For, March 28, 2014

At a time when Hollywood never recognizes faithful prayer and churchgoing with anything other than disdain or ridicule, younger moviegoers may find it hard to believe that the studios used to embrace movies for everyone, including "believers."

If you'd like some evidence, here comes another vintage example, "I'd Climb the Highest Mountain" (1951), starring Susan Hayward and William Lundigan in the story of a preacher and his wife in the South, circa 1910, based on Corra Harris' autobiographical novel.

Lundigan plays a Methodist minister whose North Georgia mountain community is spread out and life is hard living for the backwoods congregation he serves. Susan Hayward is the city girl he marries who has trouble adapting to this life and after a tragedy loses her faith, though she eventually regains it through the love of her husband.


Suprisingly, although she's good in her part, Hayward isn't really the film's shining light. It's the largely forgotten Lundigan (a sturdy B-level leading man for three decades) who has the meatier role and he runs with it in a way that might make you wonder why he never moved up to the A-list.

As for the film itself, the direction is good (by Henry King, who also gave us "Song of Bernadette," "Twelve O'Clock High," etc.) and the gorgeous Technicolor cinematography accentuates the location shooting in the hills of Georgia.

This film was made two years before Twentieth Century Fox's development of CinemaScope set the standard for widescreen movies, so the picture is in its original squarish format.

Fox Cinema Archives' manufacture-on-demand releases have developed a notorious reputation for issuing films in the old TV pan-and-scan mode rather than using widescreen prints from their vaults, but this isn't a problem for movies made before 1953.