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Schlüssel zum Himmelreich (1944) online

Schlüssel zum Himmelreich (1944) online
Original Title :
The Keys of the Kingdom
Genre :
Movie / Drama
Year :
Directror :
John M. Stahl
Cast :
Gregory Peck,Thomas Mitchell,Vincent Price
Writer :
Joseph L. Mankiewicz,Nunnally Johnson
Budget :
Type :
Time :
2h 17min
Rating :

A young priest, Father Chisholm is sent to China to establish a Catholic parish among the non-Christian Chinese. While his boyhood friend, also a priest, flourishes in his calling as a ... See full summary

Schlüssel zum Himmelreich (1944) online

Schlüssel zum Himmelreich. Schlüssel zum Himmelreich. Greece (transliterated ISO-LATIN-1 title). Ta kleidia tou Paradeisou.

Schlüssel zum Himmelreich ist eine US-amerikanische Literaturverfilmung unter der Regie von John M. Stahl. Die Hauptrollen sind besetzt mit Gregory Peck, Thomas Mitchell, Vincent Price und Rose Stradner.

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A young priest, Father Chisholm is sent to China to establish a Catholic parish among the non-Christian Chinese. While his boyhood friend, also a priest, flourishes in his calling as a priest in a more Christian area of the world, Father Chisholm struggles. He encounters hostility, isolation, disease, poverty and a variety of set backs which humble him, but make him more determined than ever to succeed. Over the span of many years he gains acceptance and a growing congregation among the Chinese, through his quiet determination, understanding and patience.
Cast overview, first billed only:
Gregory Peck Gregory Peck - Father Francis Chisholm
Thomas Mitchell Thomas Mitchell - Willie Tulloch
Vincent Price Vincent Price - Angus Mealey
Rose Stradner Rose Stradner - Rev. Mother Maria-Veronica (as Rosa Stradner)
Roddy McDowall Roddy McDowall - Francis Chisholm - as a Boy
Edmund Gwenn Edmund Gwenn - Father Hamish MacNabb
Cedric Hardwicke Cedric Hardwicke - Monsignor at Tweedside (as Sir Cedric Hardwicke)
Peggy Ann Garner Peggy Ann Garner - Nora - as a Girl
Jane Ball Jane Ball - Nora - as an Adult
James Gleason James Gleason - Rev. Dr. Wilbur Fiske
Anne Revere Anne Revere - Agnes Fiske
Ruth Nelson Ruth Nelson - Mrs. Chisholm - Francis' Mother
Benson Fong Benson Fong - Joseph
Leonard Strong Leonard Strong - Mr. Chia
Philip Ahn Philip Ahn - Mr. Pao - Envoy for Mr. Chia

"Academy Award Theater" broadcast a 30 minute radio adaptation of the movie on August 21, 1946 with Gregory Peck reprising his film role.

Fox considered Dean Jagger, Franchot Tone, Gene Kelly and Alan Ladd before settling on Gregory Peck for his breakthrough role.

The only Oscar nominated performance by Gregory Peck in a non-Best Picture nominated film.

According to Hollywood columnist Erskine Johnson, Joseph Cotten tested for the role of the minister in The Keys of the Kingdom. He also referred to the project as David O Selznick's version although screen credits list no such connection (Newspaper Enterprise Association, "Erskine Johnson's Hollywood," The Sa Bernardino Daily Sun, San Bernardino California, Sunday 1 February 1942, Volume 48, page 20.)

User reviews



What a wonderful story of a man, despite much adversity, contributes himself to the Chinese community he loves so much. It is amazing how Peck makes it so effortless (even in his only second film)in portraying a young man to one in his twilight years. He personifies morality and quiet integrity in this film, reminiscent to the role that he would play nearly twenty years later in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.

The supporting cast which performs more than ably is led by Cedric Hardwicke playing a monsignor who was initially critical of the Peck character but emerges having respect for him after reading his memoirs (which form the narration for the film. Others include Thomas Mitchell as the irreverent self-proclaimed atheist who does much to provide the witty humour for the film, Edmund Gwenn as Peck's plucky mentor at the seminary who uses the term "ecclesiastical mechanic" to describe priests who are inflexible and bureaucratic, and Rose Stradner as the Mother Superior who falls in love with Peck (you only get a hint of this).

