Before John Boy there was Clayboy
Clay Spencer (Henry Fonda - How the West Was Won) loves living on the mountain which has been in his family for years and it is there that with his wife Olivia (Maureen O'Hara - The Quiet Man) he has raised his family, respected and cared for his parents and enjoyed the beauty and bounty of the land, especially the river. But Clay has a dream as he wants to build Olivia the house he has always promised her and when he isn't fishing it is at the site of the new house that he spends a lot of his time, along with his brothers and also his son, Clayboy (James MacArthur - The Truth About Spring). But Clay knows that few men get to make anything of themselves in the area and with Clayboy having graduated top of his high school class there are some big choices to be made.
Fans on this website will know that I grew up watching and still watch "The Waltons" be it repeats of the old TV show or the reunion movies. As such I knew that one day I would get around to watching "Spencer's Mountain" because it was written by Earl Hamner Jr. and the novel which the movie was based on ended up being the basis of "The Waltons". And of course watching "Spencer's Mountain" now it is plain to see the similarities from the family dynamics to the character's names as well as the whole wholesome nature. And "Spencer's Mountain" is a joy to watch as we see Clay fight the corner for his family and what he believes in or in his case what he doesn't believe in as he doesn't do church.
But of course "Spencer's Mountain" is not just a forerunner to "The Waltons" and this is definitely a product of the 60s when it comes to the drama. As such there is humour when it comes to Clay and his relationship to the church whilst there is some reasonably innocent drama as we have Clayboy dealing with his girlfriend who having been to college for a year returns with a bit of education and a lot of notions when it comes to them. And without giving too much away there is also some high drama when it comes to the men in the family.
Now there is something about "Spencer's Mountain" which I struggled with and that is some of the acting. On one hand you have Henry Fonda playing Clay as the sort of family loving man who whilst enjoying a drink and speaking his mind would do anything for his kin. Yes it is over the top at times and not overly true when it comes to the drama but he plays Clay as a strong man which is what the movie needs. Sadly when it comes to Maureen O'Hara as Olivia her acting ends up often painfully forced and I am sure it comes down to the character not being fleshed out enough to be more than the God fearing housewife.
What this all boils down to is that "Spencer's Mountain" certainly is entertaining and full of humour and charm which should appeal to fans of "The Waltons". But there is certainly parts of it which end up a little corny and as such there is sadly a part to "Spencer's Mountain" which makes you think it isn't as good as it should have been.