Spencer’s Mountain opens with America The Beautiful and throughout the film, you hear God Bless America, The Star-Spangled Banner, Shall We Gather At The River, The Garden of Prayer, Graduation March and When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder, I’ll Be There. This film *is* Americana: Schmaltz. Family love. Heartbreak. Sacrifice. Triumph. Everything good about America. Everything the critics usually deplore.
In the shadow of the mountain that bears the family name, hard-working Clay Spencer (Henry Fonda) strives to make a better life for his wife and nine children.
Although it was a considerable commercial success, Henry Fonda absolutely loathed this cosy melodrama, claiming it “damned near set film-making back 25 years”.
With Fonda playing the church-hating head of a Wyoming hill family, it’s not immediately apparent that Earl Hamner Jr’s novel also provided the inspiration for that enduringly popular TV show, The Waltons.
The connection becomes clearer as James MacArthur’s character Clayboy (rather than John Boy) struggles to choose between his education and his inheritance.
As mom and grandpa respectively, Maureen O’Hara and Donald Crisp provide expert support, and it all comes together under the watchful eye of director Delmer Daves.
It’s not good cinema but it is a good show.