One of the highlights is the film's efforts in portraying the Chinese in a sensitive manner in terms of the customs shown and dialects used. This is very unlike films of its era which tended to portray Asians in a more stereotypical fashion.


In his second film Gregory Peck got the first of his Best Actor nominations for playing the pious and devote Father Francis Chisholm in The Keys of the Kingdom.

When we meet Peck he's an elderly priest who's got a visitor in Monsignor Cedric Hardwicke who has come to the Scottish town where he's from and now is a pastor. Hardwicke's there to investigate complaints about him. Peck puts him up for the night in his own room where he keeps a journal that he has faithfully recorded his life. On an impulse, Hardwicke decides it might be good bedtime reading.

When we first meet Peck, elderly and infirm that he is, he looks like he could be the model for Alec Guinness's muddled old reverend in Kind Hearts and Coronets. But as Hardwicke reads Peck's words and we go back over his life, it's been a pious and rewarding one as a missionary in China.

The film is a flashback narrative of his life as a missionary. And the film is held together by the sincere and deeply felt performance of Gregory Peck as Father Chisholm. Peck has some terribly unorthodox ideas as a priest. For one thing he's not preaching that his own denomination has the corner on a good afterlife. Late in the film, some Protestant missionaries come, James Gleason and Anne Revere, and he becomes great friends with both. He's even friends with a self styled atheist in Thomas Mitchell who is an atheist, a medical doctor and a good man indeed. Mitchell's deathbed scene with Peck is quite touching and avoids a lot of the clichés associated with such scenes.

Another thing is Peck and the sisters led by Rose Stradner who later come to help live as simply and modestly as the Chinese around them. They gain some converts, but even more importantly they gain the respect of those around them. This is contrasted when Peck's childhood friend Vincent Price who has become a bishop and takes the phrase Prince of the Church quite literally.

The casting in the film is first rate and 20th Century Fox did a good job in recreating the feel and atmosphere of China which at that point was engaged in expelling the Japanese from their soil. The Keys of the Kingdom got several Oscar nominations including Peck's, but came up short on the statues.

I enjoyed the film a whole lot and I don't think one has to be a firm believer in any Christian denomination to enjoy it. Peck's Father Francis Chisholm may have led an obscure life, but his faith sustains him through all and he leads by sheer example. It's something that a lot of religious leaders fall short of, but not in this case.

Peck's life will surely gain him possession of The Keys of the Kingdom and we could all use a lot more Father Chisholms in this world.


I didn´t expect much of this film, as it is not much mentioned nowadays. Although it is a very simple movie, it evocates eternal values, such as honor, friendship and respect for other people's own values, that truly makes you feel very well after seeing it. It shows, also, how every religion should be guided and thought to someone, and not how it is usually done.

Only a movie from the 40's, like this one, dated like it is, to remind us some values that we are forced to forget everyday in this "global" world of merges, fusions, profits and unemployment. It is a lesson of humanity, decency and of how a man can stick to his opinions and really make the difference.


I've always loved this movie. My mother introduced me to it and its remained one of my favorites over the years. I find the character of Father Chisholm to be my ideal of what a priest should be. Kind, loving, humble and unpretentious. I don't think Peck ever surpassed himself. He is tremendous in the part. Ably written and directed, I think it is a superb film


Before getting started I should confess that I am an unabashed worshipper of Mr. Gregory Peck. In mourning his death, I resolved to track down and watch those few of his films that I hadn't yet seen. The Keys of the Kingdom came early in the process and was a delighful surprise. I admit, I had rather low expectations knowing that this was only his second film. Nevertheless, Greg shines as brightly in this as he does in so many of his later films. Thomas Mitchell (best known as Uncle Billy in It's a Wonderful Life) is also charming as the atheist best friend to Peck's priest.

The movie explores the unusual tension within the church between succeeding at being a good person and succeeding at climbing the ecclesiastical ladder. As you might guess, Peck plays to type as the good-hearted priest who never quite gains the respect of his superiors. Look for Vincent Price as an example of the latter; a less than caring priest who is consistently promoted.

This is a charming albeit slightly sentimental film that I hope to see available in DVD format someday. Until then it is well worth the effort it might take to track it down.


