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Joel McCrea's favorite
JohnBeale17 October 2008
According to TCM this was Joel McCrea's favorite film. Of all the wonderful westerns that Mr McCrea appeared in this says a lot. I found this movie almost hypnotic. A picture of a time in America's past that has gone by the way side. Parson Gray,Played by Mr McCrea is what I would personally want a minister of the gospel to be like. Strong and courageous and committed to his calling. Juano Hernandez plays Uncle Famous Prill and was deserving of an Oscar for his courage in facing the racism of the day by the night riders or KKK of the day. This movie took the courage to show that not all white people hated black people in this day and age. Something I personally know to be true and factual.This was Alan Hale Sr's last movie. He died before this movie was released.John Kenyon,played by Dean Stockwell was an orphan living with Parson Gray and his wife,played by Ellen Drew. Stockwell gave such a performance that if Children didn't really behave that way in those days, they should have. Stars in My Crown is one of those lost treasures that has long since been forgotten. Any movie with a character named Cloroform has got to be special. Throw in Ed Begley as the man who try's to have a "Finger in every pie" and James Mitchell as young Doc Harris who comes home fresh out of medical school and runs straight into Slow(Typhoid)fever and at the same time falls in love with Lovely Faith Samuels played by Amanda Blake(of Gunsmoke fame).Theirs even a traveling medicine show featuring Professor Jones and his two companions who sing and play like a cross-eyed meadowlark. Wonderful movie that makes you feel better after viewing it which explains why I can easily watch it over and over.
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McCrea Classic a Family Must-See!
cariart3 December 2002
'Stars in My Crown' is over 50 years old, yet in it's humor, it's message of brotherhood, and it's depiction of small-town Western America at a time when religion was the true center of everyone's lives, this film has rarely been equaled!

The story is told through the observations of young John Kenyon (sensitively portrayed by Quantum Leap's Dean Stockwell, with Daktari's Marshall Thompson voicing Kenyon as an adult), who lives with Soldier-turned-Minister Josiah Dozier Grey (Joel McCrea, in one of his finest performances) and his wife, Harriet (Ellen Drew). Grey is kind, warm, and totally sincere, with a penchance for telling funny stories with a Message, rather than being 'preachy' short, the kind of Parson who can win hearts, as well as souls!

Grey's congregation includes some of Hollywood's finest character actors, including Lewis Stone (Judge Hardy) as a crusty old doctor, James Mitchell (Days of Our Lives) as his doubting physician son, Alan Hale (The Adventures of Robin Hood) as a Civil War buddy with a large family (including 'Matt Dillon' James Arness!), Amanda Blake (who would costar with Arness in 'Gunsmoke') as the schoolmarm, Arthur Hunnicutt (The Big Sky) as a local character nicknamed 'Chloroform'(!), Oscar-winner Ed Begley as a rich mine owner, and, in a remarkable performance, Juano Hernandez as 'Famous Uncle Prill', a Black farmer who experiences with dignity the racism of the time.

Director Jacques Tourneur, best-known for his gothic classic 'Cat People', shows patience and restraint, allowing the story to build under its own steam, which gives the climaxes (a typhoid epidemic and a Klan near-lynching) an emotional wallop. McCrea's scene with the incensed Klan members foreshadows Gregory Peck's confrontation with the lynch party in 'To Kill a Mockingbird', and is truly unforgettable.

'Stars in My Crown' is a rich, wonderful film that your family will cherish. It is on the short list of my favorite films, and is one that you can enjoy for years to come!
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Stick With It
abooboo-228 December 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Hard to dislike any film with a character named Chloroform. Takes a while to get going and in fact, feels a bit meandering and even pointless for much of its running time, but the viewer needs to have a little patience. It dawdles its way to a surprisingly potent payoff. Jacques Tourneur's strengths as a director were in subtly establishing mood and atmosphere with a clean, crisp visual technique, primarily in spooky thrillers. He employs those skills to good effect here in, of all places, a small town western setting. His America is still in the awkward early stages of forming its cultural and spiritual identity. Lazy days followed by lawless nights. Chapel hymns compete with bar room fights. Tradition and progress keep bumping into each other, trading dirty looks.

If anything, it needs a bit more running time to develop all the relationships. It tends to skimp. And Tourneur was maybe not so gifted working with actors. James Mitchell as the progressive, practical new doctor in town seems somewhat ill-at-ease. Joel McCrea as the take charge parson is understated as always, but never hogs the spotlight and seems to have a great respect for The Story. Acting honors go to the fabulous Juano Hernandez as Uncle Famous, a peaceful black man who refuses to give in to racial intimidation in his own easy-going way.

