The Light in the Forest is a 1958 film based on a novel of the same name first published in 1953 by U.S. author Conrad Richter. The film was produced by Walt Disney Productions and starred Fess Parker, Joanne Dru, James MacArthur and Wendell Corey. Though it is a work of fiction and primarily features fictional characters, the novel incorporates several real people and facts from U.S. history.
The film was directed by Herschel Daugherty and starred James MacArthur as True Son, Fess Parker as Del Hardy, Wendell Corey as Uncle Wilse, and Jessica Tandy as Myra Butler, True Son’s mother. The film introduced Carol Lynley as Shenandoe.
Its song title was written by Lawrence Edward Watkin, Paul J. Smith and his main collaborator, Hazel "Gil" George.
It expands the role of Del Hardy, portrayed by the popular Fess Parker, who remains with the Butler family much longer than in the novel. True Son’s blood brother, Gordon (Gordie) does not appear in the film. The character of Shenandoe, Uncle Wilse’s indentured servant, was added as a love interest for True Son. In the film the antagonism between True Son and Wilse culminates in a fist fight (with True Son the victor) rather than Wilse's scalping.
While the novel ends on a note of uncertainty, with True Son alone on a remote road and unsure where his future lies, the film has him return to his family, to Shenandoe, and, presumably, to a life on a plot of wild land his father has had deeded to him.
It was shot in Lookout Valley, Chattanooga, Tennessee and California.
The film premiered in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on 9 July 1958 at Senate Theater with actor Wendell Corey and his wife and some Mouseketeers like Jimmie Dodd, Annette Funicello, Tommy Cole, and Doreen Tracey.