The setting is the little town of Walesburg, Tennessee, not long after the end of The American Civil War. War veteran Josiah Gray (Joel McCrea) comes back home to Walesburg and establishes himself as the town preacher. He marries a townswoman named Harriet Gray (Ellen Drew), who is looking after her orphaned nephew John (Dean Stockwell). John worships his adoptive father.
Two sources of tension roil the little town. Uncle Famous (Juano Hernandez), a black man and freed slave, owns a little plot of land by the river. No one seems to think that this is a problem until the local mica mine runs into Uncle Famous's property. When Famous refuses to sell, things get ugly. The second source of tension is the town doctor, Daniel Harris (James Mitchell). Dr. Harris thinks little of Josiah's Bible-thumping ways, which doesn't bother Rev. Gray very much. But when the town is struck by a typhoid epidemic, Dr. Harris blames Josiah for spreading the illness around through his bedside visits.
Amanda Blake stars as Miss Faith Samuels the curvaceous schoolteacher, and James Arness has a bit part as one of the villagers. Five years later Blake and Arness starred in one of the longest Long-Runners in American TV: Gunsmoke.
- Alliterative Name: One of Professor Jones's patent medicines is his "Popular and Penetratin' Pickapoo Puddin'".
- Artistic License History: The white robes and hoods of the KKK were unknown until the 20th century and 1915 film The Birth of a Nation.
- As You Know: When he's proposing to Faith, Dr. Harris says "I know what I'm asking," and then proceeds to spell out what they both already know, that he's asked her to move away with him.
- Book Ends: Opens with the camera zooming in to the church while the congregation sings "Will There Be Stars in My Crown?". Ends with the reverse of this shot, as the camera zooms out while the parishioners sing.
- Good Shepherd: Rev. Gray, who stands up to save a black man from lynching and ministers to the sick.
- Gray Rain of Depression: It's pouring rain outside when Dr. Harris has to tell Mr. and Mrs. Ware that there's nothing more he can do to save their son from death by typhoid.
- Intro Dump: Most of the characters in the movie are identified by adult John's narration as they leave Sunday service at the church.
- Medicine Show: A "Professor" Jones comes barreling into town with a medicine show where he does magic tricks while the rest of his little troupe sings and plays music, followed by Jones hawking some kind of quack medicine. It's portrayed as good fun for the townsfolk.
- Narrator: The voice of adult John provides narration, as he reminisces about his home town.
- Politically Correct History: A righteous preacher in late 1860s Tennessee heads off a lynching and shames the KKK into going home. This is absurd. There is about a zero percent chance that any white man in a small town would have stood up to protect a black men from lynching, and a zero percent chance that the Ku Klux Klan could be guilt-tripped out of murder.
- Running Gag: Harriet pleading with her husband to for once skip singing "Will There Be Stars in My Crown?" during Sunday service, only for the song to come blaring forth again.
- Schoolmarm: The "pretty single lady" variety, as lovely Miss Samuels falls for Dr. Harris.
- Shaming the Mob: Amazingly, this works for the Ku Klux Klan. As the Klan is about to hang Uncle Famous, Josiah reads them his will, where he leaves various possessions to them and reminisces about how the Klansmen would come to his farm to have fun when they were boys. The Klansmen go home and Uncle Famous survives. Afterwards it's revealed that Rev. Gray was making the will up while staring at blank paper.
- Straw Atheist: Dr. Harris is clearly an atheist, who scorns Josiah's preaching and blames him for spreading typhoid. This is all to set up the ending where the desperate doctor calls Josiah to the bedside of a dying Faith. When Josiah's prayers somehow help Faith get well, Dr. Harris finds religion and is going to Sunday service with Faith in the last scene.
- Titled After the Song: The title comes from Baptist him "Will There Be Any Stars?", aka "Will There Be Any Stars in My Crown?". There's a running gag in the movie about how Josiah insists on singing that particular hymn during church service when Harriet is sick of it.
- What Have We Ear?: Professor Jones of the medicine show does this magic trick several times to unsuspecting young John.