Cast & Crew
In 1910, city girl Mary Elizabeth Eden marries William Asbury Thompson, a Protestant preacher beginning his first ministry in the rural community of Mossy Creek, Georgia. Mary feels trepidation about the radical lifestyle change, but her love for William helps to assuage her nervousness. While taking Mary to her new home, William engages in a buggy race with Jack Stark, a wealthy, aimless but good-hearted young man from a nearby valley. When William wins, he tells Jack that he must fulfill their standing bet of attending church on Sunday, even though the local townsfolk consider him a black sheep. That evening, Mary meets her neighbors, who assemble at the house to celebrate her arrival. Mary inadvertently angers general store owner Jeff Brock, the wealthiest member of the congregation, when she tells his daughter Jenny that Jack, her secret sweetheart, is waiting outside for her. The partygoers drift away, and William comforts Mary by assuring her that she is the mistress of her own home. That Sunday, during his sermon, William encourages the married couples to stand and repeat their vows, and does the same with Mary. As time passes, Mary learns that part of a preacher's job is reaching out to his congregation, rather than waiting for them to come to him. One day, Mary and William visit the Salter family, who have never attended services, and meet patriarch Tom Salter, a well-educated, bitter man who has taught his three young children that religion is based on superstition. William tries to persuade Salter to allow the children to come to Sunday school, but gracefully exits when Salter refuses. On the way home, William and Mary again race with Jack and Jenny, and accidentally run Brock's buggy off the road. The infuriated Brock chastises William for befriending Jack, but William maintains that it is his duty to care for Jack's soul. Later, Mary worries that Brock will cancel his subscription to the congregation, thereby endangering William's salary, but William soothes Brock by swapping his lively horse for Brock's broken-down nag. Mary's pleasure at her husband's cleverness is forgotten, however, when Dr. Fleming warns the Thompsons that a deadly epidemic is breaking out and many deaths are imminent. Mary, who has never experienced illness and death before, accompanies William as he tends to the sick families, and the hard-working pair and Dr. Fleming become exhausted by the travel between the distant farms. William suggests turning the church into a hospital, and soon the building is filled with patients, including Jenny. Distraught over Jenny's illness, a drunken Jack visits the church, but William promises him that the Lord will not let Jenny die. Mary is heartbroken, as she believes that Jenny will die and that William has lied to Jack, but her faith is restored when Jenny's fever breaks and the epidemic ends. Later, William and Mary, who is pregnant, take the Sunday school children on a picnic, and persuade the reluctant Martha Salter to allow her children to attend. The happy gathering turns tragic when George Salter drowns in the mill pond, and the grieving Salter rejects William's attempt to comfort him. That night, Mary's baby is born prematurely and dies, and William somberly baptizes the infant at Mary's insistence. Mary is overwhelmed with grief, and as the months pass, neglects William and herself. She is reminded of the necessity of making herself appealing to her husband, however, by the appearance of the beautiful Mrs. Billywith, a lonely married woman who turns to William for "spiritual advice." Although William remains ignorant of Mrs. Billywith's designs on him, Mary warns her to stay away from him, and begins making herself attractive once again. Soon after, Jack and Jenny elope and ask William to marry them. William performs the service, but the young couple must then go to the city to obtain a marriage license. After they leave, Brock arrives, but William and Mary calm him down and even convince him to pay William for the service. Brock's five dollars become the start of William's Christmas fund, for, after he learns that Salter has told his remaining children that there is no Santa Claus, William decides to provide all of Mossy Creek's children with anonymous presents. William's mission is a success, and when Salter sees how thrilled his children are with their presents from Santa Claus, he wonders if his rigid beliefs have robbed them of the joys of childhood. When spring arrives, William's three-year assignment at Mossy Creek comes to end, and it is time for him and Mary to move to a new community. The Thompsons are bid farewell by their loving congregation, and even Salter steps forward and promises William that he will face the future with an open mind.
Dorothea Carolyn Sims
Frank J. Adams
Dr. Wallace Roger
Mary Lou Denton
Bobby C. Canup
Hoyt E. Bowen
Mattie C. Oakes
Neal W. Sims
Nina G. Brown
Le Roy Pharris
Vincent P. Bryan
Monroe W. Burbank
R. L. Hough
Rev. Robert Lowery
Albert Hay Malotte
Rev. Wallace Rogers D.d.
Egbert Van Alstyne
Harry Von Tilzer
Rebecca J. Weston
I'd Climb the Highest Mountain -
Although Crowther went on to say Hayward was "a bit on the unbelievable side" in the role initially announced for Jeanne Crain, her "improbability" worked well for her as a city-born young bride who finds herself taking on the duties of a rural preacher's wife. In a part originally intended for Henry Fonda, William Lundigan got good reviews for his convincing work as the preacher whose religious calling puts him and his wife through many hardships.