A good adaptation of AJ Cronin's famous book by a melodrama expert John Stahl,and a great actor,Gregory Peck,as good as ever.A fine appearance by Roddy McDowall as Francis as a boy.

Good scenes: the priest whose idea of Christianity comes up against a retrograde hierarchy,Francis's parent's death,the nuns arriving at the mission.But my favorite scene will remain the death of Francis 's friend, a man who does not believe in God,what the holier-than-thou would call a heathen person,but one good fellow who gave his life to help the priest.This is one of those absorbing tales which were very long but where you never got bored.


I first saw this movie some 35 years ago. It is a brilliant move that goes to the heart of showing the difference between a spiritual relationship and religion. It covers clearly so many ethical issues of life.

While the name of the movie may not in itself draw a person to watching it, it is nevertheless well worth watching. The entire cast of this movie was so well chosen that once seen in these roles it is hard to imagine them as playing any other part. Gregory Peck in the role of Father Francis Chisholm, Thomas Mitchell as Dr. Willie Tullock and Vincent Price as he Rev. Angus Mealey are a few examples of the excellent casting.

A movie that promotes great introspection and a lot of tears


Although in part this is about missionaries in China and therefore could turn off anyone appalled by either religion or proselytizing (including me), the movie transcends those issues and is one of the great black and white Hollywood films of all time.

Its greatness is carried by its variegated and compelling story, by the exquisite characterizations of its excellent actors, and by Gregory Peck's simple, powerful portrayal of a man who remains true to his character.

Well-written and well-directed, the film requires only a modest suspension of disbelief for one to become enthralled, excited, and moved by this cross-section of history concentrated on the personal life, from childhood on, of a man whose goodness and idiosyncratic talents never leave one with any sense of sanctimony or piousness. Indeed, this man's capacity for survival and warmth help illuminate much of the hypocrisy and pomposity around him.

There are grander, greater movies, of course, but this is a real find, and inspiring whether you are nine, nineteen, or ninety. Watch it alone, or with your family... give yourself to it and you will be rewarded.


This is the story of a man who has to try twice as hard to be half as good as others in college. After he becomes a priest, he butts heads with the mainstream, stuck-up parishioners. His bishop has the idea: send him to China, set up a mission, and doctor their bodies and souls.

This spans his 40 years in the mission field. Things do not go well, though at times they do. He stays true to his values, and does not sell out to the vulgar rich, or the vulgar greedy. This is the gleaming quality: keep trying to do the right thing. He does.

I have watched this one at least 12 times over the years. It still holds up well.


This movie would have to be the greatest movie ever made. The sheer brilliance of Gregory Peck in the manner he displays as a Missionary Catholic Priest is just mind boggling, the support from the Nuns is just spot on. Real People in a Real world. Relationships are formed congenially and with love and affection of the right kind. To see it in black and white makes the movie real. The melodrama that Thomas Mitchell and Sir Cedric Hardwicke gives to movies provides the right tone to their scenes Gregory Peck show his capabilities and indicates his greatness in other movies such as Gentleman's Agreement and To Kill a Mockingbird (his greatest performance ever). The ability to communicate with non-English speaking Chinese is depicted calmly and sensitively . Finally the wonderful Edmund Gwen as the Seminary mentor shows the characteristic of a keen thinking priest when he refers to "ecclesastical mechanics", those bureaucrats who are inflexible and forget the ordinary People of God. I am sure God will bless all who watch this move with good heart

I just wish I could get a copy of it somewhere.


An earnestness which is not commonly seen today is the hallmark of many of the greatest films of the golden age of cinema. The Keys Of The Kingdom is a humbling expression of stirring earnestness. Father Chisholm is not shown as perfect, but the one constant is his humility and devotion to his calling. This theme has never been expressed more wondrously.

This earnestness is also seen in the figures who intersect Father Chisholm's life: Willie, Angus (if you have to look closely at times to see it), the delightful Father McNabb, Reverend Doctor Fiske, Joseph, Mr. Chia, the wonderful Reverend Mother, and even in the end, the most triumphant and stirring realization of all, the at first dubious Monsignor. These parts are all played by fine actors doing some of their best work.

The synthesis of wondrous story and inspired acting is ageless, and results in an experience much beloved by just about every viewer.