And that ending packs a wallop. Won't soon forget the truly haunting image of those two blank sheets of paper (thought to be Uncle Famous' Will) being swept along in the wind. It may not be Uncle Famous' after all, but as McCrea states with utter conviction, "It's God's Will."
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A nice film
MartinHafer28 March 2008
STARS IN MY CROWN is a nice slice of life movie about the life about a country preacher in the years immediately following the Civil War. Joel McCrea plays the preacher and Dean Stockwell plays an orphan that is taken in by the preacher and his wife. However, the film isn't just about them but about the people in the town. It focuses quite a bit on a young and somewhat cocky doctor as well as a gentle and beloved Black man (played exceptionally by the wonderful character actor, Juano Hernandez).

Both plots are exceptional--particularly the one involving Hernandez because the film dared in 1950 to attack prejudice--something Hollywood was seldom willing to do at that time. Often, when Blacks were in mainstream films, they were one-dimensional and the racial divide in America was ignored. For 1950, this was a brave film--though some will no doubt notice that the film is perhaps a bit overly idealistic in how it portrayed how the White Southerners generally loved Hernandez.

The plot involving the doctor was also rather touching and had a lot to say about the supposed gap between faith and science. I particularly liked how McCrea AND the doctor struggled with this divide.

STARS IN MY CROWN reminds me of another film that is also about a small town preacher (ONE FOOT IN HEAVEN) and both have a nice gentle spirit but also aren't preachy or saccharine despite being films about the clergy. I especially like how both ministers (in this case, Joel McCrea and in the other film, Frederic March) were human beings--not dull caricatures. Some may be offended because the films AREN'T really religious movies (you get no Gospel or Bible-thumping here) but for a general audience these films are sure to please. I recommend both heartily because they were written so well and the acting was on target. See these films.
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Fearless and Noble Preacher
bkoganbing29 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
One of the reasons I like Stars In My Crown very much is the portrayal of Parson Josiah Gray by Joel McCrea. In this day and age when you have a lot of charlatans in the pulpit, more politicians than preachers, it's a pleasure to watch a film where the man in the pulpit is the moral leader of his community and a figure of dignity and strength.

Back in those days if you wanted a virtuous hero, the most virtuous around was Joel McCrea. McCrea doesn't preach so much as lead by example. We see him in the various roles his ministry calls on him to perform, as comforter of the dying, fighting an epidemic of typhoid fever that has struck the town and standing up for the weak and the persecuted. He and Mrs. Gray live modestly in the parsonage with her nephew played by Dean Stockwell. It is the grown up Stockwell who narrates the film. The setting is in the border states post the Civil War, circa 1880.

The grown up Stockwell is the unseen voice of Marshall Thompson who describes a Tom Sawyer like boyhood. Stars In My Crown is one of the most idyllic portrayals of small town America ever put on screen.

Of course even Tom Sawyer dealt with some bad people in his boyhood. Stockwell sees his uncle administer a whipping to a town bully played by Jack Lambert. He also watches McCrea fearlessly stand up to night riders organized by the town's leading merchant Ed Begley who is trying to force Juano Hernandez off his property with some tried and true race baiting tactics.

A good cast of veteran and young players contribute some good performances such as Ellen Drew as the parson's wife, Alan Hale as the unbelieving Civil War compatriot of McCrea's, Amanda Blake as the young school teacher and Lewis Stone as the town doctor.

James Mitchell plays Stone's son who takes over his practice and comes into conflict with McCrea as he is an unbeliever. Their conflict takes up a good deal of the film. And it's a conflict between two people both of whom passionately believe in the work they are doing. Mitchell is also courting Amanda Blake at the same time he's opposing McCrea. Mitchell strikes the right note as the earnest young doctor who if he wasn't essentially a good man, Amanda Blake wouldn't have given him a second glance.

The title of the film comes from an old Protestant hymn which is a favorite of McCrea's and there's a running joke between McCrea and Drew as to why he insists on having Stars In My Crown sung at every service.

I like Stars In My Crown because I think it shows the positive good that people who go into the ministry can do even in a small rural setting. Like It's A Wonderful Life, when you've seen Stars In My Crown, try to picture what life might have been like had Joel McCrea not come to town.
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Another star in Tourneur -Jacques-'s crown.....
dbdumonteil26 December 2008
I must admit that this movie took its time to grab me.It's a movie which grows on you.Some called it "western" but western fans won't get anything of it.It's rather a chronicle,sweet memories of a grown up who remembers his dear past with a marvelous preacher man and a loving auntie.

