Spencer’s Mountain (1963) Pre-1
Director and Producer: Delmer Daves, Screen Writer: Delmer Daves, Music: Max Steiner, Based on the Novel by: Earl Hamner Jr.
The Adults: Clay Spencer (Henry Fonda), Olivia Spencer (Maureen O’Hara), Grandpa (Donald Crisp), Grandma (Lillian Bronson), Mother Ida (Hope Summers).
The Children (from oldest to youngest): Clay-Boy (James MacArthur), Matt (unknown), Becky (Veronica Cartwright), Mark (unknown), Shelley (unknown), Luke (unknown), John (unknown), Pattie-Cake (unknown), Donnie (unknown).
The Brothers: Luke (unknown), Matt (unknown), Ham (unknown), John (unknown), Rome (unknown), Anse (unknown), Virgil (unknown), Ben Spencer (unknown). (Victor French), (Mike Henry), (Whit Bissell), (Ken Mayer).
In the village of New Dominion in the valley of the Grand Tetons.
Introductory Narration by Henry Fonda (as Clay Spencer):
“Over a hundred years ago my Grandpa came into this land. Grandpa found this Mountain and said this is it! And he built himself a sod house, got himself a wife, and they named the whole mountain after him, Spencer’s Mountain, that it is to this day. He would see the sun comin’ up mornings, and the sun settin’ behind the grand Tetons. Pioneer French trappers named them that because the peaks reminded them of big bosoms. This here is the river my Grandpa first came down. They called it The Snake ‘cause it kind of winds and meanders down to our valley. He saw plenty of buffalo and elk, and in the ponds the trumpeter swans that landed, and were so tame they swam right up to you. Yep, it’s a beautiful valley the Spencer’s came to; like the log house my Papa built long time back that me and my brothers and my babies, too, got born in, all nine of them…”
Clay and Olivia awaken to “a fine day”. With Clay’s brothers helping to build the foundation of his dream house on Spencer’s Mountain, Clay awakens Clay-Boy to collect enough eggs for the hungry crew. Clay reminds Olivia to wake his parents so they won’t miss their boys. Olivia asks for eighteen dollars to buy Clay-Boy a graduation ring. But Clay has spent the money on a power saw bought from Mr. John. Olivia doesn’t think he will ever build the house. Clay’s eight brothers drive up, giving a rowdy greeting to their folks as they sit down for biscuits, eggs, bacon, and coffee (spiked with whiskey). Afterwards the brothers and Clay-Boy drop Grandpa at the ancestral gravesite. They work to move rocks, saw timber, and mix concrete for the foundation. At the end of the day, Clay is confident their work will help build the house.
While bathing the children Clay reminisces that when growing up his family was so poor his mother only had one piece of bacon. She would tie string around it and let the children chew it. If anyone swallowed the bacon, she would pull it out. Ready for bed, the children say goodnight all around the house.
On Monday morning Clay goes to work at the stone quarry. After work, Clay tells Chance (the milk cow) that he is taking her to Mr. John’s to be bred. Clay and Clay-Boy run her to the ranch, but she becomes shy upon seeing the bull. The hired man, Percy Cook, says their bull is called ‘Old Reliable” when it comes to breeding. Clay and Clay-Boy discuss the ‘ways of a lady’ as the couple enters the ‘bridal chamber’. Later, Minnie Cora tells Clay-Boy to toss pebbles on her window if he needs her. Clay-Boy isn’t sure what to think of her offer as he runs toward his father. Clay tells his son that nobody understands what attracts men and women, but reassures him that he’ll know when he meets the right woman. Father and son continue to talk as they build the new house.