The trailer for "The Keys of the Kingdom" compares the 1944 film to the prior classics "Goodbye Mr. Chips" and "How Green Was My Valley," and the comparisons are apt. Like the two earlier films, "The Keys of the Kingdom" is the narrated story of a man's life with present-day scenes as bookends. All three films follow ordinary men who leave indelible legacies, but fail to grasp the worth of their own accomplishments. While Mr. Chips is an English teacher and young Huw Morgan is a Welsh miner's son, Father Francis Chisholm is a Scottish missionary priest in China.

In this well written adaptation of the A. J. Cronin novel by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and Nunnally Johnson, Gregory Peck underplays the role of Francis Chisholm effectively and with the solid dignity that distinguished Peck's long career. In only his second screen role, Peck is a Christ-like figure who accepts people as they are, which puts him at odds with the dogmatic bureaucrats that run his church. Vincent Price is colorful as Angus Mealy, an ambitious fellow priest who puts personal advancement above godliness, and Thomas Mitchell is equally fine as Willie Tulloch, a doctor who puts his service to humanity above religion. Besides Price and Mitchell, the film has a rich cast of such other outstanding character players as Edmund Gwen, Anne Revere, Cedric Hardwick, Sara Allgood, Benson Fong, and Roddy McDowall. Each of these fine performers makes even the smallest role memorable. While Rose Stradner is fine as the Reverend Mother, the film treads a delicate line with its subtle hint at a love story between her and Father Chisholm. Perhaps there was an underlying attraction between the two that went beyond mere friendship, but, if so, that was daring territory to explore during the 1940's.

While "Keys of the Kingdom" runs more than two hours, the engrossing story should hold the attention of viewers who loved "How Green Was My Valley" and "Goodbye Mr. Chips." The film provides an emotional payoff that equals those in the earlier films, and damp eyes and a sniffle or two will likely affect even the hardest hearts. While at times sentimental in the best sense of the word, "The Keys of the Kingdom" also has an important message of acceptance that is particularly relevant today. Father Chisholm does not criticize "heathens" or "atheists," but rather respects their points of view and loves them for their good deeds regardless of their philosophies. When one of Chisholm's non-believer friends lays dying, the priest does not pressure him to convert on his deathbed, and the dying man thanks his friend for his respect and for allowing him to die as he had lived. The film certainly makes a strong point when the kindest, most generous works were those done by the non-believers, the doctor and Mr. Chia, the Chinese landowner, while the most selfish individual was the self-serving social-climbing priest played by Vincent Price. Peck's acceptance of and offer of friendship to the Protestant missionaries was yet another example of the man's Christianity, which placed him at odds with his own church and did more to illustrate Christ's message than the bureaucratic church hierarchy that would not even send money to fund the mission and told him to convert people of means. Although there are a few slow stretches and the finished film is not the classic that its creators intended, "The Keys of the Kingdom" is rewarding and a showcase for a young Gregory Peck, who was poised at the dawn of his stardom.


Gregory Peck plays Father Francis Chisholm, who has been given "The Keys to the Kingdom" in this sweeping 1944 film based on the famous novel by A.J. Cronin. Also starring are Thomas Mitchell, Edmund Gwenn, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Vincent Price, Rosa Stradner and Roddy McDowell.

The story is told in flashback as a monsignor (Hardwicke) reads Chisholm's journal of his 40 years as a missionary in China. Like most men who made films for 20th Century Fox that span a long period of time, Peck's character as a young man is played by Roddy McDowell.

The journal tells of his parents' death and the love he has for the girl he grew up with, Nora, which keeps him from the vocation his aunt wants for him.

Francis does, however, embrace the priesthood and is sent to China to start a mission. His live and let live philosophy is at odds with what the Church hierarchy wants - he doesn't rub elbows with the wealthy Chinese, whose conversion would bring in the peasants and whose generosity would help build his mission. He knows their conversions would be in name only; and he wants nothing to do with "rice Christians" who become Christians for food.

Instead, he sets out to do God's work and blessings flow to him, and a wonderful mission, church and school are built. When a difficult nun (Stradner) arrives, Francis treats her with dignity and patience and eventually wins her loyalty and friendship.

When revolution threatens the mission, Father Chisholm participates in bringing down the enemy. In short, he does what he knows to be true to himself, to his belief in God, and in the interests of his people.

