This is an ambitious film in many ways as it covers 60 years and occurs on 2 different continents. Secondly, it was Gregory Peck's first film and to have a newcomer carry on his shoulders a picture of this kind of scope is quite risky. It seemed to work out for both Peck, who went on to have a marvelous career, and director John M. Stahl (Immortal Sergeant, Imitation of Life) went on to direct 6 more pictures before his death. It was a huge job asked of Peck to portray a man believably from youth until his 60s. His acting seems so effortless that it makes him believable in whatever part he does. Peck does a wonderful job in the film despite his inexperience in front of the camera and he was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for this role. The film itself was nominated for 3 other Oscars. The film really went a long way towards showing us the trials, tribulations and sacrifices that missionary priests have to make. Another strong point of the film is the sensitive portrayal of the Chinese. This was not a given in these days and the director showed the Chinese in a less stereotypical light.
As a young child, Francis Chisholm (Roddy McDowall – A Bug's Life, Evil Under the Sun) loses both his parents. Later as a young man Francis (Gregory Peck – Cape Fear – 1991, The Omen) loses his sweetheart, Nora (Jane Ball – first film) in a tragic way. After all this grief, Francis decides to devote his life to God. Though he is a good priest, Father Francis' ways tend to irk the old timers, especially Bishop Angus Mealy (Vincent Price – Edward Scissorhands, Pit and the Pendulum). To ease things for everyone, except maybe Francis, he is sent to China to rebuild an abandoned mission. Once there Father Chisholm is faced with many challenges including the toughness of the land, the superstitions of the people and an invading army. Father Chisholm wins over the people and repels the army simply with his determination and belief in God.
-Gregory Peck Theater