Davis, a self-ordained minister, returns to Cotchipee, Georgia, his native community, with his wife Dee. He intends to purchase a barn on the plantation owned by tyrant Booke. Planning to turn the building into an integrated church, he passes off Dee as a dead cousin who is entitled to
$500 being held by cruel master Booke. The plan fails, but Alda, Booke's liberal-thinking son, helps Davis accomplish his mission. The barn is converted, but the first gathering in the church is very somber...the funeral ceremony for Booke, who died of a stroke after being outwitted by Davis.
Based on the play "Purlie Victorious," this film sermonizes about civil rights, bigotry, and intolerance. However, it is presented in such a manner that an audience might not know whether to laugh or cry. Dee and Davis are fine, but a bit preachy in spots. In his first screen role, Alda is good as
an educated white southerner with progressive views. Booke is a round-bellied caricature of an antebellum, bullwhip-toting Simon Legree. As the black boss of the plantation, Cambridge is hilarious, feigning absolute slavish devotion to Booke, while mocking him at every opportunity, especially when
singing "Ol' Black Joe." Webster's direction is sharp and smart, but the dialog gets a bit wordy, smacking of its stage roots.
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