A Man Called Peter (1955)
Well You Gotta Have Faith
That is the wonderful discovery I have made of southern girs, the cake is almost finer than the frosting - Peter Marshall
Maybe it's because the name Peter Marshall means absolutely nothing to me or because of what he did happened before I was born and across the water in America, but something about "A Man Called Peter" left me detached. You see "A Man Called Peter" is the biopic of The Rev. Peter Marshall and his strong faith which lead him from a small town in Scotland to becoming the Chaplain of the U.S. Senate. But that is all there is, so to speak, a story of this man and his faith which guided him through life, gave him strength in the hard times and lead him to such a high profile position. Not that I am knocking faith but for a movie it feels like it's missing something.
As purely a biopic "A Man Called Peter" covers all the necessary elements, a brief account of Peter's (Richard Todd) childhood, his life as a young man where he meets his future wife Catherine Wood (Jean Peters - Three Coins in the Fountain) and the birth of their son. But "A Man Called Peter" is not really that bothered about these rudimentary elements as it is more of a story about this mans strong faith which guided him through out his life.
Now on one level "A Man Called Peter" is interesting, that being a historic level because it is fascinating to watch how he went from Scotland to the States and rose to a high position due to his powerful and heart felt preaching. It's interesting to watch how when following his marriage to Catherine they moved to Washington where he became the minister of the Church of Presidents and found himself at odds with those traditionalists who found his youthful religious fervour a bit too much. At the same time it is just as interesting as we watch what he did during the war, doing as much to make the troops few hours of leave entertaining as he did preaching the good word.
But there is one problem and despite being a movie all about this man's faith it never really comes across. Yes we are fully aware that he lived his life guided by God's hand and was constantly doing the man in charges work but beyond that it almost seems like an uneventful biopic. There are parts such as Catherine being struck down by illness and his eventual approval from the churches pompous stalwarts but the magnitude of what I believe he achieved doesn't come across. And as such "A Man Called Peter" ends up a semi-interesting biopic of a preacher's uneventful life which I am sure it wasn't.
Because the magnitude of what Peter Marshall achieved doesn't come across "A Man Called Peter" almost floats along with scene after scene but no real drama no moment of amazing tension. There are some marvellous scenes of empowered preaching none more so when he preaches to a packed church of troops. But what happens in between these powerful scenes seems, and I don't mean to be cruel, almost boring in its normality. Maybe Catherine Marshall's book of her husbands life which "A Man Called Peter" is based upon manages to convey both the man's faith and his achievements but it seems like in adapting to the big screen those crucial elements are lost.
What very much saves "A Man Called Peter" from being too one level is Richard Todd who it has to be said gives a performance of conviction as The Rev. Peter Marshall. He delivers not only the powerful preaching but also that this was a man who cared, who would go that extra mile to help someone. So good is Todd's performance that it does feel like you are watching a man of God rather than an actor. And Jean Peters who plays his wife Catherine is equally convincing as the movie gives the character room to develop especially during her own battles of faith during her years being struck down by tuberculoses.
What this all boils down to is that "A Man Called Peter" is an interesting movie, it's wonderful to watch the power of Peter Marshall as he preached but it feels like something crucial is missing and the magnitude of what he achieved doesn't quite come across. What does come across is the man's faith and Richard Todd does a brilliant job of delivering this and the powerful scenes of preaching.
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