The Shepherd of the Hills (1941) Poster

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A lyric piece of film making.
countryway_4886413 August 2001
This is John Wayne's first color film and my only complaint is that the cinematographer failed to pick up the unique almost purple color of his eyes!

Taken from a much-loved novel of the time, The Shepard of the Hills tells a simple story exceptionally well.

An older man appears at a cabin door and gives aid without a question as to how the accident happened. He saves a child. He wants to purchase a piece of property and settle down.

The mountain people of the Ozark region do not welcome strangers, yet this man seems to fit in with his quiet ways and his vast knowledge of the outside world most of the mountain people have never seen.

Harry Carey is this quiet man. He is splendid in every scene. John Wayne plays 'Young Matt Matthews'a young man still mourning his mother and who has sworn a blood oath to kill the man responsible, his father.

Betty Field is marvelous as 'Young Matt's' girlfriend. Harry Carey thoughtful and quietly charming at 'Mr. Howard', the Shepard of the Hills, as his new neighbors call him. Beula Bondi is fascinating as 'Aunt Molly' and Margery Main shines as the blind woman that 'Mr. Howard' sends to the city to have her sight restored.

Many of the scenes are extraordinary for their detail and sense of authenticity.

Some are incredibly beautiful. For example, when 'Mr. Howard' meets the young man who was struck by lightning and can no longer speak.

A thoroughly absorbing and skillfully made film well worth watching again and again.
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A film of great beauty and great, understated acting!
countryway_4886410 August 2001
A marvelous, if little known, early John Wayne film. There are so many wonderful moments in this film that I can only list a few: Harry Carey splendid as the mysterious man who comes to the Ozarks to purchase a piece of dirt land and settle down, and ends up purchasing Moanin' Meadow. A gorgeous, seamless, seemingly effortless piece of acting.

Betty Field, always in bare feet saying that she nearly stepped in a cloud and reveling in the mud between her bare toes.

Marc Lawrence trying to catch dust motes in a sunbeam coming through a dirty windowpane.

Beulah Bondi making a circle of candles and lamp oil!!

Marjorie Main seeing for the first time in her life.

And John Wayne moving from bewildered and embittered young man with a curse on him, to a man in love who can't express his feeling because of the curse, and finally coming to terms with his real, inner self for the first time in his life.

Anyone who thinks John Wayne could not act, should see The Shepherd of the Hills. He is not only beautiful to look at, but he brings charm, power and sympathy to a very difficult role.
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Fine character study
Marta28 February 1999
Fine adaptation of Harold Bell Wright's novel; lots of Hollywood character actors in this one. Marjorie Main, Fuzzy Knight, Ward Bond, John Qualen, and a whole slew of others.

John Wayne plays the son of a woman wronged, at least in the eyes of the Ozarks people, whose only purpose in life is to kill the father that disgraced his mother and himself. Harry Carey Sr. plays the stranger, Mr. Howitt, who comes to the hills and leaves nothing but kindness and friendship in his wake. Betty Field is luminous as the girl who loves Wayne, but can't stop him from avenging his mother's disgrace. Beulah Bondi is Wayne's bitter and self-deceiving aunt, who raised him after his mother's death, and continually feeds his hate for his father. Marc Lawrence is the revelation in this film; known mostly for gangster roles, he is marvelous as the handicapped cousin of Wayne, and the catalyst for Bondi's eventual repentance.

A wonderful, period film in gorgeous color, with a beautiful soundtrack. Harry Carey is so good in this that I'm surprised he isn't a more well known actor.
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John Wayne's First Technicolor Film
theowinthrop1 June 2006
THE SHEPHERD OF THE HILLS was made into a silent film in 1919. Harold Bell Wright, the author of the story, was a popular novelist of the day, and a number of his stories were turned into films. He usually concentrated on stories regarding people who lived in mountainous regions (one hesitates to call them hillbillies as they are usually shown to be non-stereotypes). As was mentioned in another of the comments here, Wright also wrote the story that was the basis for the Henry Fonda / Fred MacMurray film THE TRAIL OF THE LONESOME PINE.

John Wayne is not the central figure of this film, although considered the star nowadays. In reality this film should be considered one of the best in the career of Harry Carey Sr. A leading movie cowboy actor in the silent period and early sound years, Carey had slowly moved into character parts after 1933. Possibly his best recalled non-western role is the Vice President of the United States in MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON. As a Western star, he proved to be Wayne's own model of the perfect western film actor. In fact, in the shooting of John Ford's THE SEARCHERS, Wayne purposely honored Carey by copying a mannerism he had (holding his arm with his hand in a particular position) in Wayne's last visible moment in that film.