At the quarry Col. Coleman pays Clay eighteen dollars. Knowing Clay will not accept money for helping while in Washington D.C. (attending his daughter’s graduation) he gives Clay the day off with pay in order to go trout fishing. Clay-Boy studies for his final exams as the younger children play outside. Olivia observes her husband walk off to fish, wondering how he can build a house with a fishing pole. Clay gives his wife a playful pat and swings her around, but Olivia thinks the kids will not respect her. Just then Mother Ida visits to take Olivia to the parsonage so the Ladies’ Aid Society can prepare for the new minister. Clay tells her about his heaven, much different from the Baptist’s, Methodist’s, and Catholic’s version. While fishing Clay observes a stranger. The man asks if Clay knows about Izaak Walton, the author of The Complete Angler. Not knowing the man, Clay tells him that the “Granddaddy” of all trout live in the waters. The man introduces himself as Goodson, and promptly catches the next trout. Having problems with mosquitoes, Clay provides Goodson with “skeeter repellant”; that turns out to be whiskey made by two little old ladies from their papa’s recipe. Later, Goodson catches the Granddaddy trout but loses him. Clay cusses, prompting Goodson to declare that he shouldn’t talk like that because he is the new minister. Clay laughs so hard that he falls into the river. Goodson then falls head first into the water, passing out from the recipe. As the ladies finish the parsonage with a sign “Welcome to our new pastor” Clay and Goodson stumble to the house. Clay says it is his fault that they are intoxicated because the preacher never had a touch of liquor before this day. The ladies are shocked at the sight of their new pastor.
That Sunday the entire Church of God congregation attends the Mountain Church, snubbing the new pastor. Rev. Goodson apologizes to an empty church. After services Clay asks his family about the sermon. They inform Clay that they all went to the other church, not wanting to hear a drunkard. Clay goes off upset, telling each household that he will be sending a bill for all the free repairs that he did over the years if they don’t attend the evening service by Goodson. Clay even tells the Mountain Church pastor that he will throw skunks into the church if he doesn’t take his congregation to the new pastor. Rev. Goodson greets the community that evening, with the Mountain Church pastor asking him if he’s ever seen reference to “blackmail” in the Bible. Rev. Goodson begins the service with singing of Shall We Gather at the River?
On graduation day, Clay-Boy wakes up his brothers and sisters. As they all sit down for breakfast Olivia wishes that the children would all stay young. Clay says they will be okay because they’re all “thoroughbreds”. At the outdoor ceremony a woman begins with the singing of American the Beautiful. The principal then presents the graduation class of eleven girls and Clay-Boy to the audience. Miss Parker, their teacher, presents the scholarship medal to Clay-Boy, much to the surprise of the proud Spencer’s. Because it is rare for a student to have such an inquiring mind, Miss Parker tells the family that if she ever sees Clay-Boy working at the quarry, she will give up teaching. She tells Clay-Boy these words to live by: “The world steps aside to let any man pass, if he knows where he is going.”
Clay-Boy and Olivia wait for supper, knowing Clay is out drinking to celebrate his son’s graduation. Clay-Boy is anxious, telling his mother that Mr. Goodson and Miss Parker will be visiting to inform them of a college scholarship they hope he can receive. Olivia thinks it’s impossible, knowing they can’t afford the expenses for books, room and board. At supper Patty-Cake says grace, but Shelley accuses Becky of not saying “amen”. Becky says she is testing God by whispering the word. Becky then accuses Matt of cussing, telling the family he will go to hell. Patty-Cake becomes upset, and when Olivia reaches forward she knocks over Donnie’s high chair. When he falls to the floor, Olivia thinks he has broken his neck. She screams for Clay-Boy to run for the doctor. At his office, Clay-Boy finds Dr. Campbell away delivering the Bibb’s baby, so leaves a message. Back home, he finds Donnie is okay and becomes angry at being the oldest child, running errands, and taking care of his siblings. Olivia says he is stuck with being the oldest.
Miss Parker and Rev. Goodson arrive at the house, telling Olivia and Clay-Boy that one scholarship remains, for the ministry; Olivia insists Clay will not allow his son to take it. Just then Clay drunkenly sings as he walks up the steps. Soon the doctor arrives to treat Donnie, but is told the child is fine. He is asked in for coffee as Olivia guides Clay into his chair. Rev. Goodson and Miss Parker tell Clay that his son might receive a scholarship. Clay thinks his son will get lost in the big city, with freeways and thousands of people but the others voice their support. Clay says that he never had much education, but admires those who are educated. Clay-Boy says he would never let his father down, so Clay signs the application form. The group make a toast with coffee as Dr. Campbell salutes Clay-Boy with, “Here’s to the world outside.” Clay and Olivia point out the saying engraved inside Clay-Boy’s ring, “Victory with Honor”.
