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Spencer's Mountain (16 May 1963)

Appearing as Clay-Boy Spencer

Synopsis from the Warner Brothers Pressbook:

Grandpa Zebelon, Spencer’s father, homesteaded Spencer’s Mountain years ago. Grandpa brought grandma (Lillian Bronson) to the mountain as a young bride. Here the nine, strapping Spencer boys had been born. When the boys grew up and married, Grandpa (Donald Crisp) divided his Mountain evenly amongst them. All eventually sold their shares excepting Clay Spencer (Henry Fonda) now living in the Valley below with his pretty wife, Olivia (Maureen O’Hara) and their healthy brood of nine youngsters, the eldest of which is Clayboy (James MacArthur). Clayboy is unlike the others in the family with his dedication to books and learning. He is about to graduate from high school, the first Spencer male ever to accomplish this educational feat. None of the Spencer men had ever bothered to finish their schooling, always quitting and heading for work at an early age in the quarry or the mill. Clay and Olivia are mighty proud of their studious son. Clay, for 20 years, has been vowing to Olivia he will one day build her a Dream House atop Spencer’s Mountain. But poverty has always stood in the way, for Clay’s earnings are meager even though he’s ranked as the best quarry-man at the plant. Clayboy, graduating with highest honors, is in line for a scholarship at the University in the city beyond the Valley. But only a divinity scholarship is available and nobody dares tell Clay who would certainly balk at such an idea. Clayboy’s parents are anxious for their son to have the educational opportunity, hoping it will help him escape from the Valley and a typical future like all the Spencers at the quarry. But they are also unhappily aware they haven’t the means for Clayboy’s living expenses at school, even if he should obtain the scholarship. Clayboy is admired by Claris Coleman (Mimsy Farmer), daughter of the quarry manager. Brought up in the sophisticated atmosphere of the city, Claris’ frank overtures for his affections embarrass Clayboy. His attentions to Claris arouse the vindictiveness of Minnie-Cora Cook (Kathy Bennett), a Valley girl, who also favors the Spencer boy. Clayboy’s application for a scholarship is turned down. The family is crushed. Angrily Clay invades the University to find the reason why. Latin, a requirement, and which Clayboy never studied is what held him back. Clay discovers for the first time that his son was seeking admittance to a ministerial scholarship and he blows up. But he is mollified when he’s told that Clayboy can be educated for many other careers. If Clayboy can acquire background in Latin, the school is willing to enroll him at the start of the new semester. But he’ll have to pay his way, for there are no further scholarships available for a year. Preacher Goodson (Wally Cox), a graduate of the University, offers to instruct Clayboy in Latin. But he extracts a difficult price for services rendered from Clayboy’s strong-willed parents. Goodson demands that Clay come to church every Sunday. Tragedy strikes the Spencers when, in felling a huge tree on the mountain, Clay is badly hurt and Grandpa is killed. In his will, Grandpa leaves thirty-seven dollars toward Clayboy’s expenses and urges the lad to aim as high as the stars in his ambitions. Which spurs Clayboy to study harder than ever. Clayboy passes his Latin requirements and is ready to enter the University at the beginning of the new term. Clay sets out to borrow money for his son’s tuition. Here Minnie-Cora’s spite shows itself. Now wed to the Valley’s richest man, she blocks the necessary loan to Clay. Clay has no other alternative than to sacrifice his land on Spencer’s Mountain. Clay’s farewell to the long-planned Dream House is to burn it. Olivia is content with her husband’s sacrifice. He will soon fix up their present humble living quarters -- the house where her children were born. The Spencers gather to wave the boy off to school, confident he will be a great success.

Click here for more articles and information from the Pressbook.

Click here for a gallery of images from the extra features included on the Spencer’s Mountain DVD, or here for a video clip excerpt from an interview with James MacArthur and Henry Fonda.

To view a full gallery of images from this movie click here.

For more on Maureen O'Hara, visit the marvellous Maureen O'Hara Magazine website.

Spencer's Mountain video cover

Spencer's Mountain paperback

Spencer's Mountain movie poster

James MacArthur

Mimsy Farmer, James MacArthur

James MacArthur

James MacArthur

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