Count Three and Pray (film)

Count Three and Pray
Directed by George Sherman
Produced by Ted Richmond
Tyrone Power (uncredited)
Written by Herb Meadow
Starring Van Heflin
Joanne Woodward
Raymond Burr
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s) October 1955
Running time 102 minutes
Country  United States
Language English

Count Three and Pray is a 1955 CinemaScope western film starring Van Heflin, Joanne Woodward (in her film debut) and Raymond Burr. It was based on the story Calico Pony (also the working title of the film by Herb Meadow. It premiered in Woodward's home town, Greenville, South Carolina, at the Paris Theatre.


Former brawler and womanizer Luke Fargo (Van Heflin) returns from the American Civil War to his Southern hometown a greatly changed man. Following his traumatic experiences at the Battle of Vicksburg he is now a Minister, intent on rebuilding the only church. He is greeted with disbelief by his friends, including Matty (Nancy Kulp), and outright hostility by the rest of the townsfolk, as he alone in his community had fought on the Union side. Particularly opposed to him is Yancey Huggins (Raymond Burr), who sees a threat to his iron-fisted control of the town.

Fargo encounters two very different women from his past. Faded Southern belle Georgina Descrais (Allison Hayes), impoverished by the war, tries to revive their former romantic relationship, as does the local madam, Selma (an uncredited Jean Willes), but he rejects them both. Meanwhile, teenage orphan tomboy Lissy (Joanne Woodward) who has been living in the parsonage before Luke returned and remains living in the same building with Luke takes a strong liking to him. This causes Fargo a great deal of trouble, as the townspeople, aroused by Huggins, suspect him of falling back on his old scandalous ways. He does not help matters when he reluctantly gambles, winning some lumber for the church in a horserace held on a Sunday, and is goaded into fighting Yancey's men.

Finally, the Bishop (Robert Burton) has to be called in to resolve the situation. He learns that Fargo, not knowing any better, had ordained himself. After hearing how much good Fargo has done in the community, the Bishop makes him a real minister and then tries to get him to marry Lissy. When Fargo proves reluctant, the exasperated Lissy hands the Bishop her rifle to prod the hesitant (though not unwilling) groom.

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