. As a tomboy, seeing the movie in my youth, I related to her character. Everyone's transformations and adjustments to life after the Civil War are believable. The only thing that is bothersome are the stagy sets. The rendition of the hymn "Holy, Holy,Holy" is a good American standard of the times. One of my favorite films but not seen enough on TV. Wish a DVD of it would be included in JW's classic collection with "Three Faces of Eve" and the "Long Hot Summer".
This is the very first time I viewed this film and it held my interest from the very beginning of the film to the very end. Van Heflin, (Luke Fargo) plays the role of a Civil War soldier who returns to his home town and is very well known for his past with wine, women and song. Luke takes it upon himself to become a minister and set up a church which had been burned down to the ground. The rectory was still standing but a wild young girl was living in the house and was using a shot gun mainly at Luke's head and did not want him anywhere near her home as she called it. This wild young gal's name is Lissy, (Joanne Woodward) who never takes a bath and is a typical tom boy so to speak. There is a bad dude in town named Yancey Huggins, (Raymond Burr) who hates Luke and does everything in his power to destroy Luke's chances of building a church and accuses Luke of living with a girl under age and things not be fitting a man of the cloth. There is lots of laughs and some very dramatic scenes which makes this film a great family film and very worth your while to view this picture from 1955.
Herb Meadows wrote the original story "The Calico Pony" that this movie
based on, and this was its shooting title.
Van Heflin was great as Luke Fargo, Joanne Woodward in her film debut is okay, but a bit tiresome and "Methody" in her performance. She does a nice job but is not as appealing as a Debbie Reynolds-Tammy backwoods type.
The supporting cast including Raymond Burr, Jean Willes, and Kathryn Givney are terrific. Best of all is Allison Hayes as the rich girl gone bad. Her performance is amazing and seems slightly truncated so that she could get NO audience sympathy. Some of her dialog is delivered over closeups of Woodward. No other female character is allowed to be sympathetic at all, even Nancy Kulp as made shrewish and mean to Woodward's benefit.
This makes the story suffer - but Heflin, Burr, and Hayes make it a very interesting nearly-forgotten movie.
boy did i get a crush on joanne woodward when i first saw this movie as a teen in the 1950s. & guess what? i still do. great movie. solid, moving, funny. van heflin the perfect soul-searching good guy & raymond burr the perfect nasty badguy...& oh that wonderful joanne...lucky paul newman... smart fellow!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Joanne Woodward had already made several television appearances before
making her feature film debut in Count Three And Pray in October of
1955. She plays Lissy, a southern tomboy orphan holed up in a
dilapidated parsonage at the end of the Civil War. Enter Van Heflin as
Luke Fargo, a turncoat womanizer turned self-proclaimed preacher.
Heflin sets up shop with Woodward in the parsonage, raises her as his
charge, and inadvertently turns her into a young lady. Woodward is
resistant to Heflin's efforts and fiercely protects her independence
but ultimately succumbs to his good-natured ways. Woodward, being a
Georgia native, is picture perfect in her role and steals almost every
scene she's in.
The film benefits from an excellent supporting cast including Phil Carey, Raymond Burr, Allison Hayes, and Jean Willes. Hayes (as Georgina) and Willes (as Selma) play former town flames both trying to get their hooks into Heflin, Hayes out of financial necessity and Willes in a more genuine fashion. Carey plays a gambler, Albert Loomis, who unintentionally assists Heflin in securing the lumber needed to build a church. Burr, as usual, plays the town boss, Yancey Huggins, trying to thwart Heflin's efforts because Heflin fought with the union soldiers during the war.
The film's complications (provided by the able supporting players) are routine for a western made in the 1950's, but it's the interaction between Heflin and Woodward that makes the film worthwhile and interesting. Heflin and Woodward make good foils for each other's antics. Herb Meadow's script, based on a story called "Calico Pony", has a way of respecting its characters without making them seem ignorant or as uneducated as they are. The film was produced in beautiful Technicolor with the CinemaScope process, and it's a good family film to boot. Nancy Kulp appears as a dour townswoman. *** of 4 stars.
Count Three and Pray is directed by George Sherman and written by Herb
Meadow. It stars Van Heflin, Joanne Woodward, Raymond Burr, Phillip
Carey and Allison Hayes. A CinemaScope/Technicolor production, music is
by George Duning and cinematography by Burnett Guffey.
