Stars in My Crown

This somber black-and-white drama (1950) about a small-town preacher (Joel McCrea) in the postbellum south, narrated by the boy he raised (Dean Stockwell), is one of the most neglected films in the history of cinema as well as Jacques Tourneur's favorite among his own pictures. (Best known for Cat People and Out of the Past, Tourneur often seemed to thrive in obscurity, and by agreeing to direct this picture at MGM for practically nothing he reportedly sabotaged his own career.) A view of the American heartland that's emotionally engaged but still charged with darkness (a typhoid epidemic and a near lynching are among its key episodes), it recalls some of John Ford's best work in its complex perception of goodness, and I can't think of many films that convey a particular community with more pungency. Margaret Fitts adapted a novel by Joe David Brown; with Ellen Drew, James Mitchell, Juano Hernandez, Amanda Blake, Louis Stone, and Alan Hale. 89 min.

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