SALLY AND SAINT ANNE is a movie I loved watching on TV when I was growing up. Since then it seems to have disappeared from the airwaves. I've been looking for it this year and tonight I was able to see it again for the first time in decades. It's the movie equivalent of comfort food -- nothing notably special, but the boisterous O'Moyne family are good company. Watching the film again, I could see why it had appealed to me so much when I saw it years ago. It's a most enjoyable little movie.
Sweet Sally O'Moyne (Ann Blyth) lives in a small town with her parents (Frances Bavier and Otto Hulett) and her wacky older brothers (Jack Kelly, Hugh O'Brian, and Lamont Johnson). Sally's Grandfather Ryan (Edmund Gwenn), who has been "dying" for 20 years, spends his days in an upstairs bedroom.
As she grows up, Sally acquires a reputation around town for her willingness to ask Saint Anne's intercession for her friends' prayer requests. Sally's faith is particularly tested when mean Goldtooth McCarthy (John McIntire) tries to turn the O'Moynes out of their family home. And on a romantic front, how can Sally attract the attention of college man Johnny Evans (Gregg Palmer, then known as Palmer Lee) away from Lois (Kathleen Hughes), a haughty Bostonian who moves to town?
That's pretty much all there is to the movie, an uncomplicated comedy about love of God, family, and home. The O'Moynes are a warm, loving, and slightly goofy family, a dynamic which is nicely underscored when a smitten Johnny takes Grandpa's advice and moves in with the family in order to court Sally. Johnny fits right in with the crazy bunch.
Ann Blyth is lovely in the title role, and the presence of some familiar TV faces adds to the fun. Frances Bavier, who plays Mrs. O'Moyne, is best known as Aunt Bee from THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW. Hugh O'Brian was three years away from playing WYATT EARP when he played Danny, the boxing brother who has taken a few hits to the head too many. Jack Kelly, who plays Mike, an aspiring magician, was still half a decade away from his starring turn with James Garner on MAVERICK; seeing Kelly as "The Great O'Moyne," constantly shuffling decks of cards for his magic tricks, almost seems like a preview of Kelly's role as one of TV's most famous poker players.
The film includes a very memorable sequence in which the O'Moyne house is jacked up and moved. Sally, arriving home from a dance, finds her house has left without her and follows it down the street, then climbs the front steps and walks inside as it slowly creaks along on its way. That's a scene which has stayed with me all these years.
The supporting cast includes King Donovan, Dabbs Greer, George Mathews, and Alix Talton. Perennial bit player Bess Flowers can be spotted at the country club dance.
SALLY AND SAINT ANNE was directed by Rudolph Mate. It was shot in black and white and runs 90 minutes.
SALLY AND SAINT ANNE has not had a VHS or DVD release. Perhaps at some point it will be a candidate for TCM's new Universal on Demand DVD program. In the meantime, a pretty good DVD-R copy, originally recorded by a private collector from AMC back in its commercial-free days, can be obtained from Free Classic Movies on DVD. (January 2010 Update: Free Classic Movies on DVD is now out of business.)
SALLY AND SAINT ANNE is recommended as solid family fun, the kind of wholesome, pleasant entertainment which is a rarity in Hollywood these days.