There is no plot but subplots for it is primarily the depiction of a city in the south.Around the minister,we find the "new generation" doctor who has his doubts and who doesn't believe that healing the soul is that much important;he comes into conflict with Gray .There's also a KKK side and their "methods" to do good old Uncle Famous Pril away from his valuable property.The scene which finally won me over was the reading of Pril's "last wills" .When you discover the truth,you won't believe your eyes!This scene alone raises the movie to greatness by recurrence.And what a tuneful canticle!
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The master of ambiguous Gothic horror does sentimental faith-restoring family drama and does it well!
chaos-rampant21 July 2009
This, the second of director Jacques Tourneur's westerns after CANYON PASSAGE and one of several collaborations with actor Joel McCrea, finds him at least at first sight as far removed from the ambiguous psychological Gothic horror films he became famous through a couple years back for Val Lewton's RKO horror unit, yet once we scratch the surface, peel back the layers of faith-restoring sentimentality which lies at the film's core, we'll find this can be a pretty dark film.

Not only because the life of a small rural town in the post-Civil War South has to face a typhoid epidemic and Klan racism because the 'family' nature of the film ensures these are merely obstacles to be overcome, each of them a lesson learned in Christian love and brotherhood not only for the characters but also for the audience, but mostly because of the way Tourneur shoots the major set-pieces that revolve around them. Going back to what he learnt next to Val Lewton at RKO, Tourneur gives an otherwise saccharine film a dark underbelly, Klansmen pinning threatening notes on negros in front of burning crosses et al.

Yet STARS IN MY CROWN never feels like a film whose message and theme is beneath the director. Tourneur approaches the story in earnest. The truth is that it takes a while for things to get going. That the film is a bit too episodic and scattershot to really register until the final 15 minutes when parson Joel McCrea has to face off alone with a mob of Klansmen to save the life of a negro. That the small vignettes scattered throughout the film push the two major plots (smalltown biggotry and typhoid epidemic) a bit too far apart, the result making the first half a pretty meandering anemic affair. But the denouement, for all its saccharine 'everybody gets together to sing hymns in the church' quality, feels honest and I find it hard to fault such a film. Building something as emotionally earnest and unassuming as this is harder than tearing it down with cynicism.
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It's cult status is thoroughly justified.
MOscarbradley28 May 2017
An almost plot less piece of Americana and one of Jacques Tourneur's very finest films, "Stars in My Crown" is set in a small American town in the aftermath of the Civil War and it follows the daily happenings in the lives of the townsfolk, principle of whom is Joel McCrea's parson, (it's a wonderful performance). Then there's the parson's wife, the young doctor, the school mistress and the boy, (Dean Stockwell), who as a man, (an unseen Marshall Thompson), narrates the film. They are all beautifully played as are Ed Begley's greedy storekeeper, Juano Hernandez's dirt farmer and Charles Kemper's magician.