In the movie Wayne is a member of a family centered around James Barton and Beulah Bondi (Wayne's blood aunt), and his cousin Marc Lawrence. Bondi has never forgiven Wayne's father for abandoning the family, and indirectly causing the death of her sister. She has instilled in Wayne a hatred of the father. At the same time, the death of the sister is tied to the other tragedy of the family - that Lawrence is a mute. He has been unable to speak since he survived the fire that killed his aunt (Wayne' mother). The only one who occasionally stands up against Bondi's vicious hatred is Barton, but he admits in his best scene in the film that he really lacks the nerve to openly condemn her behavior.

This is a great film for character actors. Besides Barton, Bondi, and Lawrence, please take note of Marjorie Main in one of her most prescient performances. She is blind, and she requires expensive surgery to have a chance for the restoration of her sight. At a critical moment Carey will lend her the money for that surgery. When her eyesight is restored everyone in the community rejoices, until Main recognizes somebody in the crowd she did not expect to ever see again. Her comment when she reveals this person's identity, and realizes the tragedy she may have unwittingly caused, is devastating in it's simplicity and ironic truth.

Carey is a newly arrived rancher in the area, who (as witness his assistance to Main) gets involved trying to do good for his neighbors. And all usually benefit. Yet he too has his secrets, and they nearly rip him and several others apart.

THE SHEPHERD OF THE HILLS is a movie about redemption and forgiveness, and it's cast shows the difficulties faced by common people when presented with these seemingly simple acts of behavior. All of the stars of the movie gave first rate performances in it, and for Wayne it was the first big follow-up to his overnight success in STAGECOACH. But the best performance remains Carey's, who in the end has to commit an act of violence in order to try to save his last chance for acceptance from those who count the most.
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Surprisingly good
henry-girling15 September 2003
Warning: Spoilers
**possible spoilers**

Although it has John Wayne in the cast it is not really a western. It is more a study of the Ozarks and the people who live there. Although some scenes are filmed in the studio you do get a feeling of the landscape of the area and the kind of people it produces; sturdy, suspicious, superstitious, kindly, ignorant and wise. Much like any isolated community around the world.

The film is surprisingly good. The acting is solid all round. John Wayne makes a good attempt at the Young Matt role, bringing out well the confusion and conflicts in his mind. Beulah Bondi is riveting as the bitter Aunt Mollie. Harry Carey is good as ever. Betty Field as Sammy Lane is excellent and it is her who holds the film together. It is through her eyes we mainly see things. She is also quite sexy in her tight jeans and short tops.

Some of the scenes are exceptional; when Daniel Howitt is cashing a never seen before cheque, when Granny Becky has her eyes uncovered after an operation, when Young Matt talks about how love is so complicated, when Daniel Howitt takes possession of the old house in Moaning Meadow, when Aunt Mollie cremates her dead son and herself, when Pete the mute brother is discovered in a stream of light pouring through a window trying to catch dust motes. All directed without sentimentality but with real feeling.

It is one of those films which did not promise much from the TV listings but actually delivers much more than one expects.
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The Gorgeous Technicolor Ozarks
telegonus8 April 2001
The Henry Hathaway-directed 1941 Shepherd Of the Hills is worth seeing if for nothing else its color, which is as glorious and gorgeous as one will find in a film. Each outdoor shot is like a landscape painting. Along with Gone With the Wind and The Four Feathers, this is the finest use of color I have seen in a movie, and it should be used as a textbook on how to shoot a film in color. Otherwise, the picture is just a pleasing and old-fashioned revenge tale, adapted from a now forgotten novel, and set in the Ozark Mountains at about the turn of the twentieth century. It is nicely written in the idiom of the mountain folk, and features John Wayne in an early, rare non-western role, which he handles proficiently. Betty Field is his spunky love interest in what would now be an Amy Madigan part. Miss Field is lovely in a non-conventional way; she shines as never before or since. The combination of her quiet, almost mousy beauty in an otherwise talky, assertive role is fascinating to watch. Also on hand are Beulah Bondi, Ward Bond, Marc Lawrence, who gives an amazing performance, and Harry Carey, whose pleasantness and plainness I find tiring, though I suppose he's well-cast. There's a ritualistic feeling to the film, with its clearly defined notions of good and evil, the almost formally informal dialect the characters use, the leisurely, strolling pace by which the story unfolds, all contribute to its pastoral quality. The chief problem is that there's no suspense. One senses early on how the thing is going to end, and the characters behave as one would expect.
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A Closer Look at The Spiritual Subtext
dougdoepke26 April 2014
Beneath the somewhat awkward narrative lies an affecting spiritual parable, about hate and redemption. The hatred Matt (Wayne) and his aunt Mollie (Bondi) have towards Matt's dead father is poisoning their lives and those lives around them. Never mind that they don't know the details surrounding the father's absence while Matt's mother and Mollie's sister dies alone and unattended. Now Matt has sworn a blood oath to kill his father whom he's surprisingly never seen, having been adopted instead into Mollie's family. Meanwhile, Mollie spews venom around her household that's affected her husband and everyone else.

