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Peter T Chattaway

Billy Graham and World Wide Pictures

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Oh my goodness. I think Joni just might nab the top spot away from The Hiding Place. But it's my bedtime now (seems like I go to sleep earlier most nights, now that I'm married...), so I'll have to explain why later.

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Wow - very nice, Peter! I recall the film as having a distinctly 70's feel to it, but maybe it was the music. It's been too long since I've seen this.

(and, if anyone cares, I designed the sleeve that Peter posted with this writeup; it's actually the French version of the film as you might be able to tell from the blurry tagline: Ce film

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Tim Willson wrote:

: I recall the film as having a distinctly 70's feel to it, but maybe it was the music.

Yeah, the music IS pretty dated; not one of the film's high points.

BTW, thanks for incorporating images from the actual MOVIE in your cover art. The DVD I watched had a photo of Joni Eareckson Tada, as she looks TODAY, on the cover, which is pretty lame. And while I'm griping ... apart from trailers for other WWP movies, the DVD has no bonus features whatsoever, which is a shame, since apparently WWP did produce a few documentaries about Joni back in the day, including one, Reflections of His Love (1981), which apparently goes "behind the scenes".

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Wow, today at the Regent College library, I dug up Christianity Today's rather critical critique of Time to Run. It was one of two subjects with which they inaugurated a brand-new arts feature called "The Refiner's Fire" -- anybody here remember this?

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Peter,

That is fascinating. It is great that those who wrote before us were diligent and authentic in their film criticism! That is what makes the church better in all its work - truthing-it-in-love.

Denny

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Peter,

Very well done! That is a part of our cinematic world that needed to be explored and documented.

By the way, due to the nature of Santa Barbara and my long tenure here, I am one of the "go-to-evangelicals" and I get quoted lots by our local paper. You did the best job I've ever had being quoted - but that's probably because our local paper is owned by self-avowed libertarians and their mental structures have difficulty even understanding Christian thought! You got both the facts and the nuances of my experience.

Denny

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Peter,

Steller, as usual.

I know this involved a ton of work, but this is a signficant-enough piece of history that a serious article is long overdue. A lot of people I know will enjoy it.

tw

(surprised thought that the sidebar mentions Something to Sing About and Irma P. Hall, and not A Vow to Cherish with Ossie Davis.... Did you have a preference for the ones you mentioned, or was this list based on different considerations?)

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Thanks for the kind words, Denny. Can I quote you on that? wink.gif

Tim, about the movies that made the not-entirely-accurately-named "Top Five": The list was sort of based on my own preferences, but sort of not.

For example, The Hiding Place (1975) and Joni (1979) were absolute shoo-ins -- but if it had been up to me, Joni would probably have topped the list, simply because it's so "cinematic"; however, nearly everyone I have spoken to, including my editor, has said that The Hiding Place is the best Christian film ever made, so, fine, I listed that one first.

So that was two films from the 1970s, and I wanted to include at least one film that was made before I was born, and since I didn't care for most of the Dick Ross / Georgia Lee films, it came down to either Two a Penny (1967) or For Pete's Sake (1968); and I decided to go with the latter because it had a nice element of self-deprecating humour, whereas the former might have been just a little too out-there for some CT readers (what with the attempted date rape, the gay drug dealers, the fact that Cliff Richard's character never actually converts, etc.).

So that was three films, all of which were at least a quarter-century old, and I figured I needed to include something more recent; and I figured I needed to include something that wasn't so "white", for lack of a better word. I went with Caught (1987) because it pushed the envelope probably more than any other Billy Graham film except maybe Two a Penny -- it IS rated PG-13, after all -- and because it has a truly international scope (one of the two main characters is an Indian missionary who has an African roommate during the conference in the Netherlands).

And that left just one slot, which obviously had to come from the films of the past dozen years, and I ultimately went for Something to Sing About (2000) for a number of reasons, not least of which was that the key conversion happened fairly early in the story. A Vow to Cherish (1999) had some nice elements, but the Crusade scene felt pretty gratuitous to me (it's not a conversion scene), and the conversion sequence involving the greedy businessman had some embarrassing dialogue, I thought.

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Since there has been a good deal of talk about the history of the Christian film industry in this thread, I thought I'd share a link to a great article by Brian Hess. It contains a lot of information I hadn't encountered elsewhere:

A Brief History of Christian Film

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Thanks for the kind words, Denny. Can I quote you on that? ;)
Hey Denny, thought you might be interested to hear that one of the things I quoted you saying in this article was re-quoted on page 129 of this book (you can find it with the "Search Inside!" feature). Too bad we don't get royalties, eh? :)

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Thanks for the kind words, