The rise of Peter Marshall, from modest Scottish upbringing, to New York seminary, time in Atlanta churches, his marriage, appointment as chaplain of the US Senate, and early death at 46. Based on real events.
Based on the true story of a young Scottish lad, Peter Marshall, who dreams of only going to sea but finds out there is a different future for him when he receives a "calling" from God to be a minister. He leaves Scotland and goes to America where after a few small congregations he lands the position of pastor of the Church of the Presidents in Washington, D.C. and eventually he becomes Chaplain of the U.S. Senate. Written by
In this particular time in history when we have so many obvious charlatans in pulpits, making good money and spewing out their own version of exclusive Christianity; Peter Marshall's life story stands as a stinging rebuke.
This man certainly didn't make any money as a Christian, I think if he were alive today, he'd be embarrassed by a Pat Robertson or a Jerry Falwell. Peter Marshall(1902-1949) was a kid born in humble circumstances near Glasgow, Scotland. He had two loves, the sea and Christianity and in time the latter overtook the former.
In Scotland to get the passage to come to America and then later in America he worked at a variety of very humble manual labor to get the money to go to seminary to fulfill what he conceived as his life's calling. Pastoring first in the Atlanta area and later at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC. his reputation as a moving speaker eventually went national.
Marshall identified very strongly with Jesus the carpenter. He saw Jesus as a working class hero as relevant for his time as in biblical times. The film makes it very clear that Marshall's own efforts at humble labor made him think of Jesus in that way. His church in Washington, DC a place once for a few privileged dowagers became a place where all became welcome.
The movie is based on Catherine Marshall's book about her life with her husband. Jean Peters narrates and gives a strong performance as Catherine Marshall. She meets Marshall while attending college in the Atlanta area. Her best scene in the film when she gives her own sermon at a youth rally to combat the effects of drinking that Prohibition era alcohol.
Ironically Prohibition's biggest boosters were American fundamentalist preachers of that era. Marshall himself doesn't take a position on Prohibition, but the effects of drinking that bootleg product were certainly real enough, especially among the young people of the Twenties.
Richard Todd first became known to American audiences playing a terminally ill Scotch soldier in The Hasty Heart. He was a natural to play Peter Marshall. His best scenes are in the pulpit, delivering sermons that were taken from the texts of Peter Marshall's own sermons.
Todd certainly doesn't play Marshall as arrogant and smug as so many of our prominent Christian preachers of today are. Another wonderful scene of his is when Catherine Marshall is stricken with tuberculosis and on the basement stairs of his house as he prays for the recovery of his wife and asks God if in fact he's become arrogant and self- assured. It's his own Gethsemene experience.
The film is directed by Henry Koster who did a whole lot of fine religious themed films like The Bishop's Wife, The Robe and The Singing Nun. I think this was his best effort.
Certainly believers will find this an inspirational film. Non-believers will appreciate the care that went into this product, the quality of the performances and the fact that one certainly can proclaim Christianity and actually live it.
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