It's a very simple piece, a series of scenes on which there hangs the thinest thread of a plot, in feeling and in structure not dissimilar to John Ford's "The Sun Shines Bright". It's also one of the few really good 'religious' pictures yet one in which religion isn't centre stage but something that's just there infusing every scene and it's not at all sentimental yet ultimately it's very moving. It's cult status is thoroughly justified.
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Nice little film with message
opusv523 April 2009
Enjoyed this film. It portrayed a post-Civil War mid-west (so it appeared)community in a way that could make you nostalgic. Not that everything was perfect: the Ku Klux Klan harassing a freed black man (the distinguished Puerto Rican actor Juano Hernandez)primarily because they want his land. That preacher Joel McCrae manages to talk them out of it by appealing to their basic decency works without being cloying. Initially a muscular Christian, he here uses his brain to do the Lord's work. Also believable was the community's vulnerability to disease. They had no laboratory-testing facilities to see if that well-water was the source. McCrae's self doubt in the face of all this is believable.As for the cast, I'm pretty sure I spotted an uncredited Peter Graves as one of Alan Hale's offspring.
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Top-Notch Joel McCrea Frontier Yarn About A Preacher
zardoz-136 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Western icon Joel McCrea stars as a country parson in "Cat People" director Jacques Tourneur's "Stars in My Crown," an old fashioned, inspirational, and often humorous chronicle of life in the post-Civil War South. Initially, I thought that I was going to watch another pistol-packing shoot'em up with one of Hollywood legendary western stars Joel McCrea. He comes to Walsburg after the war, enters a saloon, introduces himself as the new parson, brandishes a pair of six-shooters, and stars perforating the air while the patron duck and cover. This is the first and last time that we see McCrea armed for bear. He spends the remainder of this predictable but heartwarming movie preaching and caring about the souls of his flock. You might get away with calling Tourneur's film an 'eastern," because the action takes place in the south, there are no traces of the War Between the States, except in the reminiscences of our protagonist. This black & white, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer release will drive women to their handkerchiefs and men will struggle to stifle a tear or two. The artwork on the cover of the DVD disc implies that McCrea wields his revolvers like a town tamer, but he doesn't even when he is staring down death in the face. One of the subplots involves a feud over the land belonging to a freed black, Uncle Famous Prill (Juano Hernandez of "Intruder in the Dust"), who resists the persistent efforts of a town merchant, Lon Bracket (Ed Begley), to buy his property for an absurdly cheap price. Mild you, "Stars in My Crown" is the kind of saga that anybody—people of faith and those without—because "Paper Moon" novelist Joe David Brown adapted his novel to the screen. Brown gives us sympathetic, three-dimensional characters and a narrative that is surprisingly charming. If you're looking for a rough & tumble horse opera, you're going to be disappointed. Apart from a couple of spiritual scenes that lacked impact, "Stars in my Crown" is a classic film. Helmed with subtlety, this 89-minute opus is another star in Jacques Tourneur's crown.
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Sentimental but realistic; heartwarming but NOT hokey
vincentlynch-moonoi5 June 2012
Warning: Spoilers
If you're looking for a rip-snortin' western, this isn't it. But it's not exactly a "family" picture, either...although it is suitable for the whole family. This is a very well put together reminiscence of what life was least in some villages...not too long after the Civil War. In other words, this is probably what REAL life was like back then.

Joel McCrea is excellent here as the preacher in the town of Walesburg. It is said he spoke of this film as one of his favorites. Over time, he becomes a well-respected member of the community as he takes care of an orphan (Dean Stockwell) and the townspeople. Life passes by. After only a brief scene, the wonderful Lewis Stone, as the town's old doctor, dies, to be replaced by his on, an unreligious man who really has no intention of remaining in the town...but he is in love with the school teacher (Amanda Blake in her first film role, and 5 years before she began her stint on "Gunsmoke"...ironically, James Arness is also in the film, though uncredited!). The preacher's "son" comes down with typhoid, which tests the preacher's faith. The preacher closes his church and withdraws from the community. The "son" recovers and the young doctor begins to be more accepted by the community. Then, it appears the school teacher is dying, but prayer appears to be the answer, and the young doctor's belief in God begins to develop. Businessman Ed Begley tries to buy the land of freed slave, and when rebuffed turns to the Ku Klux Klan. Farmer Alan Hale steps in and helps the former slave. When the KKK develops a lynching party, the preacher's sermon to them saves the old man. Faith is restored.

No, this is not a true western, but it is true Americana. Performances are quite good all around, and this film was made in the last year of Alan Hale's life, although he was only 57 years old. It's actually difficult to find much wrong with this film...and, after-all, it was an MGM production at a time when MGM was still the mark of excellence.

Highly recommended for the story, and as well for the steadied performance of Joel McCrae, although this film almost has the feel of an ensemble cast. Ellen Drew's part as the preacher's wife is rather minor, though necessary. Dean Stockwell certainly was one of the best child actors of his era, and is here. Clearly, Alan Hale was getting along here, but as always, was a welcome face in any film. James Mitchell as the young doctor was good, though I was not familiar with him. Amanda Blake was suitable as the school teacher. Juano Hernandez was excellent as the former slave. And, Ed Begley was perfect as the villain of the story. Again, this seems more like an ensemble cast, rather than a star system cast.
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Jacques Tourneur's, Joel McCrea's and Juano Hernandez' masterpiece!
karlericsson7 June 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The simple folks, being fooled in every way by the evil system that they have not yet had the strength to get rid off, will still feel shame for their stupidity when faced with the divinely good.

What is revealed to us later in that magic last scene is not revealed to them and we experience it with them and see in the black old man our true Jesus.

Now, somebody who has been hounded all his life, will maybe not be strong enough to write such a will but the beauty of the film is that the black man has always been portrayed in the film with utmost dignity, so we are fooled just as everybody else.