Then, into this backwoods den arrives a mysterious stranger Howitt (Carey) with a load of money and city ways. He doesn't preach any kind of redeeming sermon. Instead, he selflessly ministers to the sick, puts moonshiners to work at a better wage, and buys Matt's now abandoned cabin site for an outlandish price. He's got "good man" written all over him. In short, he's a transformative figure to all but Mollie and Matt who persist in their poisonous grudge.

It's easy to see Howitt as a religious symbol though the movie's spirituality is pretty much limited to revealing beams of sunlight from above. (Rather surprisingly, no mention is made of biblical religion among Ozark folks known for their literalist beliefs.)

But, to me, the real spiritual symbol is the apparent simpleton, Pete (Lawrence), one of Mollie's sons. The story is that he was normal until a bolt of lightning struck him at the same time Matt's mother died. Now, I suspect the story and its timing suggest some kind of mysterious passage from dying mother to nephew Pete. It appears, however, to be a curse on Pete, since from then on he behaves like a grunting primitive, unable to speak coherently.

But consider two things. It's Pete's fateful struggle with Mollie, his mother, that finally forces her to consider the error of her ways, something not even Howitt has been able to achieve. Second, is the movie's central scene, at least in my little book. That's the powerfully moving shot of Pete alone and wordlessly picking at motes amid a glowing beam of sunlight through a small window. The message seems clear. Pete alone is in contact with something more ethereal than the Ozarks and moonshine or even Howitt. Whatever that communion is must remain both symbolic and mysterious. I also expect it's no accident that the movie cast the darkly colored Mark Lawrence in the role since he looks nothing like the rest of Mollie's family.

Now, I'm neither particularly religious nor spiritual. But I do appreciate this aspect of the film, which I believe is both intelligently and artistically implied.

The movie itself is a photogenic marvel as others point out. The colors are so lush I hardly recognized the Big Bear locations, where as an LA resident, I used to hike. Moreover, I really like the way the movie refuses to glamorize the casting of Sammy, the ingénue. Betty Field is perfect for the part, with her average looks but uncommon liveliness. She injects real spark into the proceedings. Carey too is well chosen. With his easy smile and affable manner, he wins us over quickly, making his showdown in the meadow with Matt something of a shocker. Somehow, it's odd seeing Wayne without a cowboy hat and with his real hair. Still, he's fine in the part, showing why he's generally underrated as an actor. I guess my only complaint is with Bondi who spreads the bile on pretty thickly. Then again, maybe that's what it takes in a family with a bunch of strapping roughnecks.

All in all, the movie's something of a sleeper, even though it never made it into Wayne's canon of classics, probably because Wayne is not the central character, despite the poster depiction. Too bad. Because both the story and the visuals deserve to be better known, inasmuch as the humane message remains as enduring now as it was then.
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A Rough Father And Son Reunion
bkoganbing31 May 2006
Herbert J. Yates of Republic Pictures must have gotten a tidy sum from Paramount for the use of his number one star for his first technicolor feature film.

Shepherd of the Hills was the first film in which John Wayne worked with director Henry Hathaway. They didn't work together again for another 19 years and then in the Sixties did four films culminating with Wayne's Oscar winning performance in True Grit.

In fact Hathaway had directed the first outdoor technicolor film in the same Ozark area for Paramount five years earlier in The Trail of the Lonesome Pine.

You think of this area of the country and you either think of the comic characters of The Beverly Hillbillies or the inbred freaks of Deliverance. In both films Hathaway avoids those stereotypes and he creates characters of dignity and strength.

John Wayne is Matt Matthews whose father left his mother before she was born and she died leaving him to be raised by his aunt Beulah Bondi. Bondi's a bitter old woman who fills the Duke's head with evil thoughts about his father.

A stranger comes to their valley and has a lot of money, buys a piece of property from the Matthews clan and settles there. Harry Carey wins over most of the people there with several acts of kindness and charity. He especially makes a big fan of Betty Field who's a hankerin' after the Duke.

Carey's got a past secret and I think if you read the review you can figure out what it is without me being explicit. But all is revealed in the end and it's worth the wait.

Wayne and Carey have a great chemistry between them because next to John Ford, Harry Carey was probably the single biggest influence in creating a star named John Wayne from a USC football player named Marion Michael Morrison who earned some extra money working as a prop man on silent movie sets. The same rapport between them is also carried over to The Angel and the Badman which Wayne produced himself.

