Spencer's Mountain [1963]

Long before Henry Fonda played an irascible patriarch in On Golden Pond, he played an equally crusty family man in this warmly rustic, 1963 drama Spencer's Mountain, based on an Earl Hamner Jr. novel that later inspired the television series The Waltons. Fonda plays Clay Spencer, a fiercely independent, hard-drinking, foul-mouthed Wyoming laborer who believes in God but rejects (to his tiny community's consternation) organized religion. Scraping together enough money to build a new house for his wife (Maureen O'Hara) and nine children, Spencer runs into an obstacle to both his plans and family pride when his college-bound son (James MacArthur) romances the daughter of Spencer's boss. Director Delmer Daves whips up a kind of morose schmaltz out of the earnest material, but it's Fonda's grit and heartland integrity that carry the day and establish some self-effacing wit. Some nice features here, including interviews with Fonda and a short documentary, "Spencer's Mountain: Grand Teton Premiere." --Tom Keogh

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