First, I thought it was a letdown that uncle Famous did, in fact, not write that will but later I realized that it would have been too saintly bordering to unrealistic to have him write it. However, had he been less oppressed he might very well have written it and later on in history a black man did indeed write many extraordinary things - Martin Luther King.

This film has the same impact against racism as The Bicycle Thief has against market economy, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest has against psychiatry and society, The Elephant Man has against levity and Great Expectations has against fixed ideas and illusions.

A film to be proud of having seen, if such a thing is possible.
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Crown Earned
Richie-67-4858528 October 2017
It gets high marks because of Joel McCrea right off. Then, it is a Western and there is always so much to learn about the early wild days and how towns got started along with laws, rules, regulations and all the rest. I always notice how the buildings of these start-up towns were built one right next to another. One fire takes them all out. I wonder how many times a town was actually re-built from fire losses? Notice too the streets and roads. Good community flick with everyone knowing everyone else and helping each other too. What an interesting way to live and grow up in. You got characters both good and not so good, the Klan, greed, fever, love interest, and a nice, happy ending. Such clean, fun and wholesome entertainment. Even if it is not true to life it can be and restores faith in human-kind just by watching. Warm and fuzzies will visit with you guaranteed. Narrator does an excellent job helping us to get the flick and not work too hard. Pay attention to Uncle Famous and his attitude on life. He lives simply, has all he needs, bothers no one likes everybody and is thankful just to be here. What a role model if there ever was one. This movie shows you what life can be like if we just let it. Good sandwich movie and tasty drink with a snack to follow will keep you happy and content to the satisfying end
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Wonderful, inspirational unsung masterpiece
grantss17 June 2015
Wonderful, inspirational unsung masterpiece

The story of a preacher in a small town in the United States, circa 1870s: his interactions with the townsfolk, ups and downs, trials and tribulations.

On the surface, a western. Even the preacher brandishes six-shooters (initially)! However it is soon obvious that it is more than that. It is a wonderful look at a small town, how its citizens bond together, how some try to take advantage of others, how they have fun and how they deal with adverse events. A study of a much more innocent and idyllic time.

Throw in some great life lessons and other inspirational morals, and you have a fantastic, emotional, heart-warming story.
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Small town stories in the post-Civil War South...
moonspinner5523 March 2008
A country parson (who's packin' heat!) arrives by train in small Whalesburg to take charge of the religious duties, and does so not with violence but with prayer, patience, common sense, and love for his fellow man. Joel McCrea is just about perfect in the lead: with his low-keyed preciseness and enunciation, he's like the country cousin to Henry Fonda (and, even more appealing than Fonda, McCrea has some aw-shucks sex appeal which understandably draws choir-singer Ellen Drew to him). Drew snares him, marries him, but right away starts nagging at him (good-naturedly, of course) and calling him Mr. Gray. It's too bad the screenplay (based on the book by Joe David Brown, who also wrote "Addie Pray", a.k.a. "Paper Moon") doesn't concentrate more on the courtship of the parson and his girl, or even on his unusual blend of crackle-barrel wisdom, Scripture reading and take-no-prisoners approach. Instead, the focus is more on the townspeople and their highs and lows: a black sharecropper is nearly run off his land by the Knightriders (in sheets and hoods), Typhoid fever runs rampant through the school (causing the preacher some self-doubt), and the new doctor in town, while romancing the schoolteacher, must overcome his lack of faith. This is the kind of folksy Hollywood story wherein a man and a woman can't be together in the same room without falling in love. It's sweet all right, and humanized by a good cast and a fine director (the talented Jacques Tourneur), but too often the sentiment turns cloying, slowing the pace down. Lots of now-famous faces from television turn up, including Dean Stockwell, James Mitchell, "Gunsmoke" alumni Amanda Blake and James Arness, and the Skipper's father, Alan Hale, in his final film. **1/2 from ****
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classic look at the post-war South
RanchoTuVu8 April 2015
A man recalls memories of his childhood growing up as the adopted son (Dean Stockwell) of a parson (Joel McCrea) and the parson's wife (Ellen Drew) in a southern town in the years after the Civil War. A wholesome family image undermined by latent violence, it's a pretty interesting portrayal of the times from director Jacques Tourneur.The title of the film is also the title of Christian hymn that gets repeated a few times. McCrea fits the part of the parson well, saving the town from sliding into darker impulses, represented by menacing Jack Lambert as Perry Lokey, especially in a scene where he's snapping off a few cracks of his bull whip, and Ed Begley as a greedy landowner out to cheat Juano Hernandez out of his land. It's kind of a family movie, but with Tourneur (Cat People, Out of the Past) at the helm, it's darker than most.
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Pleasant, but naive family film
tmwest31 August 2009
Seeing the names of Joel McCrea and the director Jacques Tourneur(together they made the excellent "Wichita"), I thought this would be a western. As a matter of fact there is one western scene where the parson (Joel McCRea) draws his two guns when they don't want to hear his sermon at the saloon. But mostly the film follows the style of those made for the whole family to see at a Sunday matinée. It is not that there is no sadness. Some people die from an epidemic fever, there is even an attack from a white hooded clan. But the conflicts are solved too fast to be really believable, in a hurry to give a positive feeling. But apart from that, this is a pleasant film to see, among its qualities a certain Mark Twain touch and the beautiful smile of Ellen Drew.
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It's a gentle, yet powerful classic ...
JeffersonCody24 May 2014
STARS IN MY CROWN (1950): with Joel McCrea, Ellen Drew, Dean Stockwell, Alan Hale, Lewis Stone, James Mitchell, Amanda Blake, Juano Hernandez, Ed Begley, Arthur Hunnicutt and James Arness, directed by Jacques Tourneur. Rating: **** stars. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