At first glance it appears to be a film about a bad man finding his faith and coming good in the face of adversity, but there are many more strings to this particular bow. Even if it never quite reaches greatness.
Story has Heflin as Luke Fargo, a man who before the Civil War was something of a hell raiser, he loved women, he loved to drink, and he loved to fight. While serving in the war he was emotionally scarred by what he witnessed at The Battle of Vicksburg, he decided then that a change in his life trajectory was required. The bite here is that Fargo, a Southerner, fought for the North because that was the political side he believed in. So upon returning to his Southern hometown, he's persona non grata, a major problem since he wants to spread the gospel and cast off his previous sins. His efforts are further complicated when he locates himself to the derelict - ramshackle - church and parsonage, to find living there is a feisty orphan girl called Lissy (Woodward), a sharpshooting tomboy with fire in her belly.
Right from the off we find Fargo having to reach back to his hellfire club days, forced to brawl when confronted with outright hostility that's being instigated by self appointed town leader Yancey Huggins (Burr on splendidly nasty form). Oh there is plenty of God fearing folk in the town who desperately want to have the church up and running again, they want to give Luke a chance, but there's the constant feeling that a leopard never changes its spots, something that is further compounded by the attention Luke receives from the town "madam" (Jean Willes). While the fact that Luke is living under the same roof as young Lissy sets tongues a wagging, unhealthily so. Luke valiantly ploughs on, but his unorthodox methods are sure to be used against him...
As the relationship between Lissy and himself develops, you sense quite early on how things are going to pan out, but the by-play between Heflin and Woodward is great viewing. Initially you would be forgiven for thinking that Woodward's character is going to be greatly annoying, but Woodward quickly dispels those fears to deliver a quite wonderful portrayal of a wastrel who is unaware she herself needs guidance. Heflin also is great value, a real mixed bag of emotions, lurching from tough to vulnerable with consummate ease. We could have done with a bit more of Burr's villainy up front and center, while Hayes' (yummy!) treacherous femme comes off as under written, but the main characterisations are strong enough to support the thematics.
Nicely photographed around the Agoura Hills area of California by ace lensman Guffey, it's a pleasing production visually. Aurally the musical score provided by Duning has the requisite sedate and bluster moments, though fans of the original Star Trek TV show may find themselves suddenly whisked off on the Enterprise, Duning would clearly rework his score here for Kirk and Spock's adventures. Woodward playing a gal 7 years younger than she actually was asks us for some leeway, while the ending is to my mind a stretch too far, but this is an enjoyable experience for Heflin and Woodward fans. There's good action with knuckles (on a Sunday no less!) and horse racing, and plenty of breezy humour as well, making this a picture that's not quite a hidden gem, but definitely worthy of consideration by the Oater loving crowd. 7/10
Post-Civil War southerner--who left his small town for battle with the reputation of a brawler and a womanizer--returns home a changed man; he has heard God's calling, and intends to build a church from scratch and be its self-appointed parson. Rather offbeat, entertaining, if modest western drama from screenwriter Herb Meadow (adapting his short story, "Calico Pony") offers a strong starring role for Van Heflin. Focused and determined, but not above a little unorthodox behavior, Heflin's Luke Fargo is a charming, thoroughly-realized creation: a man who wants to preach but isn't even sure how to begin a prayer. The film has lightly humorous character bits, also a ready-made villain in Raymond Burr (whose determination to trip Fargo up at every juncture is never made quite clear). Joanne Woodward debuts as a scruffy, orphaned tomboy; she's miscast, and is used mostly for comic relief, but she manages to make a connection with the audience--and with Heflin, although their final walk together (however subtly presented) is a bit tough to swallow. Not a big, rousing western, though completely unpretentious and engaging on a minor level. **1/2 from ****
Most movies garner your interest in the beginning. You are intrigued
and wonder how things will work out. That is the easy part. The
difficult part is how to solve the puzzle, put the pieces together in
an entertaining and clever way. Therefore, the conclusions of most
movies fall apart.
"Count Three and Pray" reversed this. The first half-hour was maddening slow, boring, clichéd and predictable. It was also unrealistic as would-be preacher Heflin went about building a church building and congregation from scratch -- what with no money, friends and a hostile community. I was ready to fast-forward to the end, but didn't.
The last half-hour was marvelous, though. It moved along quickly. The problems and solutions were unexpected and clever. It was heart-warming, believable and even somewhat religious. Gave me a good feeling. I recommend this to single adults and entire families.
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