Miss Parker visits Col. Coleman, asking to loan her the abandoned shack as a library. After saying she is searching libraries for duplicate books, he agrees to her proposal. But when she asks him to pay Clay-Boy twenty-dollars a week to run the library, he becomes outraged. He finally agrees to ten dollars. Miss Parker and Rev. Goodson clean inside the shack, as Clay-Boy works on the roof and brings in bookshelves. Soon boxes and barrels of books arrive, and a sign is posted “Free Library – Open 10 AM to 4 PM – Browsers Welcome – C.B. Spencer, Librarian”. Clay-Boy sees Claris ride up on a horse. He gawks at the sight of the woman, who only a short time ago looked like a girl. Claris declares that she took the class “Marriage and the Family” and whispers some of what she learned into Clay-Boy’s ear. He wants to know how to spell one of the words and she suggests they expand their vocabulary and other things. Claris and Clay-Boy kiss, glad they are together again. She then goes off to visit with his family, calling out, “See ya, lover.”
Claris baths little Donnie but irritates Olivia by saying the inappropriate word “womb. Claris says she is going to help around the house so Clay and her can have a second honeymoon. Just then she sees Clay-Boy coming up the walk. Claris joins him on the porch, telling him that they are going to be Momma and Daddy to the kids during his parent’s vacation. They are looking up naughty words in the dictionary when Clay walks up with the letter deciding the scholarship. Upon opening the letter Clay-Boy finds he is not on the list. He is devastated by the news. Grandpa comforts him, saying he can study at home. Clay-Boy appreciates the kind words, but runs off saying, “They just don’t want me!” Olivia thinks too much pride made the Lord reject their son, but Clay says God wouldn’t prevent Clay-Boy from improving himself. Olivia cries, as Clay says he’s going to get drunk. While playing poker Clay decides to talk with the college dean who wrote the letter. Slim loans Clay his truck so he can drive to the university. Clay locates the administration building with the help of an upset security officer. Inside, Clay asks to speak with Dean Beck, who tells Clay that his son’s records are excellent, but lacked the necessary Latin for his chosen ministry vocation. When Clay hears that, he explodes, rather having his son in jail than on the pulpit. When Beck asks him what he has against preachers, Clay declares he is against what they preach against, “drinkin’, smokin’, card-playin’, pool-shootin’, dancin’, cussin’, huggin’, kissin, and lovin’” The dean says that if Clay-Boy completes his Latin over the summer he will be admitted, but without the scholarship. Clay tells the dean that this “isn’t the only ‘gol-dern’ college in the country”. But the Dean states that if Clay-Boy is like his father he will be an asset to the college.
At the library Clay tells Parker and Goodson that Clay-Boy needs Latin to be admitted. The Reverend agrees to teach Clay-Boy, making Clay grudgingly agree to attend church in exchange for lessons. On Sunday the heathens line up to watch Clay walk up the church steps. Inside the church, Olivia proudly sits beside her husband as he loudly sings with the congregation the hymn When the Roll is Called up Yonder.
Goodson works with Clay-Boy on his Latin. Later, Clay-Boy studies in bed, and the next day is assigned another ten pages. At the library, Claris surprises Clay-Boy, sits on his lap, and asks to make love to her. Clay-Boy thinks she is silly, but agrees to take her to a secret place that contains old Indian relics. Becky catches them kissing, threatening to tell. When they tell Becky to keep quite, she runs off. Clay-Boy runs after, but is unable to catch her. At home, Clay-Boy explains that they weren’t doing anything. Olivia believes her son, and then asks him to take Clay and Grandpa’s lunch to the Mountain. Clay is chopping down a tree as Grandpa wanders the graveyard. Finding something in the dirt Grandpa walks toward his son. Suddenly the tree gives way, falling toward Clay’s father. Clay yells, and then runs to him. But the tree topples on top of both. Just then Clay-Boy arrives, discovering both men under the branches. He rushes for help, finding Rev. Goodson along the road. As the minister rushes to the men, Clay-Boy rings the quarry bell, telling the men to bring saws to rescue his father and grandfather. They remove Clay who is alive with a broken ankle. But the doctor tells Clay that his father has broken nearly every bone in his body, and won’t live much longer. Clay tells Clay-Boy to prepare the women for bad news. With the Spencer brothers remembering old times, Grandma announces, “Your papa’s gone.”
