Synopsis by Bruce Eder
For a family picture, not to mention a story that later became the old-fashioned-values-affirming series The Waltons, Spencer's Mountain sure has a lot in it about sex. Henry Fonda gives an interesting portrayal in one of his more unusual roles, as Clay Spencer, the hard-drinkin', hard-livin', hard lovin', hard-cussin' patriarch of a fiercely independent Wyoming family living in the Grand Tetons. When he's not resisting the encroachment of organized religion on his daily life (he believes in God, but doesn't want others to tell him how to do that, or how to show respect to the Lord), he's busy trying to finish the house he promised his wife (Maureen O'Hara) to house their constantly growing brood, and trying to help his eldest son, Clayboy (James MacArthur) -- who's going to be the first Spencer to get past high school -- prepare for college and manhood, while temptation in the form of Claris Coleman (Mimsy Farmer) and Minnie-Cora Cook Kathy Bennett comes his way. There's also a good bit of human drama here, and some especially finely nuanced performances by Donald Crisp and Lillian Bronson, as Fonda's aging parents. Between their work, the CinemaScope photography, the gorgeous Wyoming locations, and a good basic story, this is a surprisingly engrossing comedy-drama of a kind that probably could not be made today, even with a top-name cast.
family, generation, house, minister, patriarch, scholarship, tuition