This is a truly magnificent film. As it went on, I asked myself, with varying things going on in the story but not a lot of big action scenes, what keeps the audience interested in such a movie. Characterizations. Real people. Relationships. Honesty regarding the human experience.

You can find these elements in many films today, but don't look for those films to be released by the monolith studios, one of which released "The Keys to the Kingdom." Those films have 15- second scenes, huge special effects and characters scripted in shorthand. It takes a film like this to truly make one appreciate what Hollywood has lost. See this and then watch "Poseidon." It will have you running to TCM and Fox Movie Channel faster than anything else.

Gregory Peck can best be described by the book "Growing up Catholic," in which there's a chapter called "Father What-a-Waste" where the authors lament the good-looking parish priest.

Tall and handsome, Peck is totally believable as a good, gentle and determined man who follows Christ. There's a difference between playing a role and being the role - Peck IS Father Chisholm. Vincent Price is good as Francis' arrogant friend Angus, and Thomas Mitchell is terrific as an atheist doctor who is nevertheless Francis' best friend.

Hardwicke brings great dignity to his role, and his voice as narrator is wonderful; and Edmund Gwenn, as Francis' mentor, is perfectly cast. Rosa Stradler plays the difficult nun, Maria-Veronique, an upper class woman who looks with disdain not only on Father Chisholm but the Chinese. The interesting thing about her performance is that at the end, as she plays the aging nun, she takes on the mannerisms and voice of an older woman. She's excellent.

This would be my only criticism of Peck - while his character looks old, Peck still speaks and moves as a younger man.

One of the best films to ever come out of Hollywood. Not sappy, not sentimental, just very powerful in its demonstration of what true goodness can achieve.


This outstanding film was made in 1944. It's a real treasure in that it gave us a superb performance by Gregory Peck, a plain priest, seeking to do the work of the Lord, after he has experienced great personal tragedies in his young life. This film accounted for Peck's first Oscar nomination and it truly is a triumphant one.

Doing the Lord's work by going to China would be Peck's destiny-thanks to the wise bishop played by Edmund Gwenn. The film well depicts the church hierarchy and how many important officials have unfortunately forgotten their purpose in life.

For a change, Vincent Price, high in the church hierarchy, represents the above comment. However, it was good seeing him in a part where he isn't representing evil.

In a supporting role, Joseph L. Mankiewicz's wife in real life is phenomenal. A crusty nun with self-imposed values, she is just wonderful as she comes to view the worthiness of the Peck character.

This film truly serves as an inspiration to all those seeking spiritual salvation as well as a life of true fulfillment and commitment.

Thomas Mitchell shines as Peck's atheist doctor friend. Peck showed his true value as Mitchell was dying, never trying to impose his religious values on him.


This is an interesting story about a priest Father Francis Chisholm(Gregory Peck), who went to China to establish a parish. He never wanted to get money easily, for him was much more important to get more people really devoted to catholicism than to get funds from any people, and for this he made all efforts serving even as a doctor in the community. Another important aspect shown although not deep, was the difference among the priests. Some are humble like the hero of the film but others are arrogant and look more for the wealth of the church instead of looking for the wealth of poor people. Catholicism have lost many areas because of the lack of sacrifice of many of its priests otherwise it would reign nearly everywhere in the world. Priests like Father Chisholm would have been the salvation.


This is pretty close to being a top-notch film, and all the more remarkable because it was only Gregory Peck's second appearance on celluloid! The cast here is very strong. Gregory Peck -- even as a young actor (he was 28 here) is brilliant as Father Chisholm; I would say this was close to a flawless performance, and he even aged well through the film. Thomas Mitchell was already in his 50s here, which really made him too old for the part, but he was one of those unique character actors who could almost do no wrong; still interesting. It's nice to remember that Vincent Price was a fairly respected character actor, although his role here as a senior Catholic prelate is far from his best. Rose Stradner, with whom I was not familiar, was very good as the Reverend Mother who begins as a harsh character, but evolves slowly into a more mellow partner in running the mission. Edmund Gwenn is as wonderful as ever as a senior prelate. Sir Cedric Hardwicke does fine, but his role as a prelate is minor...really one as the story teller. Probably the most interesting secondary role in the film is that by James Gleason; it's so different from his more typical roles...here he is a Methodist minister...very interesting, though he doesn't get a lot of screen time. Benson Fong is delightful as Joseph, a Chinese commoner with deep faith. Leonard Strong, as the wealthy Mr. Chia, is also interesting, although he was an Eurasian-American actor.

