Earl Hamner, Jr., wrote a novel set in the Blue Ridge Mountains and the producers thought that the Grand Tetons might be more photogenic so they set the picture in Wyoming, rather than Virginia. Hamner eventually got his wish when his TV series "The Waltons" hewed more closely to what he
knew about. The movie was successful, although Fonda purportedly hated every minute of it. Fonda is one of nine children of Crisp, a man who claimed a mountain and left it to his heirs. The only one left in the area is Fonda, who has nine children of his own by O'Hara (who doesn't have a hair out
of place and looks scrumptious, albeit wrong to convince us she's borne that many kids) and who works a quarry nearby. Fonda is a larger-than-life type who drinks, gambles, and has a great passion for O'Hara's flesh, as witnessed by their brood. He is God-fearing but hates organized religion and
makes no secret of his contempt for it. He feels that too many restrictions are placed upon man on earth by the church and he's against any group that would limit drinking, smoking, gambling, dancing, swearing, and healthy lust. Also living in the house are his parents, Crisp and Bronson, with
whom he has an honest relationship. Fonda's dream is to build a good house for the family, something large enough so they aren't always stepping on each other. They save every penny they can for that goal. Fonda hates the church but likes the new minister, Cox, and gets him drunk on the first day
Cox arrives in the small town. The oldest son, MacArthur, is a bright young lad about to graduate from high school, a feat heretofore unrealized by anyone in the family. His teacher, Gregg, suggests that MacArthur go to college, which would put a considerable strain on the Fonda-O'Hara finances.
Gregg puts MacArthur up for a scholarship at the state college but when the only opening available is a scholarship in the name of divinity, Fonda can't bear to abjure his beliefs. MacArthur realizes that this may be the only way he'll get a higher education but his Latin is non-existent. Cox
makes a deal with the young student; if MacArthur comes to services religiously every Sunday, he will give the boy lessons in Latin that may help him achieve the scholarship. MacArthur spends time at the local library and meets Farmer, the rich, attractive daughter of Rorke, who is Fonda's boss.
Farmer (in her movie debut) and MacArthur have an instant passion for each other and the sexual scenes between them may be a trifle raw for youngsters. Crisp dies in an accident, crushed to death by a falling tree, and when MacArthur's application to college is accepted, it's learned that there is
no more money available for students. Fonda sighs, nods; there's only one thing he can do. The heck with the dream house they've planned for two decades. He sells the plot of land and uses the money to finance MacArthur's education. As summer ends and fall begins, the family waves goodbye to
MacArthur and he goes off to college. Lots of charm, some laughs, down-homespun philosophy and something of a forerunner for Fonda, who played a similar character years later in SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION. Fonda always preferred the stage to the screen and when his agents disbanded under federal
edict (MCA could not represent as well as produce, so they chose the latter and took over Universal Studios), his new agency wanted him to concentrate on films and recommended this one, after a play in which he appeared, "The Gift of Time," failed. What particularly galled him was that his new
agency turned down a play without ever letting him read it. It had been written with him in mind but he never got to see the script. The play turned out to be "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" and Arthur Hill got the part. Later, there was some talk about him doing the film with Bette Davis under
the helm of Fred Zinnemann. When Zinnemann became unavailable, Elizabeth Taylor and Mike Nichols entered the picture and she opted for Richard Burton. Fonda's brothers in the picture included stunt man Buzz Henry (the former child star), Florey (who has a secondary life as the leader of "Super
Sax," a musical group), former footballer Mike Henry and French, who costarred with Michael Landon on TV in the 1980s.
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- Review: Earl Hamner, Jr., wrote a novel set in the Blue Ridge Mountains and the producers thought that the Grand Tetons might be more photogenic so they set the picture in Wyoming, rather than Virginia. Hamner eventually got his wish when his TV series "The Walton… (more)