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By many standards Norman Vincent Peale might have been the most successful Protestant minister of the last century. In one instance he has my respect, at least he wasn't one of those reverends with the pompadour hair constantly begging for money to spread the gospel. As pastor of one of the largest and oldest Protestant main line churches he had a lot of rich parishioners and his collection plate was never empty.
His book The Power Of Positive Thinking sold and still sells well today. I read it years ago. Basically it says if you have faith and confidence you can overcome all. Many have called it Coueism laced with Jesus and a lot in the mental health field derided its message. That was one of the many controversies surrounding his life.
The film takes us from his childhood where young Mickey Sholdar tells his minister father William Windom that no way is he going to grow up and be a minister. Then after a try at journalism Peale now played by Don Murray goes into his father's profession and after a long campaign woos and wins Diana Hyland as his wife. Along the way we see Don Murray do a mean Charleston.
Stopping after the success and controversy of The Power Of Positive Thinking it does not deal with the more political aspects of his ministry. Peale was a thorough going Republican whose endorsement of Dwight D. Eisenhower was a highly prized thing. Peale and Adlai Stevenson had quite a set to during the 1956 campaign when Stevenson quipped after the Ike endorsement that he found "Paul appealing and Peale appalling". Adlai's divorce upset Peale, he felt a divorced man should not be president.
Stevenson had occasion to repeat his quip in 1960 when Peale made his biggest faux pas ever by joining a group of Protestant ministers who signed denounced John F. Kennedy for his Catholicism and said he wasn't equipped for the job with divided loyalties that Catholics by nature have to have. Peale never recovered from that and its significant that this biographical tribute film which came out in 1964 didn't go into that part of Peale's career. After the Kennedy debacle he eschewed politics for the rest of his life.
Murray and Hyland made a fine pair of leads and this film is certainly the way Dr. Norman Vincent Peale saw himself and his place in the world.
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