Monday, July 29, 2002


I stumbled on this by accident the other afternoon just as it was starting on TCM and I decided to stick with it. Despite my complicated religious background (suffice to say I'm a gay lapsed Catholic agnostic who occasionally meditates and reads more than he should about religion and Catholicism), I find myself drawn to this kind of pleasant quasi-religious movie. Like GOING MY WAY, BELLS OF ST. MARY'S and COME TO THE STABLE, this is the kind of movie that makes priests and preachers seem both very ordinary and very special at the same time. The film follows the life of a Methodist minister, played by Fredric March, over some 20 years beginning around the turn of the century. Martha Scott is his wife, and even though she was fairly young at the time, she looks more convincing as she ages. Not much happens in the episodic plot: the family is called upon by the church to move frequently, which causes some friction between March and Scott; March is indoctrinated into the pleasures of motion pictures by his son (after having earlier scolded him for going the movies, as strict Methodist teaching called for); the last section of the movie concerns the building of a new church and the problems March has getting his flock to pay for it and to agree on how to build it--here it reminded me of one of my favorite quasi-religious movies, THE BISHOP'S WIFE, except there are no angels and the cast is nowhere near as charming as the cast of BISHOP, which included Cary Grant and Loretta Young. March is fine, although his abrupt conversion at the very beginning of the film was underdeveloped (the script's fault, not the actor's). The supporting cast was quite good, including Gene Lockhart and Harry Davenport, and especially Beulah Bondi in a role a bit like Gladys Cooper's in BISHOP'S WIFE, the rich old biddy whose support is needed to build the church. In this sequence, I liked the way March gets back at the "bad guys," even though it smacked of blackmail, and I had a hard time imagining his character would resort to that.

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