Hy GRACh CONWAY
AI. Cronin's study of the char ' acter of an unconventional Catholic priest in The Keys of the Kingdom has, OD the whole, been treated with circumspection and intelligence by Hollywood.
There was material in the book that could easily have suffered a film change into something melodramatic and sentimental, but all those traps have been side-stepped and the priest emerges much as the author has presented him. Obviously Director John M. Stahl felt somewhat uneasy while on Scottish terrain, introducing false notes like waffles and syrup for breakfast and intrusive ones like orchestral accompaniments and a full thou corning from inside the small Catholic church. Scottish accents are a bit haywire, too, although Edmund Gwenn (whose Bishop MacNab is a beautiful bit of character work) makes a gallant effort and nearly brings it off. Gregory Peck, as first the seminarist and then the priest. Francis Chisholm, sensibly sticks to his no and the result worries
It is, in fact, all Gregory Peck's picture. He makes Francis an attractive young man whose appeal is utterly enselfconscious ; who has a highlydeveloped sense of sell-criticism; whose strength lies in/his simple honesty and integrity and whose convictions arc never shaken, blow the winds of snobbism, red-tapism, discouragement or adversity as they will.
The director and Mr. Peck between them have brought out with considerable skill the way in which Fr. ("hishelm's Christian humility (never to be confused with the Uriah Hecp variety) ultimately triumphs over the proud and arrogant, of whom D. Cronin's book supplies quite a number. The class-conscious Mother Maria Veronica, the wotldly-minded Father' (later Bishop) Mealy. and the aloof Mgr. Sleeth, parts played with distinction by Rosa Stradner, Vincent Price and Sir Cedric Hardwicke, all are made to feel the impact of this most positivZ of virtues. Most moving sequence its the whole film is Mother Veronica's stammered apology which she makes to Fr. Chisholm as he sits in the ruins of his mission chapel.
The Chinese scenes are presented with what one must assume (not having been to China) both insight and imagination, the accent falling on poverty and austerity of landscape with one particularly well-acted part that of Joseph, the faithful Chinese boy, played with perfect timing by Benson Fang.
Whatever does not ring quite true in the arguments which occur during the action-criticism of Fr. Chisholm's unconventional views and so on-should he laid more at Dr Cronin's than at Hollywood's door. (Gatunont and Marble Arch Pavilion.)