The film was adapted by Atlanta native Lamar Trotti (Young Mr. Lincoln, 1939; Cheaper by the Dozen, 1950) from the 1910 autobiographical novel by Corra Harris, A Circuit Rider's Wife, one of the production's working titles. Veteran director Henry King (In Old Chicago, 1937; The Song of Bernadette, 1943; Twelve O'Clock High, 1949) is said to have also done uncredited work on the screenplay. King and Trotti, both interested in American historical pictures, worked together on eight films, including the Oscar-winning Wilson (1944). This was the first of four movies in which King directed Hayward, the second being another religious themed release and the bigger moneymaker this same year, David and Bathsheba (1951). The following year, Trotti scripted the picture that earned Hayward her third Academy Award nomination, With a Song in My Heart (1952).
According to information in Twentieth Century-Fox archives, the studio also considered using a 1941 short story, "The Preacher Calls the Dance," by John W. Thomason, Jr. as source material, in addition to Harris' book. Other than a single character's name, however, none of that material made it into the finished screenplay, a fact revealed in an archived studio telegram from 1951. Studio records also note that director Jean Negulesco provided a "memo, research notes, prologue and story" for the project in early 1949, but there is no evidence that this was included either.
Location shooting took place mostly in Habersham and White county, Georgia, home to the towns of Helen and Cleveland. According to an industry trade paper during production, the film was originally to be shot in black and white but was switched to color on the orders of Fox chief, Darryl F. Zanuck.
In June 1950, a Hollywood Reporter news item noted that director King used all the members of the University of Georgia baseball team for sequences filmed in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Producers found the old car they needed for the film in Westminster, South Carolina. The owner of the 1912 Overland had restored it to running condition and was hired to appear in the movie as the driver since no one else knew how to operate a car of that vintage.
Ten months after the film's release, Hayward and Lundigan reprised their roles in an October 1951 broadcast of Lux Radio Theater. Corra Harris published a sequel to her novel called Circuit Rider's Widow, serialized in the Saturday Evening Post like its predecessor. It was considered for production but never made.
Production on I'd Climb the Highest Mountain was the first time Hayward visited the state that would one day become her home, but already she was warmly received by the locals, many of whom appeared as extras, and later during the film's premier in Atlanta by the state senate, which passed a resolution making her an "adopted daughter of Georgia."
Director: Henry King
Producer: Lamar Trotti
Screenplay: Lamar Trotti, based on the novel The Circuit-Rider's Wife
Cinematography: Edward Cronjager
Editing: Barbara McLean
Art Direction: Maurice Ransford, Lyle Wheeler
Music: Sol Kaplan
Cast: Susan Hayward (Mary Thompson), William Lundigan (Rev. William Thompson), Rory Calhoun (Jack Stark), Barbara Bates (Jenny Brock), Alexander Knox (Tom Salter)
by Rob Nixon
I'd Climb the Highest Mountain -
The working title of this film was A Circuit Rider's Wife. Voice-over narration by Susan Hayward as "Mary" is heard throughout the picture. Although the epidemic depicted in the film is never named, contemporary sources state that it was influenza. Corra Harris' novel, which first appeared in The Saturday Evening Post (22 January-26 Feb, 4 June and 18 June 1910), was a fictionalized account of her own life as the wife of a Protestant minister, who traveled the countryside preaching before different congregations throughout the rural South. Harris' sequel to the best-selling book, entitled Circuit Rider's Widow, was also published in The Saturday Evening Post. The term "circuit rider" refers to a minister who is assigned serially to a circuit of churches within a specific region.
According to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, the studio initially considered using a short story entitled "The Preacher Calls the Dance," by John W. Thomason, Jr. (Saturday Evening Post 3 May 1941) as source material, in addition to Harris' book. A January 1951 telegram reveals, however, that screenwriter Lamar Trotti did not incorporate any of Thomason's story into the finished film, "except perhaps [for] one character name." Studio records also indicate that Jean Negulesco provided a "memo, research notes, prologue and story" for the project in early 1949, but it is unlikely that any of his work was included in the finished screenplay.
In March 1947, Los Angeles Times reported that Henry Fonda would be starring in the film, and that the studio was hoping to secure John Ford as the director. The news item also mentioned that the picture was to be photographed in Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia. According to a March 1950 Hollywood Reporter news item, cinematographer Lucien Ballard, art director Maurice Ransford and production manager Joseph Behm were enroute to Tennessee to scout location sites. Although Ballard is listed as the director of photography in the film's first appearance on the Hollywood Reporter production charts, it is unlikely that he contributed significantly to the film's photography, and the contribution of Ransford and Behm to the completed picture has not been confirmed. In early April 1950, Los Angeles Times reported that Jeanne Crain would be starring in the picture. Susan Hayward was cast in the role in late April 1950, according to a Hollywood Reporter news item. A May 16, 1950 Hollywood Reporter news item revealed that the picture was originally to be filmed in black and white, but was switched to color by studio production chief Darryl F. Zanuck after he viewed "pre-production footage." In June 1950, a Hollywood Reporter news item noted that director Henry King used all the members of the University of Georgia baseball team for sequences filmed in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Several Hollywood Reporter news items reported that the majority of the picture was shot on several locations in Georgia, primarily near the city of Cleveland.
Hayward and William Lundigan reprised their roles for a October 29, 1951 Lux Radio Theatre broadcast of the story. Although a January 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item stated that the studio had purchased By Book and Heart, a novel by Corra Harris, to use as the basis for a sequel to I'd Climb the Highest Mountain, using the same director, cast and location sites, the sequel was not produced.