Shepherd of the Hills is a good film about some simple people with some great performances by the entire cast.
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The trail of the lonesome man
dbdumonteil17 November 2010
This is an overlooked John Wayne movie ,as well as an overlooked Hathaway's -who in his long career produced more great or good movies than wretched ones :"Peter Ibbetson" is one of the most beautiful romantic movies I know,"lives of a Bengal lancer is adventures movie quintessence and "Niagara" remains one of Marilyn Monroe's best films ,to name but three.

John Wayne is cast against type in "the shepherd" ;he is not really the he-man but a frail human being ,born under a bad sign , with a curse hanging over him .The characters and the atmosphere are not unlike those of "the trail of the lonesome pine" which Hathaway made five years earlier ,with the same wonderful color.

Some scenes are admirable:when Wayne 's old man enters the room of the old home,he feels a presence in the room : the furniture, the things ,everything reminds him of the woman he's never stopped loving (he is as romantic as Peter Ibbetson!).Another memorable scene shows the old man and his son fishing in the river :watch closely and you'll hear a ravaged tale ;the gentler side of the movie hides real fury (and Hathaway does not indulge himself a flashback of the stormy fateful night).

Actually,John Wayne 's character is not so much bitter as wistful and it's one of the actors' best performances;but it's all the cast that should be praised .Add it to your Hathaway list.
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Perhaps Hathaway's Best!
MCL11507 July 2007
I just caught this little gem on AMC. I missed the opening credits so I had no idea who directed it. As the film progressed, I was like "This has GOT to be a John Ford film." After all, it features John Wayne, Harry Carey, Ward Bond and lots of wonderful Ford like shots. A wonderfully photographed and directed film. It even has Marjorie Main in a character role that's a total departure from her normal, boisterous parts we all know and expect from this great actress. Then I looked it up here at the IMDb and saw that it was Henry Hathaway's film. I never thought of Hathaway as a bad director by any means, but wow! This simply has the look of a well crafted classic beginning to end. Highly recommended.
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Mellow rural drama at Arkansas's Ozark Mountains
cartosan4 September 2002
Rural drama quite mellow, but well done, helped by a good casting. Betty Field at maybe her best performance at movies pictures; John Wayne at his first film in color after the grandiose The Stagecoach; Harry Carey in the Priest; Beulah Bondi at one of her characteristic works playing an embittered woman; the very used by master John Ford, War Bond. And, last but not least, an splendid photography in wonderful Technicolor. I though it was a western and I find instead a strange community making whisky clandestinely at Ozark Mountains Region, Arkansas,who remind me some people I meet in a trip to North of England, near Kyle of Lochals, very reluctant to contact with foreigns. I like the 80% of the film, that was made with conviction, professionalism and care by excellent craftsman Henry Hathaway. It is is a bite too much melodramatic and out of date, but interesting. I give it an seven.
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Not Perfect But A Lot to Offer
utgard141 May 2014
Stranger Daniel Howitt (Harry Carey) arrives in an Ozarks mountain community and has a positive affect on those around him, including Matt Matthews (John Wayne), who is bent on killing his father who abandoned his mother when he was a baby. John Wayne's first color film is more of a starring vehicle for Harry Carey, despite the billing. Wayne gives a very nice performance. Carey is excellent and has a commanding presence throughout the film. He just owns every scene he's in, even when he's not saying anything. Pretty Betty Field is all kinds of adorable and likable as the girl in love with Wayne. The supporting cast is terrific. Beulah Bondi is great as Wayne's evil aunt. You can't really have a hillbilly movie without Marjorie Main, so she's here. It also wouldn't be a proper John Wayne movie without Ward Bond and John Qualen, so they're here too.

There were quite a few hillbilly movies in the '30s and '40s. Some outright made fun or were judgmental and some were just that way incidentally. This is one of the rare ones that doesn't look down on the Ozarks people, although they do make use of stereotypes. It's a very pleasant movie, slow and soft throughout most of its running time. The climax leaves a little to be desired and the central twist you'll see coming immediately but it's still a good movie worth checking out, especially if you're a fan of the actors involved.
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Superstition and melodrama in the Ozark Mountains
Tweekums14 July 2012
Warning: Spoilers
The television guide simply described this as a 'western starring John Wayne'; this led me to expect a totally different film; rather than the wide open plains of the west this is set amongst the Ozark mountains where the people are depicted as being superstitious and insular. John Wayne gets top billing as Moonshiner 'Young Matt', a bitter man who is determined that one day he will kill the father that abandoned him and his late mother when he was young; he isn't really the star of the film though. The main protagonists are Daniel Howett, a wealthy outsider who wants to move into the area and buys the property Matt's mother used to live in but is considered cursed and Sammy Lane a young woman he befriends after helping her father. As the film progresses Howett provides honest work to people, much to the chagrin of the moonshiners and even pays to for a blind old woman to have an operation so she can see for the first time. Of course he has a secret that most viewers will guess long before it is revealed and when it is there will be tragic consequences.