One of the most beautiful and touching films I have seen in the last year or so. If "Stars in my Crown" doesn't move you, you have a heart of stone. Joel McCrea - radiating sincerity, integrity and goodness, plays Pastor Josiah Grey, a Protestant minister who was a soldier in the Civil war. He arrives in the small town of Walesville, strides into the bar, puts his six guns guns on the counter and preaches a sermon. And of course he never puts those guns on again. Josiah builds a church, marries Harriet (Ellen Drew) and adopts his nephew John (Dean Stockwell).

Trouble rears its head when Lon Bracket (Ed Begley) tries to buy the former slave, Uncle Famous Prill's (Juano Hernandez) land because he wants to mine it. Uncle Famous refuses to sell and an angry Lon sends a bunch of bullies to destroy the place. But the Swedish farmer Jed Isbell (Alan Hale) - a friend of Josiah's who doesn't attend church, and his six boys turn up to fix the farm.

Later, a typhoid epidemic strikes the town and young doctor Dr. Harris (James Mitchell) attends to the sick and dying while Josiah attends to their souls. This annoys the doctor, who persuades Josiah that he is responsible for spreading the disease. He's wrong, but Josiah, feeling guilty, closes his church and starts staying indoors. Meanwhile, Lon gathers the Klu Klux Klan and prepares to lynch Uncle Famous. Jed and his sons are ready to shoot it out with the Klan, but Josiah has another plan.

At times, this lovely, heartwarming film reminded me of "To Kill a Mockingbird" and I was surprised, considering when it was made, at how strongly it stands against racism and supports Civil Rights. I also enjoyed the fact that Josiah Grey never talks about the supernatural. If only there were more preachers like him in the world. He is a good man through and through.

Jacques Tourneur is a terrific director and I have enjoyed many of his films, but this is the best one I have seen yet. Now wonder he wanted to make it so badly that he was prepared to accept a minimal salary. It's a gentle, yet powerful classic. The final stand off between Josiah Grey and the Klan, BTW, is unforgettable.
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Heartwarming, uplifting, fantasy.
rmax3048235 March 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Narrated by a now grown-up Dean Stockwell, this is the story of an ex-Confederate soldier, Joel McRea, who comes to the town of Whalesville, hangs up his guns, and becomes the town preacher.

There are multiple narrative threads. The town's old doctor dies and his stern, somewhat atheistic son takes over. A little friction there. Then there's the typhoid epidemic which lays much of the town low. One glimpse of chubby, perky little Dean Stockwell and you know he's going to be one of the patients. Then there's the conflict between old Famous, played by Juano Hernandez, Hollywood's Negro, and blowhard, greedy Ed Begley who wants Hernandez's land because Begley's mica vein runs through it. This leads to the final confrontation in which the Ku Kux Klan comes to lynch old Famous and take his land. They're talked down by the patient, honest, true-blue Joel McRea. Everybody winds up singing the hymn, "Stars in My Crown," in church and they all live happily ever after. Well, Ol' Famous isn't seen singing in the white church. We don't want the fantasy to turn clotted.