The funeral is held at the gravesite, with the brothers serving as pallbearers. Rev. Goodson tells the mourners that Grandpa brought his wife to the Mountain over seventy years ago; and has nine sons and thirty-two grandchildren. From his last request Olivia sings The Little Brown Church in the Vale. Later Grandma tells her sons and Clay-Boy that all her husband’s property has already been divided among the sons. In order to pioneer the way to college for his brothers and sisters she says that thirty-seven dollars was left to Clay-Boy. That night as Clay-Boy and Olivia help Clay into bed, Clay-Boy confesses he is not going to college, after making a promise to God. Clay says that is one promise he doesn’t have to keep.
At the new home site Clay-Boy and Claris talk, kiss, and plan a picnic. Claris tells him that she knows what’s on his mind, saying he planned the picnic for that very purpose. Clay-Boy protests, but Claris says she has the will power to resist, even if he doesn’t. At Clay-Boy’s secret place, the pair hugs and kisses at the location where a deer slept the night before. At home, Clay and Olivia wonder why Clay-Boy was late for supper, remembering how they felt when they were dating. Soon Clay-Boy arrives but is not hungry. Clay says it’s because of “first-love”. Clay goes inside to find his son applying lotion on his sunburnt body. He wonders if Clay-Boy has anything to tell him, and suggests he find a shady spot next time.
Clay and Clay-Boy present Dean Beck with a letter from Goodson stating that Clay-Boy passed Latin with a grade of “95”. Beck adds Clay-Boy’s name to the roster. Clay declares he now can raise the necessary money, using his son as collateral. The family visits Mr. John in order to borrow five-hundred-twenty-eight-dollars. But Minnie Cora has married Mr. John, after he promised to leave her money upon his death. Minnie Cora tells Mr. John that if he loans them money, she will move out. Without his help Clay has no place else to turn. They return home dejected at not being able to send their son to college. Clay returns the truck to Slim, while Clay-Boy finds that Claris is attending the university so they can be together.
Clay goes to his dream house, with only one option remaining, to sell his land. He douses the house with gasoline, watching it disappear in the smoke, but knowing his eldest son will attend college. Clay tells Olivia that he will fix up the house with a new sink, new paint for the walls, and a screened-in porch. He tells her that he sold the property (except for the graveyard) to Col. Coleman. Tomorrow morning the family, Miss Parker, and Rev. Goodson drive Clay-Boy to the bus stop. They each give him advice and support, as the first-born son is about to leave home for the first time. He says goodbye to a tearful family.
Inside the bus Clay-Boy sits next to a man who says, “Goin’ far, son?” Clay-Boy responds, “Right far!”
The Spencer family resides in the town of New Dominion in the valley of the Rocky Mountain range of the Tetons.
Mr. John’s bull is named Methuselah.
Clay-Boy is the first Spencer to graduate high school.
Grandpa Spencer attends to the gravesites of his parents Hannibal Spencer (born 1774, died 1856) and Sarah Jane Spencer (born 1782, died 1859). The gravestone states “Now at Rest”.
Clay Spencer has eight brothers: Luke, Matt, Ham, John, Rome, Anse, Virgil, and Ben
Clay and Olivia Spencer have nine children: Clay-Boy, Matt, Becky, Mark, Shelley, Luke, John, Pattie-Cake, and Donnie.
Originally published in 1653, The Complete Angler by Izaak Walton is one of the most often reprinted books in English literature. The book is a conversation between three English sportsmen traveling along the River Lea, each telling about their favorite sport.
Rev. Goodson graduated from the university that Clay-Boy will attend.
Claris majored in physical education at the girls’ academy in Washington, DC.
The truck loaned to Clay in order for him to drive to the university has printed on its side: “Slim’s Speedy Services”.
Clay has a five-hundred-dollar life insurance policy from the quarry.
Preacher Goodman (Wally Cox), Miss Parker (Virginia Gregg), Claris Coleman (Mimsy Farmer), Colonel Coleman (Hayden Rorke), Minnie Cora Cook (Kathy Bennett), Percy Cook (Dub Taylor), Dr. Amos Campbell (unknown), Mr. John (unknown), Dean Beck (unknown), The Secretary (unknown), The Security Officer (unknown), The Mountain Church Pastor (unknown), Slim (unknown). The Bus Rider (unknown), The Graduation Singer (unknown), The Principal (unknown), The Heathen (unknown), The Boy on the Bicycle (unknown).