This might not have been what I was expecting but I enjoyed it none the less. The opening scenes led me to believe to would be a story about the moonshiners and the revenue men who were after them but that was almost the limit of their involvement. Betty Field did a good job as Sammy; serving to introduce both the viewer and incomer Howett to the people and their ways. Harry Carey was equally good as Howett. John Wayne's role was smaller than I expected but he put in a solid enough performance and we did get to see him in a knock-down brawl. Apart from these the most memorable character is 'Aunt Mollie' a particularly unpleasant woman who metaphorically poisons those around her with her talk of curses. For a relatively early colour film, John Wayne's first, the colour looks fantastic; bringing the glorious scenery alive.
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Beautiful Technicolor Photography!
bsmith55524 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
"The Shepherd of the Hills" was strangely enough John Wayne's first color film, and if I'm not mistaken likewise for the veteran Harry Carey. It was beautifully photographed in technicolor and is reminiscent of Director Henry Hathaway's earlier color film, "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine" (1936).

A mysterious stranger, Dan Howitt (Carey) arrives in th Ozarks amid a group of moonshiners looking for a piece of land on which to settle down. He turns up at the Lane cabin where he finds Jim Lane (Tom Fadden) and his young daughter Sammie (Betty Field). Lane has been wounded by revenue agents hunting down the moonshiners. Howitt tends his wounds and saves his life making a friend of Sammy in the process.

Later Coot Royal (John Qualen) bursts in looking for help for his young daughter whose breathing is labored. Howitt goes along with Sammy to Coot's cabin where he dislodges a food scrap from the young girl's throat, allowing her to breathe normally. He also pays for an operation for Granny Becky (Marjorie Main), to restore her sight. As a result of his actions, Howitt becomes known as the Shepherd of the Hills.

Young Matt (John Wayne) has been carrying a grudge for his father who abandoned himself and his mother years earlier. Matt's mother died and Matt has carried the hate for his father for all those years. He had been raised by Aunt Mollie (Beaulah Bondi) and Old Matt (James Barton).

Howitt, as luck would have it, purchases the piece of land on which Young Matt's original home stands. This angers Young Matt who tries to drive the stranger off. But then he learns the stranger's secret and.........................................

In spite of the magnificent setting, this film is a bit of a soap opera. It doesn't take one long to figure out what is going on. In spite of a good fight between Wayne and Ward Bond, and the finale, the film is lacking in action. There are no real villains in the story. The apparent romance between the Wayne and Field characters is only touched upon.

Also in the cast are Samuel S. Hinds as Andy Beeler, the sheriff, Marc Lawrence in an off beat role as Pete the mute son of Bondi and Fuzzy Knight, who sings a song as he had in the earlier film.

This was I also believe, the first film that Wayne made with his friend and mentor Harry Carey whose mannerisms Wayne adopted in many of his later films.
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9* for movie presented (but no stars for failure to present Wright's actual story)
caa8218 March 2007
I first saw "The Shepherd of the Hills" outdoor drama when we visited Branson for the first time, in the late 1970's. My family and I were totally unfamiliar with this southwest Missouri area, and this was only a few years prior to the Branson area's "explosion" onto the entertainment scene. It expanded from 6 or 8 theaters, then, with perhaps 5,000 seats, to several times this number today, with more seats than all of Broadway. It's possible there now for someone to attend something like 50 or 60 shows for a month - one every evening and a number of breakfast or matinée performances - and never see the same one twice, with additional ones available if one wishes to begin a second month.

From earlier days, and continuing today, two of the cornerstone attractions in the Branson area are Silver Dollar City theme park (modeled after an 1880's silver mining complex, but with 21st-century New York City or Hollywood pricing) and The Shepherd of the Hills farm, the original cabin, the large outdoor amphitheater which presents a lavish production of the story, a restaurant, gift shop, etc. They also have all the information about characters upon whom the book is based, and Harold Bell Wright, that one could possibly want to know (and then some!).

This film's "version" of the book and story is well-played, the scenery well-photographed (especially since footage was done 65 years ago), and the characters interesting. However, the story here represents the book about as well as if John Wayne's film, "Red River," had been presented with this title and its characters renamed to coincide with this story.

First, the elder Mathews were not a female moonshiner and her wimpy husband. They were leading citizens, operated the mill, and were an asset to their rural community and their fellow residents.

Young Matt and Sammy, as a "couple", were more like characters from "The Waltons" than those portrayed. The "Shepherd" was also a model citizen-type, no gunfighter or ex-con, and was no relation to Young Matt whatever.

Actually, the Shepherd was the father of the young man who had fathered the mentally-challenged young Pete, the son of the Mathews' late daughter. His son had loved her, had returned East not realizing he had left her pregnant, and was prevented by his father (the Shepherd) from returning, and subsequently disappeared.