To enjoy this film you have to put behind all the more recent degrading news in the Catholic Church today, and go back to more simple times. This is the story of a deep faith of a priest and his long adventures and many challenges in China. From the novel by A. J. Cronin, I couldn't find much to criticize in the story. Idealistic, certainly, but in general fairly believable. Okay, maybe the segment when Peck destroys a communist gun placement...but, okay, at least that part was unique. In some ways, this film reminded me a little of Humphrey Bogart in "The Left Hand Of God", although here Peck is the absolute opposite of everything Bogart was. But, some interesting comparisons.

Highly recommended!


So often in older Hollywood films, religious films are cloying or loaded with clichés. While they try to be inspiring, they often leave me feeling a bit embarrassed because they are just so badly written--filled with platitudes and unrealistically "holy" performances. Because of this, I didn't rush to see this film--even though it starred one of my favorite actors, Gregory Peck. I was so pleasantly surprised to see that instead of the near-perfect and bigger than life character, Peck played a very down to earth and decent sort of priest--who was still quite human. Because of this, the film seemed real and very watchable.

The film begins with an old Gregory Peck living as a very old priest in Scotland. He is being chastised for his unorthodox ways, though after a minor chewing out, his superior, Cedric Hardwicke happens upon Peck's diary and begins to read about his career. At this point, the film becomes a flashback and we see a younger and more vigorous Peck in his native Scotland (though he never comes close to approximating the accent). From his college days to becoming a missionary in China we see his growth and mistakes and his humility throughout it all.

This gentle film manages to pull the viewer in due to its excellent acting, writing and direction. One thing I really liked is that the Chinese roles were actually all played by Asian-Americans--not the more traditional White guys ridiculously made up to look Chinese. There's very little not to like here--give it a look and don't worry--it's very enjoyable and not the least bit preachy.

FYI--Although Cedric Hardwicke is reading Gregory Peck's diary in order to know what was occurring, there were a few instances when information took place on the screen in the flashback that Peck could not have known and could not have written in his diary. In other words, how could Hardwicke be reading about things that others did if they never told Peck? Just a minor continuity problem and it doesn't seriously effect the film.


Gregory Peck plays a nice role, exhibiting a kind, caring face and demeanor as he did years later in To Kill A Mockingbird.

The first 30-40 minutes of this movie dragged somewhat and had some very misleading and dangerous theology (i.e. atheists still go to heaven because they're people, too! Give me a break! .

Once that part is over, the movie gets better as the scenery shifts to China a little action is inserted. The story finishes on a very touching note There is a good Methodist missionary and good Catholic priest both shown, despite some of the too-liberal and non-Bblical theology that pervades this script.

The cast includes Thomas Mitchell, Vincent Price, Edmund Gween, Key Luke, Roddy McDowall, Rose Stradner and Peggy Ann Garner. Actually, I bought the tape to see Peggy Ann but she only had two scenes and a couple of lines.


Over many years I have watched this movie and never tire of it. Gregory Peck is excellent as Fr.Chisolm.The film gives great insight to the Chinese culture and the humbleness of a Catholic Priest. Overall, if this movie is viewed for enjoyment purposes rather than trying to dissect it,is extremely entertaining and a great story. And as I like movies with the Chinese flavor I find it one of the best movies I have ever seen. I introduced this movie to my wife many years ago and it immediately became one of her favorite all time movies. Kudos to the actors and I wish film making would go back to these type movies rather than some of the trash that is made today. Watch it you will enjoy it immensely!!!!!!


Producer: Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Copyright 14 December 1944 by 20th Century-Fox Film Corp. New York release at the Rivoli: 29 December 1944. U.S. release: January 1945. U.K. release: 23 April 1945. Australian release: 17 January 1946. Sydney release at the Century, 11 January 1946. U.S. length: 12,375 feet. 137½ minutes. Australian length: 12,408 feet. 138 minutes.

SYNOPSIS: Catholic priest ministers in China in the early years of the 19th century.

