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Stars in My Crown

Stars in My Crown(1950)


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teaser Stars in My Crown (1950)

The gentle drama Stars in My Crown (1950) centers around the residents of a small 19th-century town in the American West and the country parson (Joel McCrea) whose presence makes their lives better. Told through the nostalgic eyes of the parson's adopted young nephew, John (Dean Stockwell), Stars in My Crown is an engaging slice of Americana. Adapted from Joe David Brown's popular novel, it examines the ups and downs of early small-town life, including a typhoid epidemic, the threat of the Ku Klux Klan and the budding romance between a doctor with a bad bedside manner and a pretty schoolteacher.

Director Jacques Tourneur made a career out of his association with producer Val Lewton, which led to work on several creepy horror films for RKO such as Cat People (1942) and I Walked with a Zombie (1943). He established a unique visual style based on his use of moody, ominous lighting schemes. Stars in My Crown, however, was a departure from Tourneur's usual dark style and subject matter. Instead of conveying a sense of foreboding and suspense, it exudes a warmth and optimism not often found in his work.

The central role of the levelheaded Parson Grey who thumps a Bible and carries a gun at the same time was not such a departure for actor Joel McCrea. This dependable leading man made his mark mostly in Westerns like Ride the High Country (1962) and Preston Sturges comedies like Sullivan's Travels (1941). For Stars in My Crown, McCrea had established enough star power to earn a salary of ten thousand dollars a week.

Popular 1940s child actor Dean Stockwell is poignant as the young narrator of the story - John - and he was one of the few child actors who managed to make the successful transition into adult roles. His childhood roles included parts in The Boy with Green Hair (1948) and The Secret Garden (1949). While he always worked with some degree of regularity throughout his career, Stockwell enjoyed a return to prominence as an adult actor in the 1980s with a string of memorable character roles in films like Blue Velvet (1986), Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988) and Married to the Mob (1988), for which he was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor. He also had a long, successful stint on the science fiction TV series Quantum Leap as the holographic image contact Al.

Some other recognizable faces grace the community of Stars in My Crown. A young Amanda Blake, most famous for her role as saloon keeper Miss Kitty on the long-running Western TV series Gunsmoke, plays the new-doctor-in-town's love interest, Faith. James Arness, who co-starred with Blake in Gunsmoke as Dodge City Marshal Matt Dillon, also appears in a small role as one of Jed Isbell's sons.

Farmer and friend to Parson Grey, Jed Isbell, is played by veteran character actor Alan Hale, who starred in hundreds of films over his five-decade-long career. Incidentally, he was also known as the father of actor Alan Hale, Jr., who bore an uncanny resemblance to his famous dad. Hale, Jr., gained fame playing The Skipper on Gilligan's Island. Stars in My Crown was one of the last films the senior Hale completed before his death in 1950, the year the film was released.

Producer: William H. Wright
Director: Jacques Tourneur
Screenplay: Margaret Fitts
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Gene Ruggiero
Cinematography: Charles E. Schoenbaum
Costume Design: Walter Plunkett
Film Editing: Gene Ruggiero
Original Music: Adolph Deutsch
Principal Cast: Joel McCrea (Josiah Dozier Grey), Ellen Drew (Harriet Gray), Dean Stockwell (John Kenyon), Lewis Stone (Dr. D.K. Harris Sr.), James Mitchell (Dr. D. K. Harris, Jr.), Amanda Blake (Faith Radmore Samuels), Juano Hernandez (Uncle Famous Prill), Connie Gilchrist (Sarah Isbell), Ed Begley (Lon Brackett).

by Andrea Foshee

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