The Shepherd had come to the area to view the situation and attempt amends. During the actual book (and the drama as still presented in Branson today) the unknown "specter" character appears throughout, is shot, and dies, but before passing, is discovered to be the Shepherd's lost son, and there is a heartfelt resolution of matters towards the end.

The Shepherd also achieves rapprochement with Old Matt, who had threatened mayhem should he ever encounter the man he blamed for his daughter's broken heart and death.

Wash Gibbs is a nefarious character, with designs upon Sammy, and a rival of Matt - in both versions - but in the book he is still a "Baldnobber" and gangster. The "Baldknobbers" were vigilantes who had done worthy things for the citizenry in the post-Civil War period, with carpetbaggers and others attempting to plunder the areas - but like a lot of such groups, when there was no further need for their good works, they turned their prodigious physical strengths to illegal, self-serving ends.

Several interesting, key characters from the novel are missing from this film; e.g., Jim Lane (Sammy's father) is more of a key element than shown here. And the Marjorie Main character, with the over-the-top scene where she regains her sight, represents no key element of Wright's story. The name "Moanin' Meadow," and its representation in the movie have no part in Wright's book. While in both presentations, the characters were simple "hill folk," neither sophisticated nor educated - the film provides many with a far greater "bumpkin" image.

Again, this is an excellent film, but I would have enjoyed even more seeing the same characters presented as actually portrayed by Wright.
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An interesting story, coincidentally given the same title as Harold Bell Wright's famous novel
lanindt14 May 2011
I found this to be an interesting, compelling story. I'd be curious to know where the producers of the film came up with it. It was certainly not based on Harold Bell Wright's novel "The Shepherd of the Hills", despite their use of the book's cover in the opening sequence, and of like-named characters throughout the movie.

I didn't dislike the film, and I would recommend it to anyone as an enjoyable work. I would also recommend, after having watched it, to find a copy of Wright's book "The Shepherd of the Hills" and read it as well. It's quite a good story, too. Don't worry about the film giving away the ending of the book - there's no resemblance between the two.
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Technicolor: making crap look good since 1922 (to 1952)
tieman6425 June 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This flick was made during the Technicolor Motion Picture Corporation's heyday (think the juicy colour palettes of "Vertigo", "Wizard of Oz", "The Adventures of Robin Hood", "Black Narcissus", "Barefoot Contessa", "Fantasia", "Ivanhoe", "Petter Pan", "Pinocchio", "North by North West", "Rear Window", "Drums Along The Mohawk" etc), and so possesses a magical look that is now impossible to recapture.

The Technicolor process, which combined two or three strips of exposed film (carefully tinted with special dyes), was renowned for its super saturated colours, hyper-realistic hues and rich palette. But despite its gorgeous visuals, Technicolor proved too labour intensive and expensive a process, and so was slowly phased out.

In 1954 Technicolor stopped using their three-strip cameras, and from 1952-1954 onward Hollywood shot almost all of its colour features on Eastmancolor negatives, whether the colour brand was Technicolor, DeLuxe colour, WarnerColor, or Metrocolor. Technicolor itself stopped making dye transfer prints available in the US in 1975.

So in a sense, these early Technicolor films – regardless of their actual content – all posses a certain visual magic which you simply can't find today. Even the best high definition cameras, best modern lighting and cinematography, best CGI trickery and colour correction software (Martin Scorsese tried and failed to reproduce the Technicolor look in "The Aviator"), can't capture the gorgeous magic of these early Technicolor flicks. They possess a certain sharpness. A certain richness. Their blacks are intense and their reds vibrant, an effect largely due to the quality of the dyes used, which produces at once clarity, saturation, depth, roundness of colour and a kind of acrylic-paint exuberance.