NOTES: Mankiewicz's first film assignment for Fox (after leaving MGM). The script had already been prepared by Nunnally Johnson, but Mankiewicz considerably changed and re-wrote it.

Gregory Peck was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor (losing to Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend); Arthur Miller was nominated for Best Cinematography, but the award went to Harry Stradling for The Picture of Dorian Gray; Best Art Direction and Sets were also nominated but lost to A. Roland Fields for Blood on the Sun; while Alfred Newman was passed over for the award for Best Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture in favor of Spellbound composed by Miklos Rosza.

COMMENT: 19th century Hollywood rarely had the guts to stand up to the vested interests of organized religion - particularly that represented by the Roman Catholic Church. The Keys of the Kingdom is an excellent case in point. Doctor Cronin's novel is an outspoken, powerfully-crafted polemic against organized religion in general, the Catholic brand in particular - but none of Cronin's points, not a single one of his arguments or effects, is allowed to find even a shadow of an expression in this screen version.

In typical Hollywood fashion, not to be defeated by this considerably watered-down, milksop version of the book, Fox's publicity department hailed the novel as "one of the most excitingly discussed books of our times" - thereby implying that the exact same qualities were to be found on the screen. Not so. What we actually have instead is the usual Hollywood impression of sanctity.

The Hollywood saint is a humanitarian, first, last and foremost. He is always humble, always soft-spoken and never pushy - except when his humanitarian principles are threatened. With this proviso, he always respects and kowtows to Authority - whether religious or civil.

The Hollywood clergyman is also remarkably ignorant of the dogma and doctrines of his particular church. This enables him to mix ecumenically with both adherents and ministers of different faiths - or even no faith at all (atheists) - without the slightest qualms of conscience. He is in fact a simpleton. He doesn't deny, he is simply completely unaware of the intellectualism of all religions. He has such a vague - even nonexistent - understanding of God that he is sustained through all adversities solely by a peculiar inward faith in the Rightness of all his own actions.

Under the guise of humility, he is actually an ignorant, obstinate egotist who believes implicitly that his own amorphous faith in a God he neither understands nor appreciates, will either eventually right all wrongs or transcend all adverse conditions.

In fact, he shows such little commitment to those precepts that are peculiar to his particular religion, it is extremely doubtful that he even knows them. As a Catholic, he will light candles regularly, but he will never speak of Indulgences or Transubstantiation or Limbo and Original Sin. If he is aware of these doctrines, he keeps them a secret. His aim is to avoid religious controversy at all costs. For this reason, he will rarely quote from the New Testament, preferring instead a Psalm or some other non-contentious verse from the Old.

Such is the Hollywood priest. Within these limits, The Keys of the Kingdom is undoubtedly one of the more compelling films of a very blighted group. Pitched on a note of low intensity - and all the more effective for that - it tells of a missionary in China: his work, his struggle against apathy, his determination to live up to an ideal.

Although it is often stylishly (and occasionally even powerfully) directed by John Stahl, Gregory Peck's performance in the pivotal and central role is no more than adequate at best. This was only his second film. Why he was cast in such a plum and difficult role - an untried and inexperienced actor whose debut in RKO's Days of Glory the year before was inauspicious to say the least - is another Hollywood mystery. Fortunately, he was surrounded by a fine supporting cast including Rosa Stradner (Mankiewicz's wife), playing the mother superior of the nuns at the mission, and Vincent Price, slightly out of character as the local bishop.

The film is produced in Fox's usual grand epic style, with marvelous sets, beautiful camerawork and lighting - lavish production values all around.

Viewed as a Hollywood venture into religion, The Keys of the Kingdom is more entertaining than most (e.g. Joan of Arc, Miracle of the Bells, The Bells of St. Mary's, Come to the Stable), less offensive than many (Jeffrey Hunter's The King of Kings; Change of Habit; A Man For All Seasons).


A young priest, Father Chisholm is sent to China to establish a Catholic parish among the non-Christian Chinese. While his boyhood friend, also a priest, flourishes in his calling as a priest in a more Christian area of the world, Father Chisholm struggles.

First of all, Vincent Price is the third credited actor on this film. How did that happen? In the well over two hours of movie, he gets less than ten minutes of screen time. Of course, for Price fans, it is ten very good minutes, but still...

