Stars In My Crown (1950): Tourneur’s Western, Starring Joel McCrea and Ellen Drew

Jacques Tourneur directed Stars In My Crown, a black and white Western, starring Joel McCrea as a preacher whose faith succeeds in taming an unruly town.

The story, narrated by Marshall Thompson as an adult John, is based on the novel by Joe David Brown.

Shortly after the American Civil War, preacher Josiah Gray (Joel McCrea) arrives in the town of Walesburg. Heading for the saloon to give his first sermon, the patrons laugh at him, forcing him to pulls out two guns, which cows the men into listening; later they build a church.

Josiah settles down, marrying Harriet (Ellen Drew) and raising her orphan nephew John (Dean Stockwell).

When the beloved Dr. Harris, Sr. (Lewis Stone) dies, his place is taken by his son (James Mitchell), but the unreligious man is not well-liked and wants to leave Walesburg.

He falls in love with the schoolteacher, Faith Samuels (Amanda Blake), but she is reluctant to marry him, as he insists on moving away.

John comes down with typhoid. Dr. Harris, Jr. warns Josiah to stay away from others, to avoid spreading the disease, but Josiah ignores him and soon, others are stricken.

When Harris blames Josiah, his faith is shaken, and he closes the church and withdraws from the community. Harris’s work on behalf of his patients forges a bond between him and Walesburg. When Faith is dying, Harris summons the preacher and his prayers are answered. Faith recovers, and the man of science and the man of faith reconcile.

Businessman Lon Backett (Ed Begley) wants to buy the land of freed slave Uncle Famous Prill (Juano Hernandez). He needs the mica deposit to keep his mine in operation, but Uncle refuses to sell. The out-of-work miners trample the old man’s crops and scatter his livestock, yet he holds out.

Josiah declines the assistance of his old war buddy, Jed Isbell (Alan Hale), and his sons, and waits with Uncle Famous for the lynch Ku Klux Klan mob. Josiah offers no resistance, but asks the mob to first listen to him read Uncle Famous’s will.  He reminds the beneficiary of the old man’s, and the shamed mob disperses.

In the end, John picks up the pages Josiah had read and, realizing they are blank, he claims that it’s not a will. To which Josiah replies, “It’s the will of God.”

Joel McCrea as Josiah Doziah Gray
Ellen Drew as Harriet Gray
Dean Stockwell as John Kenyon
Juano Hernandez as Uncle Famous Prill
Alan Hale, Sr. as Jed Isbell
Lewis Stone as Dr. Daniel Kalbert Harris, Sr.
James Mitchell as Dr. Daniel Kalbert Harris, Jr.
Amanda Blake as Faith Radmore Samuels.
Charles Kemper as Professor Sam Houston Jones, a good-natured medicine show huckster
Connie Gilchrist as Sarah Isbell
Ed Begley as Lon Backett
Jack Lambert as Perry Lokey
Arthur Hunnicutt as Chloroform Wiggins


TCM showed the movie May 3, 2020.