7/10 – Forget about this film's plot, which simply revolves around a group of yokels, hillbillies and moon-shining grannies. Focus instead on the film's landscapes, its Appalachian Mountains, cackling fireplaces, gorgeous log cabins and juicy Technicolor visuals. One only has to look at the various Walt Disney, Warner Bros or Max Fleischer animated shorts released in the 1940s and 1950s (Bugs Bunny, Looney Tunes, Superman, Chuck Jones etc) to see how magical Technicolor was and how beautifully it ages.
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Filmed on location in Big Bear, California
bigedsully30 July 2006
This is a great movie that was filmed during the summer of 1941 while my family was camping in Big Bear, California. I was only 3 years old and have been told about the visit to the sets that my older sisters were able to make. They don't recall seeing any stars and think that they visited after the days shooting was completed. They were camped in a public campground just down the hill from the houses that were built for the movie. I have been told that I sang the Frank Sinatra hit "I'll Never Smile Again" at the age of 3 for all of the campers at the nightly campfire gathering. I memorized songs, I've been told, from the radio that my sisters always were playing. This was the last camping done until after WW 2 since Pearl Harbor was attacked in Decemeber of that year. The opening scene of the movie is of Big Bear Lake and the later scenes around the small lake where they fished is at a small man-made lake that was formed for the movie. I assume that the inside scenes were filmed in Hollywood but all of the outdoor scenes were filmed on the crest of the mountains to the south of Big Bear Lake. The San Bernardino valley is beyond some of the distant mountains as they filmed on the top of the crest. The rocks are prominent in the San Bernardino mountains and used throughout the film. The south shore of Big Bear Lake has large boulders at the water's edge but this area is not use in the movie. Anyway, it is great because of the newness of John Wayne and his now famous facial antics, which we love, and Harry Carey who was John Wayne's idol in real life. Betty Fields, always great, shines in the part of Sammy. This movie is now available as an econimical set of John Wayne DVD's that just became available. It is the best of the movies in the set but all of the others are wonderful just because they feature John Wayne. My wife and I enjoyed "Seven Sinners" which we had never seen.
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The finest film ever made!
JohnHowardReid31 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
It's rare to come across a cult movie that I can not only unreservedly recommend but that I feel fully justifies its cult reputation. Of course, maybe the cultists like the movie for the wrong reasons. But with The Shepherd of the Hills it's hard to find wrong reasons. Everything about the picture is so right. The luminous performances: Wayne, perfectly cast, giving one of the best of his entire career; Carey, so winning and sympathetic, making the title role so memorable it will become a point of reference for the rest of your life; Marjorie Main, equally unforgettable as the blind woman who sees too much too quickly; Beulah Bondi, never more embittered or meaner-spirited as the real head of the Matthews clan; Marc Lawrence, giving the finest and certainly the most unusual study he ever attempted as the pathetically inarticulate Pete.

So many others - Ward Bond who has the realistic fight with Wayne, Fuzzy Knight as the singer, Olin Howland as the squirrelling storekeeper... And all brilliantly directed by Henry Hathaway too. Henry, as I've said before, is the sort of director I most admire. For a start, he doesn't direct actors. He expects them to know their craft and is equally impatient with amateurs and hams. Secondly he's a specialist in action and outdoors work. He once said that he always preferred location assignments because it took him well away from front office interference. Hathaway ran a tight unit, turning out the movies he wanted to make in the way he wanted to make them. He had an eye for natural scenery, and could see its dramatic and story possibilities. Weeping Meadow is just that. The hill country in Shepherd is both brutal and supremely picturesque.

Of course it's the script's large array of bizarre, vividly realized characters, plus the unusual setting in which they move, and the age-old conflicts which they generate (particularly Youth against Age, Idealism against tainted or even repented Experience, Freedom and/or Libertarianism against Authority) which has propelled The Shepherd of the Hills into such firm favoritism with present-day cultists. The movie of course has these qualities. But it has something else which is not so popular to-day and which indeed, both when the novel was written back in 1907 and throughout its various film versions, was the main reason for its existence. It has a spirituality, a supernatural element, a discussion of the Two Ways, a depiction of the classic struggle between good and evil, and the power of Light to overcome Darkness.
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hillbilly life in the Ozarks
helpless_dancer18 May 1999
Good story about a backwoods community in the Ozarks around the turn of the century. Moonshine is the leading industry, fighting and funning the major form of entertainment. One day a stranger enters the community and causes a shake-up among the locals. Beautiful scenery adds much to the story.
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life isn't fair
Jimmy913 December 2006
man i may be young in 2006 but sometimes i wish i was young in 1941 because Betty Field is so so beautiful and i wonder what she would have been like to know well and to talk to and to discuss the world with why is life so mind numbing the way time moves and passes and cruises and saunters and ignores and slithers and compensates and reacts and promises and lies and creates and breaks and takes and gives and whispers and yells and how certain things but certain things and no things but everything.

Anyway, Betty Field , makes me crazy when u watch this movie..... but at this point I've only seen her behave incredibly and with great intention for emotion.... incredible.
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not true to book - does that make this a spoiler? Hmmm . . .
marcyb17 August 2007
I am sorry - I'm sure this is a wonderful film, but it doesn't follow the book. In the book, Mr and Mrs Matthews both are a wonderful couple who take Daniel Howitt in his first night in the hills and offer him the job taking care of the sheep. Aunt Mollie (Mrs Matthews) is such a wonderful woman, I hate to hear her character changed as she obviously is in the film. From what I've read, the only true thing in the story is the effect Howitt had on the community. Don't just watch the film - it has merit of its own, but also read this phenomenal story. It's even better. :)The true story is such a wonderful telling of the battle between those who take the high road and those who take the low. You'll see the baldknobbers (closely kin to KKK or other raiding groups after the war.) You'll hear a tragic story of pride and the beauty of redemption. It is a must-read.
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Despite this being filmed in color, this film is dull and listless
MartinHafer18 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This is John Wayne's first color film and he receives top billing, though clearly the star of this hillbilly movie is Harry Carey. Unfortunately, there were quite a few films about the Ozarks made during a 10 year stretch in the 30s and 40s and they were all pretty bad (such as SWING YOUR LADY, THE MILLERSON CASE and SPITFIRE). And while this movie isn't exactly bad, it sure isn't good--due to weird script writing and some over the top performances (particularly Beulah Bondi who plays a character like a mean version of Granny from "The Beverly Hillbillies").