What is so great about this film is that it simultaneously promotes religion and calls out those who use it for their own ends. Father Chisholm hopes to spread the message of Christ, but he wants to do it by example. He refuses to accept converts who do not truly believe or those who have been paid to "believe". I love this. Being Christian is a good thing, but only if done for the right reasons. It seems far too many people forget this.


Without going into storyline details, this 1944 title is uncannily similar to the story events of the later "Inn of the Sixth Happiness", produced in 1958. What is baffling is that the "..Sixth Happiness" movie is claimed to be the biographical account of Gladys Aylward; yet it seems to be "Keys of the Kingdom" in new clothes.

Story similarities: (1) unlikely missionary called to China (2) must build their mission with few resources (3) wins favor of local provincial leader (4) starts a children's home (5) caught in the middle of the Chinese civil war (6) humble servant, recognized for a lifetime of service.

I have looked online for a comparison of these two titles, without results but I believe the storyline must have emerged from the same source. I recommend watching both, then draw your own conclusions.


THE KEYS OF THE KINGDOM covers traditional A.J. Cronin material with warmth and simplicity--the story of an idealistic, compassionate priest who has to struggle against the sins of mankind in order to make his mark in the world.

GREGORY PECK is more convincing as the young Father Chisholm than he is in his aged make-up, but this was only his second film and he does a commendable overall job as the earnest priest sent as a missionary to China during troubled times. A striking performance is given by the Mother Superior, Austrian actress ROSE STRADNER, who made only a few films. She distrusts him at first but gradually becomes his best confidante and close friend.

THOMAS MITCHELL is fine as Peck's self-styled atheist doctor friend and VINCENT PRICE is effective as a successful fellow priest who puts ambition ahead of godliness.

It is clear that Fox put all of its production finesse behind the making of the film, ensuring that it was cast with highly professional actors who would provide a fitting supporting cast for Peck, who was being showcased as the hottest new star discovery of the '40s. The Chinese are played by real Asians rather than Hollywood character actors made up to look Oriental and this is a big plus in creating the necessary realism.

The running time of two hours and ten minutes can be a little too much at times, but then--when did A.J. Cronin ever write a tale that didn't take less than two hours to put on screen, especially one that covers a man's lifetime.

Summing up: Respectable film but cannot avoid the sentimentality that weakens the film's ending. Nice job of direction by John M. Stahl.


In Gregory Peck's second film, he earned an Oscar nod for his role as a devoted but struggling priest. He's sent to China to convert/educate the natives, but he encounters a number of obstacles and has to find inner strength to guide him through.

If it wasn't for Gregory Peck, The Keys of the Kingdom would probably be forgotten about. There have been many movies with a similar theme, and there really isn't much to distinguish its plot from its competitors, but there is Gregory Peck. He was twenty-eight at the time, and in this role, he aged decades more than his years. It really is a remarkable breakthrough performance.

If you like Greg (really, who doesn't?) then you'll want to check this movie out. And if you like these kinds of stories where a strong, likable, pious person has a variety of friends and challenges throughout his life, you'll probably like it.


In a flashback to his boyhood (as Roddy McDowall), priestly Gregory Peck (as Francis Chisholm) is orphaned when his parents die in a storm, after they are ostracized for being Catholic. The boy goes to live with in-laws, and eventually falls in love with pretty cousin Jane Ball (as Nora). Alas, she leaves after becoming pregnant and unable to name the baby's father. Mr. Peck makes friends with atheist doctor Thomas Mitchell (as Willie Tulloch). For the bulk of the film, Peck leaves to convert people in China to Christianity.

As a missionary, Peck saves lives, survives icy Reverend Mother Rose Stradner (as Maria-Veronica), and witnesses Chinese warfare. He finds a partner in Christ-conscious local Benson Fong (as Joseph). Holy men Vincent Price, Edmund Gwenn, Cedric Hardwicke, and James Gleason come and go. "The Keys of the Kingdom" started Peck's career off on a high note, but it doesn't unlock many doors. Most notably, the film openly suggests God may not sentence nice non-Christians to eternal damnation. Very comforting.

****** The Keys of the Kingdom (12/15/44) John M. Stahl ~ Gregory Peck, Benson Fong, Rose Stradner, Thomas Mitchell