The Keys Of The Kingdom

  • 1944
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Religious

Fox had a smash religious picture the year before with THE SONG OF BERNADETTE and someone must have figured that there was gold in that mine so they bought Cronin's best-seller and put it into production. It was Peck's second film and made him a star. Although only in his late 20s, Peck played an aging Catholic priest who is about to be retired to a home...read more

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Fox had a smash religious picture the year before with THE SONG OF BERNADETTE and someone must have figured that there was gold in that mine so they bought Cronin's best-seller and put it into production. It was Peck's second film and made him a star. Although only in his late 20s, Peck

played an aging Catholic priest who is about to be retired to a home for old missionaries in Scotland. Hardwicke has been chosen to determine if Peck should be farmed out to a green pasture. As he reviews Peck's career, he realizes that this humble, self-effacing man had done some wonderful things

for the church. Told in flashbacks, we see the character as a youngster (played by McDowall) in Scotland. He sees his father murdered because he is a Catholic. Peck takes over the acting chores and he decides to enter the priesthood, along with boyhood pal Price, while another chum, the fun-loving

Mitchell, opts for medical school. Upon becoming a priest, Peck is sent to China as a missionary in the village of Tai Pan. A series of vignettes then depicts Peck's life in China over the course of many years and through much political and social upheaval. The priest is shown to be an insecure,

rather bungling man, but his warmth, sincerity, and strong faith help his overcome many obstacles. One of these is the haughty Mother Superior Stradner, a German aristocrat who learns the meaning of humility from him. Price, now a pompous church official, visits Peck in China as does Mitchell, now

a doctor. After reading Peck's journals, Hardwicke is deeply moved by the good works this simple priest has done, and at the fade-out Peck is heading off to do some fishing with a young local. There really isn't much of a story beyond the character study of Peck and all of those whose lives he

touches with his devout faith. At 137 minutes, it was a fat film, which was odd when one considers the two screenwriters, Mankiewicz and Johnson. Mankiewicz would be more guilty of thick scripts in his later years, but Johnson seldom wrote anything longer than 110 pages in his entire career

(producers use the rule of thumb that one script page equals one minute on screen). Even at that length, it moved at a medium pace and managed to make its points without moralizing--though today its anachronistic depiction of the Chinese doesn't hold up well. There were many excellent set-piece

scenes, including Peck's life-saving of a local Mandarin's son when the boy's arm is blood-poisoned. Peck was excellent as the priest, as he has been in several other movies in which he was thoughtfully cast. But when he is miscast, such as in MOBY DICK, it's not a pretty picture. Lots of good

work from several character people, including the luminous Garner, Revere, Ahn, and Loo.

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Fox had a smash religious picture the year before with THE SONG OF BERNADETTE and someone must have figured that there was gold in that mine so they bought Cronin's best-seller and put it into production. It was Peck's second film and made him a star. Alth… (more)

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