Harry Carey is a stranger to the mountains and wants to buy land and move there. Considering that there is no logical reason for a stranger to move there, it's amazing how long it takes the residents to realize who he really is. At the same time, John Wayne (who seems rather out of place in this hillbilly heaven) broods about how he hates the father who abandoned him--yet he and so many others don't bother putting it all together to realize his father is Carey. Now I know that this technically is a spoiler (so it is noted), but every member of the audience guessed this LONG before the folks did in the movie. Sadly, I think the idea that mountain folk are superstitious idiots is how you are supposed to rationalize how none of them figured this out for the longest time! I'm sure most Arkansans groan when such stereotypes appear on film.

Despite beautiful color cinematography, there isn't much to recommend this dull little film due to dumb (and occasionally cartoon-like) characters, a silly plot and a rather listless pace. While it's far from horrible, it's nothing like you'd expect from John Wayne and it's only passable entertainment.
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An OK film but nothing special
bob the moo1 September 2003
In a quiet, rural hill community, fear and mistrust between several groups cause regular troubles and disagreements. One of these groups is young Matt, a man filled with anger over a father he never knew, who deserted his Matt's mother and, in his view, contributed to her early death. Into this community comes a stranger who buys a small portion of land (annoying Matt) but generally seems to be keen to unite the community despite some parts still mistrusting him.

I taped this film because it had John Wayne in the cast and I have been seeing several of his films a week in the past month (some sudden push on two of the terrestrial channels here). The plot summary in the guide made it sound like a complex drama based on past hurts, but for the majority of the film this isn't the case – in fact for the majority it simple ambles along with little direction. The role that Howitt will play is of no surprise to anyone but yet is concealed for the majority of the film. This lack of a really compelling plot leaves much up to the actors to recover – happily they do quite well.

Wayne is good as the bitter young Matt, and he plays him well even if it makes him an unsympathetic character. Carey is solid as Howitt and wins the audience over easily. Field is pretty weak and makes the film feel like a bit of a soapy melodrama than was intended. The glorious colour was intended to be as much of a star as the actors and, to that end, it all looks richly pretty. Sadly it is wasted a little as too many scenes are shot on a sound stage with backdrops – colour like this cries out for sweeping landscapes to be used!

Overall this film was interesting as I was waiting for the inevitable to arrive. However the film takes a long time getting to it (needlessly hiding their cards the whole time) and the end result is that, despite two good performances, the film is a little dull and ultimately not one that will stick in my mind very long.
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Not Typical John Wayne Fare
zardoz-134 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Henry Hathaway's "The Shepherd of the Hills" represented the first time that John Wayne and he worked together. Hathaway was the director of record on other John Wayne movies, among them "Circus World," "The Sons of Katie Elder," and "Legend of the Lost." "The Shepherd of the Hills" is an early John Wayne saga, made just four years after "Stagecoach" catapulted the Duke to stardom. Wayne isn't really the hero of this saga. The hero is portrayed by none other than Harry Carey. Later, Carey would play the lawman opposite Wayne in "Angel and the Badman." He shows up in the Ozarks where the Wayne clan makes bootleg whiskey. Revenue agents raid the hills, wound a moonshiner, but they never find young Matt's family moonshine operation. Meantime, Matt visits his mother's grave in a valley. He has vowed to kill his father if he ever sees him again. Matt isn't particularly friendly toward Daniel Howitt (Harry Carey) when he meets him for the first time. Nevertheless, Matt's sweetheart Sammy Lane (Betty Field) likes him. She has seen him help extract a bullet from a moonshiner. Eventually, Howitt visits Matt's family and buys land in a sacred part of the county to the chagrin of Matt. You see, Matt didn't want anybody to live where his mother died. Grudgingly, he grows fond of Howitt. Howitt helps an older woman regain her sight. This is neither a typical Hathaway or Wayne movie. There is very little fighting. Some of the conversations are interesting. It is a shock to see veteran gangster Marc Lawrence playing a half-wit. Of course, Carey delivers an impeccable performance and he makes all this folksy baloney work better than it should.
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