There are a couple of notably above average elements in the film. One is Jacques Tourneur's direction. It can't be reproached. Like his mentor, Val Lewton, he's seen to period detail. Watch the fly scarers swirl over the freshly baked chocolate cake. Watch the mechanical apple peeler at work. He overplays nothing, nor do the actors. (Interesting to see James Arness and Amanda Blake working together before "Gunsmoke.") The director and the performers don't overplay anything, and they deserve thanks, because the script overplays everything for them.

It's really a rural wonderland we see, and a slightly anti-modernistic one, a little sour beneath all the treacle. Any movie in which a disabled ex-Confederate soldier and his half-dozen sons break out their guns and ride to save an old Darkie from losing his pitiful plot of farm land represents something other than a naturalistic view of humanity.

The town's new doctor is described by his dying father, the town's old doctor, as "long on learning and short on experience." (Something like that.) The experience he must learn is to give up his claim to Aesculapian authority and become just one of the folks, not hoisty-toity, not an elitist, singing in church, smiling happily, settling in.

This is John Ford territory but I doubt that Ford would have been so committedly earnest. The narration wouldn't have to spell out for us how essential it is that we all hang together, that we don't feel innately superior to anyone else, that we treat each other fairly, that we think of the community before we think of ourselves. Ford would have shown it. There would be dances, humor, drinking, a comic fist fight, a miscreant boy being spanked lovingly.

If you liked the TV series, "The Waltons," you'll probably kvell over this one. If you liked "To Kill a Mockingbird," you'll like this too, although "Mockingbird" is in many ways a more demanding tale.

I was trying to think about audience responses to this. It was released in 1950. There were people in the rural audiences for whom this represented a kind of glowing memory, blended with a certain dreaminess; there were people who could easily recall their youth from forty years earlier, in 1910, when many of the characteristics of small-town Southern life would have been living reminiscences. The horses, the drinking out of wells, everybody deferring to the Parson, the reassuring doc making house calls with his black bag, the town meanies who are good at heart. That traditional life style was no farther back in time for them than Vietnam is for us.

The movie is like one of those Twilight Zone episodes in which a harassed modern man is transported back to his innocent, happy childhood. It's satisfying in its own way.
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Prayer and Six-Shooters
cultfilmfreaksdotcom11 December 2018
The most memorable scene adorns the poster artwork: A just-arrived in a small town preacher, played by Joel McCrea as Josiah Grey, pulls out his six-shooters in a noisy saloon before reading the Bible in that same, suddenly quiet one...

This during a through-narration by an off-screen adult version of child actor Dean Stockwell, who plays the orphan son, John. And about fifteen minutes in, the town's old, dying doctor asks Josiah if he remembers what he and the audience could never forget... That should have been repeated a few times - his thing, as it were, in acquiring a captive audience at gun point...

Although as blunt as Reverend Josiah is, there's a passive, non-violent streak despite having fought through the Civil War (side-by-side with rowdy atheist Alan Hale, whose giant eldest son is future GUNSMOKE star James Arness), which gives McCrea half a dozen stories to tell within pockets of rural lakeside scenery that director Jacques Tourneur serves throughout a creative camera that enters and exits locations, along with the townspeople who, themselves, are the sole plot, or intentional lack of...

Anyone looking for shades of the action-packed WICHITA, the actor and director's third, final and greatest Western collaboration, will be disappointed (STRANGE ON HORSEBACK lies in-between). This small town's viewed with an optimistic revere of lost youth, but not without deep shades of Tourneur's signature dark and Gothic undertones...

As the darkest character is the new young doctor (son of the inevitably dead one) played by James Mitchell, who doesn't think much of McCrea's "medicine of Prayer," and has an eye for soon-to-be GUNSMOKE saloon owner Amanda "Miss Kitty" Blake as Faith (but Kitty and Marshall Dillon never share a scene)...

Eventually, in a somber and dragged-out third act, as she lies near-death from a town epidemic, STARS IN MY CROWN has some difficulty keeping the residents as interesting as the location itself...

One sequence has a traveling magician snake-oil type doing an almost ten minute show, taking far more time than any of the earlier conversations between the kid and a wise old former slave, who's being threatened to sell his small piece of land: Making this time-period drama more of a voyeuristic passage back in time than an idyllic entry into the Western genre. McCrea has sincere strength within the usual deadpan yet dependable persona. But most credit goes to Tourneur's gift of creating a melodic enchantment to what might've been a passable feature otherwise.
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Terrific character actors
thbryn22 October 2018
Yes this was a good film mostly on the strength of its ensemble cast. You really can't do much better than Ed Begley, Jim Arness, Arthur Hunnicutt and the great Alan Hale (Sr). The leads McCrea, Drew, and Stockwell are good also.

