|Index||3 reviews in total|
As a strictly non-religious moviegoer, when I saw this movie starting
on late-night cable TV I merely intended to view it for whatever
entertainment value (and potential kitsch quality) it might provide. I
was very surprised at the solid competency that is apparent throughout,
especially in both scriptwriting and acting (in spite of sometimes
obvious budget constraints.) Believe it or not, the main characters are
pretty well delineated and easy to identify with as everyday working
people. The script doesn't really hit you over the head with too much
Christian dogma; in fact the general public's discomfort with such
religious themes is portrayed realistically a few times, most notably
when the main character asks the bartender (in the later bar scene) not
to switch the TV away from Billy Graham's televised sermon (out of
curiosity), but a few moments later he gives in after the bartender
complains that the program is making the other patrons uncomfortable.
The main character is well-played by John Milford, and I found his work to be quite moving at times as the struggling family provider who is being pulled in many directions simultaneously (career, family, self-fulfillment, religious faith?); I think the high point of his work in this film may be the scenes in the hospital during which his character rudely yells at the 'saintly' doctor, primarily due to his character's extreme worry and frustration over his son's serious medical condition; his portrayal of unrestrained grief that follows is almost shocking in its vulnerability. This actor does a fine job, and his dark, 1950s-era good looks even add a bit of brooding depth to his character's difficult emotional journey.
I also found Georgia Lee's work in this film to be quite effective and rewarding; her pert, glowing, red-haired sweetness only adds to the attractive combination of sincerity and intelligence that allows her urban housewife character to be seen as particularly well-grounded. I especially was struck by the emotional truth she expresses during the party scene, when she is called upon to defend her budding religious beliefs against the cynical remarks of the 'callous urban sophisticates' (much to the chagrin of her husband, who's trying to score a few integrity points with the boss and his new business client.) Ms. Lee expresses her character's nervous hesitation perfectly during these moments; you can practically feel the adrenaline coursing through her body as she faces potential ridicule from these "important" strangers, all the while knowing that she is garnering certain disfavor in the eyes of her husband.
As an appreciation of deft acting and solid character portrayal, I feel that this movie excels far more often than it disappoints. The scenes depicting Graham's vintage sermons at Madison Square Garden are relatively short, and are therefore not too intrusive into the main storyline.
Although I was left unaffected by this film's religious overtones, the grief and fear expressed by the main characters as they struggle to deal with the serious illness of their young son actually haunted me for a few days afterward, and I still remember certain scenes fondly for their commendably effective theatrical construction. Ethel Waters is quite an enjoyable presence throughout this movie, both for her heartfelt renditions of some gospel standards (most notably "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child"), and for her cheerful portrayal of the ideal nurse/nanny character who watches over the sick little child. The young actor playing the sick boy is surprisingly restrained in his role, too; there is often a tendency to overplay such a focus of parental worry in stories such as this one, but this actor is fairly upbeat without being cloying.
I certainly want to find out who directed this movie; I suspect that its consistent high quality in the areas that matter most when working with a small budget, plus its gentle, non-threatening (& refreshingly non-hysterical) thematic nature, are also due in large part to the talents behind the camera.
An added draw for fans of 1960s TV series will be enjoying a bit of supporting work from the likes of a youthful and endearingly quirky Alvy Moore (Hank Kimball on "Green Acres" (1965)). Also appearing is Madge Blake (Aunt Harriet Cooper on "Batman" (1966/II)), who seems to be giving us a sneak preview of Aunt Harriet, appearing in a mink coat and diamonds...
The Billy Graham Team (as they are described in the credits) ran a
slick operation in the 1950s that could (and probably did) teach
Sterling Cooper a thing or two. This glossy colour feature from their
filmmaking arm World Wide Pictures boasts the considerable marquee
value of blues legend Ethel Waters, who is also seen drawing the
punters to Madison Square Garden as a warm up act for the Reverend
The 1950s is today viewed as a deeply conservative era, but is described by Billy Graham in this film as "a wicked and a perverse generation", against which he advocates embracing Jesus as a act of rebellion (a line he was still pursuing when I heard him speak in Sheffield in 1985). The target in this film is rising young executive Hal Foster (John Milford), subjected to the relentless pester power of his pretty wife Joan (Georgia Lee) who, fresh from having just seen Billy perform, reduces a party of important business associates (including Batman's Aunt Harriet, Madge Blake) to embarrassed silence by suddenly (and at great length) going all religious on them. With God on Joan's side she eventually wears Hal down; and the Creator shows his usual ruthlessness when he smells a potential convert by strategically manipulating the chronic illness of their cute little son in Mysterious Ways to break Hal's resistance when both father and son are at their most vulnerable.
It's Thanksgiving weekend, and I'm somewhat ill, so I'm wide awake in
the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning, and I'm in need of something to
remind me of the things I should be thankful for, and whom I should be
thankful to, so I'm flipping channels, and my local Christian network
TV station is showing something that I readily recognize as a
pre-ratings (and therefore, likely safe) flick that I've never seen
before, with a grandmotherly lady of indigenous African descent with a
wonderful voice raising praise in the form of a sweet Southern
That captured me. Normally, it wouldn't necessarily. This morning, it did.
And, it worked.
The story was so-so, the resolution was predictable, the special effects and props were few, but the lines and acting were superb, which is what Drama's all about in the first place. So good was it, that even though I predicted the resolution long before half way, at the climax, It could easily have going in a variety of other directions, so it was by no means a cheesy mono-dimensional storyline, and I found myself pleasantly more riveted than I had expected.
The least entertaining, least riveting, least rewarding parts of the film, however, was the incorporation of footage of a renowned televangelist. Personally, I have nothing major against that ministry nor that style of televangelism, but that televangelistic style appeared to clash with the acting styles of the entire cast. It just didn't quite fit. Although that might have been a selling point at the time this flick was produced, I believe it would have been a much more entertaining and therefor, reaching flick, without it.
|Plot summary||Ratings||Plot keywords|
|Main details||Your user reviews||Your vote history|