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Count Three and Pray (1955) is a post-Civil War Western about a former hell-raising Southerner who fought on the side of the Union, then returns to his hometown as a newly ordained pastor. He tries to redeem himself by helping to rebuild the town and befriends a young tomboy who escaped the ravages of the Civil War by living out in nature, which causes tongues to wag. Advertised with the lurid slogan "Luke Fargo was through with sin...but sin wasn't through with Luke Fargo!" the film is mostly notable for being the screen debut of twenty-five year old Joanne Woodward.
Shot in Technicolor and Cinemascope on a very tight schedule in January and February 1955 at the North Ranch, located at Lindero Canyon Road and Kanan Road in Agora Hills California, Count Three and Pray was produced by Copa Productions, Inc., a company started by Tyrone Power and producer Ted Richmond and distributed through Columbia Pictures. The working title of the film was The Calico Pony. Daily Variety reported in June 1954 that Herb Meadow's original story had been bought by producer Leonard Goldstein as a vehicle for Gary Cooper, but it was Van Heflin who would eventually land the role. Also in the cast were Phil Carey, Nancy Kulp, Allison Hayes and Raymond Burr as the villainous white-trash businessman who has taken over the town after the war.
The film premiered at the Paris Theater in Joanne Woodward's hometown of Greenville, South Carolina in October 1955. The Hollywood Reporter praised Woodward's performance: "Possessed of an offbeat gamin charm and a sense of comedy timing that would be worthy of a veteran, she treats the audience to laugh after laugh."
Producer: Ted Richmond; Tyrone Power (uncredited)
Director: George Sherman
Screenplay: Herb Meadow (dialogue); Herb Meadow (story "Calico Pony")
Cinematography: Burnett Guffey
Art Direction: Robert Peterson
Music: George Duning
Film Editing: William A. Lyon
Cast: Van Heflin (Luke Fargo), Joanne Woodward (Lissy), Phil Carey (Albert Loomis), Raymond Burr (Yancey Huggins), Allison Hayes (Georgina Decrais), Myron Healey (Floyd Miller), Nancy Kulp (Matty Miller), James Griffith (Swallow), Richard Webb (Big), Kathryn Givney ( Mrs. Decrais), Robert Burton (Bishop).
by Lorraine LoBianco