Cast & Crew
In the Ozark Mountains, Jim Lane is shot by marshals while guarding the moonshine distillery run by the Matthews family. Lane successfully hides his wound from the marshals and is saved only when an apparent stranger, Daniel Howitt, appears at his house and helps Lane's daughter Sammy remove the bullets. Sammy soon grows fond of the good-natured stranger, who later saves a local child from choking, and expresses his desire to purchase land in the hill community. Sammy, who is in love with Young Matt Matthews, suggests Daniel buy land from the Matthews family. Young Matt's uncle, Old Matt, and aunt, Mollie Matthews, have experienced nothing but misery since the death of Mollie's sister Sarah, Young Matt's mother. Young Matt is embittered by years of having the superstitious community blame his family and the ghost of his mother for all their ills, and has sworn vengeance against his father, whose abandonment years earlier hastened his mother's death. Against Young Matt's wishes, Daniel purchases "Moaning Meadows," which is reportedly haunted by Sarah's ghost. Daniel feels at home there, and Sammy, whose love Young Matt resists to protect her from his tainted family, convinces Young Matt to befriend Daniel, whom Young Matt has threatened to kill. Daniel's gentle nature has already inspired many of the mountain folk to stop drinking and pursue a better way of life. When blind neighbor Granny Becky returns from a visit to a city doctor, for which Daniel has paid, the Matthewses attend the unveiling of her bandages. Her vision restored, Granny declares that Daniel is Young Matt's father, a fact that Sammy had already suspected. Young Matt becomes angry and grabs his gun from his little cousin Pete, but Sammy urges Young Matt against violence. However, Mollie fuels Young Matt's desire for revenge and struggles with her son for the weapon, which discharges into the boy. As he lays dying, Pete regains the voice he lost years earlier on the night of Sarah's death. Pete tells his mother that he remembers when she was gentle and loving but that she is now the one who curses the family. At dawn, Mollie lights a funeral pyre around her son and stays with him as the house is engulfed in flames. Young Matt confronts his father in Moaning Meadows and Daniel shoots his son. After an operation to save his life, Young Matt hears that years before, his father had been taken away by authorities after he killed a man and was unable to contact the family because he was serving a lengthy prison sentence. This experience convinced him to shoot Young Matt so that his son would not repeat his youthful mistake. Young Matt experiences a rebirth upon hearing his father speak, abandons his oath of vengeance, and opens his heart to love and to Sammy.
Samuel S. Hinds
W. Howard Greene
Charles Lang Jr.
The Shepherd of the Hills
Venerable character actor Harry Carey plays Daniel Howitt, the title character, but Wayne gets top billing, thanks largely to his breakthrough in John Ford's Stagecoach (1939) and notable performances in Ford's adaptation of Eugene O'Neill's The Long Voyage Home (1940) and the Marlene Dietrich comedy-adventure Seven Sinners (1940). This was Wayne's first film in Technicolor. His co-star here is Betty Field, and the cast is rounded out with some of the most popular character players of the period: Beulah Bondi, Marjorie Main, and two regulars who would become staples of the John Ford stock company and appear in many films with Wayne, Ward Bond and John Qualen.
The film is based on a 1907 novel by Harold Bell Wright that was a mixture of real-life characters and fictional mountain folklore. The book was well received and translated over time into seven languages and popular enough to occasion three other big screen versions in 1919, 1928, and 1964, as well as a 30-minute television adaptation in 1960. None of them strayed as far from the original novel as this one. Two of the biggest changes were transposing the abandoned wife from a nurturing, kindly woman into a shrill, nasty moonshiner and making the shepherd not a cultured visitor from Chicago but an aging gunfighter with a guarded past. Other characters also varied greatly, and the film adds a shoot-out, making it more like the western movies audiences already closely identified with John Wayne.
The story takes place in the Ozarks section of Missouri around what is now a major entertainment capital, the city of Branson. Wright's original novel was adapted into in a popular outdoor play performed there weekly from May to October, from 1960 until its final performance October 19, 2013. The outdoor play featured more than 80 actors, 40 horses, and an actual nightly burning of the cabin.
This was the first time Wayne worked with director Henry Hathaway, but it wouldn't be the last. They made six more films together, including True Grit (1969) for which Wayne finally won an Academy Award. In his 44-year career, Hathaway was known for action pictures (The Lives of a Bengal Lancer, 1935, his only Oscar nomination; Raid on Rommel, 1971) and some memorable noir thrillers of the 1940s (The Dark Corner, 1946; Kiss of Death, 1947). Perhaps the least characteristic movie of his career was the dreamy fantasy romance Peter Ibbetson (1935), starring Gary Cooper.
According to stories in the Hollywood Reporter, Tyrone Power, John Garfield, Lynne Overman, Robert Preston, and Burgess Meredith were considered for lead roles in this film.
Much of the picture was shot in the San Bernardino National Forest, including a forest fire scene shot at Moon Ridge under the supervision of forest rangers and members of the Civilian Conservation Corps.
According to information in the film's press book, Paramount music director Troy Sanders coached Harry Carey on playing the spinet for his role.
By Rob Nixon
Director: Henry Hathaway
Producer: Jack Moss
Screenplay: Grover Jones, Stuart Anthony
Based on the novel by Harold Bell Wright Cinematography: W. Howard Greene, Charles Lang
Editing: Ellsworth Hoagland
Art Direction: Roland Anderson, Hans Dreier
Original Music: Gerard Carbonara
Cast: John Wayne (Young Matt), Betty Field (Sammy Lane), Harry Carey (Daniel Howitt), Beulah Bondi (Aunt Mollie), James Barton (Old Matt), Marjorie Main (Granny Becky)
The Shepherd of the Hills
Hollywood Reporter news items report the following about the production: Actors Tyrone Power, John Garfield, Lynne Overman, Robert Preston and Burgess Meredith were considered for lead roles in this film. William LeBaron took over as producer to replace Stuart Walker during pre-production, and Jack Moss took over for LeBaron during production. The forest fire scene was shot at Moon Ridge in the San Bernardino Mountains, CA, and was supervised by forest rangers and members of the Civilian Conservation Corps. According to information in the film's press book, Paramount music director Troy Sanders coached Harry Carey on playing the spinet in this film. Big Bear Lake and Bartlett Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains, CA, were also used as locations. Previous films based on religious author Harold Bell Wright's novel, all entitled The Shepherd of the Hills, are Harold Bell Wright Story Picture Corp.'s 1919 production, co-directed by Wright and L. F. Gottschalk and starring Harry G. Lonsdale, Cathrine Curtis and George McDaniel; First National's 1928 picture, directed by Albert Rogell and starring Alec B. Francis, Molly O'Day and John Boles; and Macco Productions' 1964 picture, directed by Ben Parker and starring Richard Arlen, James W. Middleton and Sherry Lynn. (For more information on these films, consult AFI Catalog of Feature Films; F1.3975, F2.4981 and F6.4459.)
Released in United States 1941
Released in United States 1941