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THE KEYS OF THE KINGDOM

"Inspirational Catholic Missionary Story"

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What You Need To Know:

The 1944 classic movie THE KEYS OF THE KINGDOM stars Gregory Peck as an unorthodox Catholic missionary to China. While very inspirational as a whole, some caution is necessary regarding comments made about the qualifications for heaven. The movie opens with an elderly Father Chisholm (Peck) being asked to retire by church leadership because of his unorthodox behavior and teaching, including a remark about hoping to see an atheist in Heaven. That evening the bearer of bad news finds and reads Father Chisholm’s journal, and the movie then tells his life’s story. After the death of both of his parents, and the girl he loves, he becomes a priest. When his friend, and mentor, is made Bishop, he accepts a call to serve as a missionary in China.

KEYS OF THE KINGDOM has very Catholic moments, such as praying to Saints rather than directly to God the Father, but most of the movie seriously honors God. KEYS OF THE KINGDOM helped make Gregory Peck a star. It is an excellent example of major Hollywood talent serving an audience that believes in Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh.

Content:

(CCC, BBB, FR, H, Ab, V, A, D, M) A very strong Christian worldview from a Catholic perspective stressing sincerity, humility and service to God, with some weaknesses regarding what qualifies someone for heaven and an atheist character denies God; no foul language; a scene of Irish Protestant brutality toward a Catholic, another scene of Chinese brutality toward Christians and some war related violence; no sex; no nudity; alcohol use; smoking; and, some religious bigotry.

More Detail:

Airing occasionally on Turner Classic Movies, the 1944 movie THE KEYS OF THE KINGDOM stars Gregory Peck as an unorthodox, very compassionate Catholic missionary to China. While very inspirational as a whole, some caution is necessary regarding comments made about the qualifications for heaven. The movie opens with an elderly Father Chisholm (Peck) being asked to retire by church leadership because of his unorthodox behavior and teaching, including a remark about hoping to see an atheist in heaven. That evening the bearer of bad news finds and reads Father Chisholm’s journal, and the movie then tells his life’s story.

On a very rainy night, Chisholm’s Catholic father was beaten by Irish Protestants and, when his mother comes to rescue her injured husband, they are both swept away in flood waters. Raised by others, he grows up with a childhood sweetheart he plans to marry, but she dies. He goes into the priesthood but is declared a failure in his first two parishes because of his sincere but unorthodox methods. When his friend, and mentor, is made Bishop, he accepts a call to serve as a missionary in China.

In China, he finds the parish where he was sent in ruins with nothing left of a congregation but a couple who wants to be paid to come to church. When he sends them away, he winds up being attacked by those who oppose his presence. Finally, a real Christian parishioner named Joseph returns from hiding in the hills to offer him assistance. When his atheist doctor friend from Ireland sends a crate of medical supplies along with some instructions, Father Chisholm begins to treat the needy.

A very wealthy and powerful Chinese leader sends for the Father, asking for help for his very ill only child. Father Chisholm prays and goes to help. The child recovers, and the father offers to become a Christian. Father Chisholm explains that you cannot become a Christian as repayment for medical help. The wealthy man gives him land and rebuilds the mission.

Three nuns come from Austria with an attitude that they have humbled themselves to come minister to lesser beings. They clash with Father Chisholm who sees the Chinese as equal to himself. Over time, and through some serious hardships, the sisters come to have profound respect for Father Chisholm.

KEYS OF THE KINGDOM has very Catholic moments, such as praying to Saints rather than directly to God the Father, but most of the movie seriously honors God. It is even critical of Catholic leadership that has unchristian motivations. In one scene, he shocks some new Protestant missionaries by coming to welcome them.

Father Chisholm’s atheist doctor friend comes to visit him in China right as a revolution is occurring. After days working with Father Chisholm treating wounded, he is killed. Father Chisholm prays for God to have mercy on him, even though he verbally rejected God on his deathbed.

THE KEYS OF THE KINGDOM helped make Gregory Peck a star. It was his second movie and earned him his first of five Oscar nominations. The producer Joseph L. Mankiewicz went on to direct such movies as ALL ABOUT EVE, GUYS AND DOLLS and CLEOPATRA. This movie is a prime example of major Hollywood talent serving an audience that believes in God.

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Movieguide® is a 501c3 and all donations are tax deductible.