Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Stars in My Crown (1950)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Stars in My Crown (1950)

In Jacques Tourneur's dramatic, faith-affirming family picture and western - a film with its title taken from the hymn: "Will There Be Any Stars in My Crown?":

  • the opening credits, to the tune of the hymn "Will There Be Any Stars in My Crown?" - sung by a church congregation - with nostalgic remarks (and beginning of a long flashback) delivered in the opening voice-over by the narrator, adult John Kenyon (Marshall Thompson): "Do you hear that? You might say I was raised on that song. Hearin' it takes me back, back to the old times when I was young, back to Walsburg. According to the words of the song, we're promised a city of gold in the hereafter. I used to think that was a long time to have to wait. But I know now that there is a city of gold right here on earth for every one of us - the city of our youth. Walsburg's only one name for it, that's all. Walsburg not as it is now, but as it used to be. I just have to shut my eyes and I'm there. Nothing's changed. Even I haven't changed. I'm always a boy in Walsburg. And there at my side, just as he'll always be is the parson, Parson Gray. And passing before me are all the people who are part of my growing up....Walsburg people. Gone now, most of them, and yet as close to me still as people in a favorite story - a story that had its beginning before I was born, on the day the Parson arrived in our town. Of course, this wasn't much of a town in those first hard years that followed the War Between the States, but it suited the Parson right from the minute he stepped off the train and started to look around. He must have attracted plenty of attention as he walked down Main Street for the first time in his brand new black pulpit coat and faded gray cavalry breeches and his big old Bible in his hand, but he just kept on walkin' til he got to Jerry Higgins' saloon. He didn't have to call for quiet. It just followed him through that room like a hounddog"
  • the subsequent continuation of the flashback, to tell the story of John's adoptive father: small-town gospel preacher Josiah Doziah Gray (Joel McCrea) (who married Harriet (Ellen Drew)), and started serving as the Parson in 1865 in the small post-bellum Southern town of Walsburg, Tennessee; upon his arrival, Gray established himself as the new Parson - reinforced by six-shooters during his announcement and first sermon in the local saloon: "Boys, I'm your new preacher, and I aim to give my first sermon right here and now! (He drew his six-shooters in both hands) Thanks!"
  • the bullying scene when town resident Perry Lokey (Jack Lambert) whipped and tormented feeble-minded 'Chloroform' Wiggins (Arthur Hunnicutt) - until Josiah Gray grabbed the whip, tripped him by wrapping the whip around his legs, and sent him headfirst into a deep mud puddle; everyone ended up laughing, as Gray delivered a joke: "Perry puts me in mind of a colonel I had once. Never learned to protect his rear"
  • the powerful KKK lynch mob scene when freed black Uncle Famous Prill (Juano Hernandez) was threatened by torch-carrying, masked neo-Klansmen led by racist general store owner Lon Backett (Ed Begley) ("who had a finger in every pie"), after Prill refused to sell his neighboring property at 80 cents an acre (a rich mining ore vein of mica was discovered on his property); earlier, Prill's land and farm had been trashed, livestock scattered and crops destroyed by Backett's unemployed workers-miners - to try to pressure Prill
  • the scene of Prill's defense by parson Gray, who bluffed the lynch mob by pretending to read Prill's non-existent will (consisting of Prill's generous promises to cede and bequeath his possessions and land to each of the mob members upon his death) - [Note: the scene was reminiscent of a similar stand-off sequence in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962).] - Gray ended the reading with the words: "You can have him now"
  • the moment after the shamed and forgiving Klan members had dispersed when it was revealed that the pages were blank by Gray's young adopted son John Kenyon (Dean Stockwell): "There's no writing on here. This ain't no will" - and Gray responded: "Yes it is, son. It's the will of God"


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