I didn't see the script as being particularly realistic. Maybe a preacher could talk a clan mob out extreme violence? This would not have happened in a film like "To Kill a Mockingbird" which came along about ten years later, also involving a child narrating the film as an adult like "Stars in my Crown."

But I liked the film's dealing with their health crises and the conflict between medicine --such as it was in that time period-- and the idea that prayer had a factor in the healing process.
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A rich story idea that is made into a range of pasty clichés and stereotypes
secondtake8 October 2017
Stars in My Crown (1950)

A period drama, though and through. The time is the end of the 1800s in rural America. The small town has all the expected types, especially the kindly preacher (who leads the story through his adopted nephew, a charming and energetic boy). There is the the greedy capitalist, the skeptical doctor, the hardy Swedish family, the pretty wife and the pretty girlfriend, and the old black farmer. The acting is sincere, and the writing honest and filled with homespun wisdom.

So this should be a good movie and it is. It's also very "old-fashioned" (that's the first word that came to mind. I have figured out what that means—not that it's filled with good people striving to do well and be happy in simple times, though that is true. It's more that it feels simple. This makes for a lack of complication, and surprise, and tension.

The worst part of this is that everyone is who they appear to be, without development or complication. Even when the final huge crisis sweeps the town and people are forced to step outside their usual roles, they do so predicatably. It's all very sweet but a bit of a bore—or to be nicer about it, a bit less exciting than the movie had the potential to be.

One last final note—leading man (pastor) Joel McCrea has a mixed role as leading man. Here he is cast perfectly, and he fits the part and holds it up, and holds up his end of the movie. Nice to see him at his best.
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Sadly, this movie just fails to live up to expectations.
CabbageCustard4 May 2017
I would so love to give this movie a much higher rating. I really wanted to like it. I didn't dislike it. I just didn't love it. In some ways, this movie is a poor man's 'To Kill a Mockingbird', although it predates that movie by more than a decade. Unfortunately, this movie fails to create any tension even in those scenes which are clearly meant to do so. It also fails to get us to invest into the life of these characters or feel any emotion towards them. They're nice enough people, I just didn't come to really care about them or what happened to them. Perhaps, the short running time is to blame. It just wasn't enough to fully develop the characters and draw us into their lives. This certainly isn't a bad movie.It isn't a boring movie. It's just a disappointing one.
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Lazy tale about a small town preacher post Civil War...
Doylenf22 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
STARS IN MY CROWN takes its time in setting up the pastoral story it tells about a small town preacher and his effect on a western town after the Civil War period. JOEL McCREA is perfect as the stalwart preacher who carries his gun into the town saloon to get attention for his sermon and finds it an effective way to get the men to listen.

He also has to deal with a typhoid epidemic, conflict with the local doctor (JAMES MITCHELL), defending a dignified black man (JUANO HERNANDEZ), and caring for his adopted son (DEAN STOCKWELL). But director Jacques Tourneur takes his time in telling the tale, narrated in lazy fashion by MARSHALL THOMPSON who is supposed to be the grown-up version of Dean Stockwell's character.

It spins dangerously close to cloying sentiment but never oversteps the bounds and is especially compelling when it shows how McCrea manages to dissuade a mob bent on violence with a clever way of defending Juano Hernandez from a lynching. It's this episode that makes the last portion of the story crackle with genuine suspense--although, in some respects, it's rather hard to believe how easily the mob is persuaded to drop the whole idea.

Summing up: Earnest and heartwarming, it's a likable treat.

Trivia note: Catch JAMES ARNESS and AMANDA BLAKE in the same film, before they became famous on "Gunsmoke."
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the movie will hold your attention and most of it will make you feel good
jfarms19563 December 2013
Stars In My Crown is a good family movie with older children. It is a movie which reminds us of our American history. It represents a time in America's past.It is both a dark chapter in history and a story of hope. It was one of Joel Mcrea's favorite films. Although the movie does not move at a fast pace, the movie will hold your attention and most of it will make you feel good. The characters in the movie are representative of many Americans, particularly in the South during the 1950s. It was courageous of the producers to produce a film like Stars In My Crown. The climax to me is about how love for one's fellow man, regardless of race, creed or belief, can change the outcome of hateful intentions. You won't easily forget this movie. It will in the end leave you with a hopeful message of love and belief in the goodness of mankind. Bring your popcorn and soda, along with your family, and enjoy the film, best enjoyed in the early evening or during a lazy afternoon.
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