Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Shepherd of the Hills - The Book vs. the 1941 Movie

Our Newest Copy of the Book
(We picked it up on our latest trip to Branson.)
The Book...

I recently finished reading The Shepherd of the Hills by Harold Bell Wright and, I have to say, it is one of the best books I've ever read. It's been a long time since I've been drawn into (and gotten lost in) a book like I did that one! I absolutely and thoroughly enjoyed it!

The book was written in 1907 and was an instant best seller; by 1918 it had sold over two million copies. Although it is classified as fiction, it is based on the lives of real people and real places that Wright encountered during the eight summers that he spent near Branson, Missouri at the homestead of John and Anna Ross (Uncle Matt and Aunt Mollie in the book).

Our 1907 First Edition Copy of the Book

The Shepherd of the Hills is a compelling and moving tale of a stranger who begins a new life in the isolated and insulated world of Mutton Hollow and the people who live there. Beloved characters (Old Matt, Aunt Mollie, Young Matt, Sammy Lane, and others) come to life as Wright paints a picture of life in the Ozark mountains in the early 20th century. The book is exciting and endearing, mysterious and dramatic. In its pages are interwoven all the things that make up this thing we call, loving, dying, joy, and sorrow, and there's even a few haints and a little baldknobber activity thrown in for good measure!

Without a doubt, The Shepherd of the Hills by Harold Bell Wright is one of my favorite books of all time!

And Then...There Is The Movie...

After finishing the book, I watched the 1941 movie starring John Wayne and, to be honest, never in my life have I been so disappointed in a movie version of any book I've ever read! You talk about a perversion of all that is beautiful, good, and godly!!! My goodness! The only resemblance to the book at all was the title of the movie and the names of the characters remained intact and, I kid you not, that was it! If a character in the book was good, in the movie they were bad; if a character in the book was bad, in the movie they were somewhat good.

In the book the Matthews family was good, godly, hard-working folks who were the backbone of the community; in the movie the Matthews family were a bunch of outlaws that ran a still and provided bootleg whisky for all the other people in the community...people that were portrayed as ignorant, no-account, back-woods, hillbillies...which, as a Scots-Irish Missourian with roots planted deep in the Ozark Mountains, I sure don't take kindly to.

Whereas the book focused on God, the good in people, and beauty of God's creation, the movie perverted everything to the point that Aunt Molly, who was a beautiful, godly woman that loved, and was loved by, everyone, was turned into a pinch-faced, mean-fisted, hateful, old, matriarch of a bootlegging clan that ended up purposely burning up herself and her dead son in some sort of occult ritual. Crazy!!!

I could rant on and on about this, but I won't. It's really not worth it.

In short, I HIGHLY recommend the book, Shepherd of the Hills, by Harold Bell Wright. As for the movie, it is a waste of time, energy, and money and I wouldn't recommend watching it to anyone. In fact, on a five-star scale, I give it a ZERO!

Until next time...

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Happy Homemaker Monday - May 7, 2018


  1. I was born and raised in Missouri, although nowhere near Branson. I have watched the Shepherd of the Hills movie a few times in my life, several years in between each viewing, and always thought I must not have been in the mood to watch it, or I had just missed something about the movie. I am a fan of several of the actors in it, but I know what you mean about the movie. I'm from a different part of Missouri, St. Louis. I have never heard of any real people like the characters in this movie.

    I'm glad to read your review of the Shepherd of the Hills book. It sounds like it would be a good read for me. Good to hear it is more down to earth and not weirdly dramatized like the movie. Thanks for the review.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to stop in and comment, Susie! Your input is much appreciated! Let me know your thoughts after you read the book. You will find that the characters and the plot were greatly altered when making the movie. And, yes, I'm a fan of several of the actors in the movie, which is another reason that I found it so incredibly disappointing! Blessings! <3

  3. This commentary was posted on Hearth and Home's Facebook page and I am reposting Sheila's comment and my response here:

    Sheila Owen Henderson - I tried to make this comment, but it did not take it. Ditto. Amazing book. Horrid movie At its premiere, John Wayne supposedly apologized for the movie.

    Rebecca's HEARTH AND HOME - Thanks for commenting, Sheila! I've wondered about that. I wondered if he did the movie before reading the book and just didn't know? Or what? I would hope that if he knew he'd have no part of it. And how many people have seen the movie, never read the book, and THINK that that's what it's all about? So sad! Such a rich and beautiful story (and history) twisted and perverted beyond recognition.

  4. Totally agree. My favorite book of all time. Read countless times. Movie not so much.

    1. Thanks for dropping in and sharing! Appreciate it! :)

  5. I lived in the Ozarks in 1960 and returned many times as a boy. I read Shepherd of the Hills at least three times, one of my favorite all time books. It has a mesmerizing quality about it. Rebecca, I cannot add anything to your commentary on the movie because they were my exact same sentiments, and I am your other bookend. I understand the so called Hollywood poetic license to change, but they destroyed the entire story line. Glad Harold Bell Wright was never able to see it. Thank you, Steve Thompson

    1. Thanks for stopping in and sharing, Steve! It's nice to know that I have a matching bookend out there! Blessings! And thanks again! :)

    2. Last week I was in Branson Missouri. I saw the Shepherd of the Hills play. It followed the book very closely. I then watched the movie with my book club after arriving home. How embarrassed I was that it was in no way like the play or the book. It's roo bad that it is being sold in Branson. It's a real rip off .

    3. I agree 100%, Diana! I'm glad you've read the book and got to see the play. At least you know the beauty and truth of what Harold Bell Wright really wrote. The movie is terrible!

  6. Love this information ❤️


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