Spencer's Mountain

Spencer's Mountain is a 1963 American family drama film written, directed, and produced by Delmer Daves from the 1961 novel of the same name by Earl Hamner Jr.[2] The film stars Henry Fonda, Maureen O'Hara,[3] and in early appearances in their careers, James MacArthur, Veronica Cartwright, and Victor French. Longtime Hollywood actor Donald Crisp plays "Grandpa", his final screen role.

Spencer's Mountain
Directed byDelmer Daves
Produced byDelmer Daves
Screenplay byDelmer Daves
Based onthe novel by
Earl Hamner Jr.
StarringHenry Fonda
Maureen O'Hara
Music byMax Steiner
CinematographyCharles Lawton, A.S.C.
H. F. Koenekamp, A.S.C. (second unit)
Edited byDavid Wages
A Delmer Daves Production
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • May 16, 1963 (1963-05-16)
Running time
118 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$4.5 million (US/ Canada rentals) [1]


The film centers on the trials and tribulations of the Spencers, a family living in the Grand Teton Mountains of Wyoming during the early 1960s. As the patriarch of a large and growing family, Clay Spencer is fiercely independent, yet dedicated to his family. While he resists the influence of religion, he struggles to remain faithful to his wife Olivia, to allow his son to attend college, and to build a new home for his family.




Spencer's Mountain features the majestic scenery of Wyoming's Teton Range, as photographed by cinematographer Charles Lawton in color using Panavision. It was filmed in and around the town of Jackson and features the nearby Chapel of the Transfiguration. Although the original novel was set in the Appalachians of Virginia, Hamner said in 1963 that Daves wanted more imposing mountains to emphasize the characters' isolation and struggles with their environment.[5]

The novel and the film became the basis for the long-running television series The Waltons, which premiered in 1972. The series switched the setting from the film's Wyoming back to the novel's Virginia, and placed the action in 1933 during the Great Depression. The series also differed from both the film and novel by playing down many of the adult themes, including alcoholism and infidelity, to suit the standards of early-70s family television. Spencer's Mountain was the second of three films co-starring Henry Fonda and Maureen O'Hara. Twenty years earlier they starred in the war drama Immortal Sergeant (1943) and, ten years after Spencer's Mountain, played the leads in the made-for-television film adaptation of John Steinbeck's novel The Red Pony (1973), directed and co-written by Spencer's Mountain second unit director Robert Totten.

Film critic Judith Crist, writing in the New York Herald Tribune, criticized the adult aspects of the movie's plot, saying it showed "sheer prurience and perverted morality," and adding that "it makes the nudie shows at the Rialto look like Walt Disney productions."[6]


  1. ^ "All-Time Top Grossers". Variety. 8 January 1964. p. 69.
  2. ^ McInerney, Lee (July 15, 1963). "The New Film / 'Spencer's Mountain' Stars Henry Fonda; Now at the Stanley". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. 12.
  3. ^ Marsters, Jack (June 15, 1963). "Eyes Fascinate Maureen O'Hara". The Gazette. Montreal. p. 28.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Spencer's Mountain (1963)". IMDb.com. Retrieved 26 May 2017.
  5. ^ Printz, Bill (June 30, 1963). "Family Love in 'Spencer's Mountain'". Daytona Beach Sunday News-Journal. p. 6D.
  6. ^ Italie, Hillel (August 8, 2012). "Groundbreaking film critic Crist dies at age 90". New York Herald Tribune.[dead link]

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