Westerns in March Stars: in My Crown (1950)

stars in my crown poster

Jacques Tourneur directed one of the great Film Noirs Out of the Past (1947), and one of the eeriest horror movies of all time, Cat People (1942). I’ve seen a few of his other films and they are all good, so I was excited to see what he could do with a western. Stars in My Crown isn’t bad, but it’s not all that great either. It is a slice-of-life film that’s a bit too sentimental and feels like it borrows a little too heavily from To Kill a Mockingbird. Though that can’t be true as it came out years before that book was written. In fact, Harper Lee has noted that she was partially inspired to write her famous novel after watching this film. But she did it much, much better.

Joel McCrea stars as Josiah Doziah Gray who shows up in the little town of Walesburg just after the Civil War, walks into a saloon, announces he’s the new preacher, and starts his first sermon. When the saloon customers laugh at him, he pulls out his pistol and makes them listen.

Soon enough he becomes well-loved in the community. The film watches him as he gets married, has a child, and enjoys inviting the local atheist to church.

The town doctor dies just as his son (James Mitchell) comes back to town, having just graduated from medical school. He has none of his father’s bedside manner and feels people ought to just do what he says because he’s got the schooling to know what he’s talking about.

When typhoid breakout the preacher inadvertently passes it on to the schoolchildren and gets yelled at by the Doctor for not taking precautions (I’ll leave you to ponder how very familiar that sounds).

Later a free slave (Juano Hernandez) is harassed by some miners who are also Klansmen. This is where the film feels like a half-baked Mockingbird but it is much more sentimental than that story.

McCrea is enjoyable, in fact, everyone is good. The story is fine and the direction alright. It’s like an episode of Little House on the Prarie or some such thing. Fine enough to watch, but nothing particularly special.

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