Tonight I watched I'D CLIMB THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN, a lovely little film about a Georgia minister and his wife which I'd not seen since I was a teenager.
The minister is sincerely played by William Lundigan (I'LL GET BY); he is so strong in the lead, it's surprising to me he didn't have more of a career. Lundigan is well matched by Susan Hayward as his devoted bride, who has a funny feisty side which surfaces every now and then. (Hayward took over the role when Jeanne Crain had to bow out due to pregnancy.) This is probably the first Susan Hayward movie I ever saw. I'm happy to say that the movie was just as good as I remembered it being from my long-ago viewing.
The film is a collection of vignettes depicting the minister and his wife interacting with their congregation, including occasions such as a welcome party, a sermon on marriage, an epidemic, a church picnic, a runaway marriage, and more. The scenes are strung together with Hayward's narration. The story is by turns romantic, amusing, and touching.
The movie has a very authentic feel, particularly in the seemingly ad-libbed responses to the minister during his sermon early in the film. The location filming in Georgia adds to the realism. It actually could have stood being just a little bit longer; based on a photo in THE FILMS OF SUSAN HAYWARD it appears at least one scene, from one of the film's most dramatic sequences, was left on the cutting room floor.
The ending of the film is set to a beautiful choral rendition of "The Lord's Prayer." I couldn't help thinking that hymn is just not something one would be likely to hear in a movie of more recent vintage.
The townspeople are portrayed by a very fine group of actors, including Ruth Donnelly (one of my favorite character actresses), Gene and Kathleen Lockhart, Alexander Knox (the star of director Henry King's WILSON in 1944), Lynn Bari, Frank Tweddell, Rory Calhoun, and Barbara Bates.
Bates, who plays Jenny, was a pretty young actress who played Ernestine Gilbreth in CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN (1950) and BELLES ON THEIR TOES (1952); she also notably appeared in JUNE BRIDE (1948) and the last scene of ALL ABOUT EVE (1950). Her career petered out too soon, and unfortunately her life came to a sad end.
Parental advisory: There is a briefly depicted but disturbing tragedy involving a child. Parents with sensitive children may want to screen the movie first. Otherwise, it is a wholesome film with a very positive depiction of a man and wife devoted to serving God and their community.
I'D CLIMB THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN runs 88 minutes and was shot in Technicolor. It was directed by Henry King, a longtime Fox director whose work has been underrated over the years. King was comfortable working in a wide variety of genres, and over the course of his long career he was equally successful directing musicals, Westerns, war movies, religious films, and homespun Americana. A small sampling of his films includes the titles JESSE JAMES (1939), THE BLACK SWAN (1942), THE SONG OF BERNADETTE (1943), MARGIE (1946), CAPTAIN FROM CASTILE (1947), TWELVE O'CLOCK HIGH (1949), LOVE IS A MANY-SPLENDORED THING (1955), and CAROUSEL (1956).
I'D CLIMB THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN has been released on VHS.
It can also be seen as part of the library at Fox Movie Channel.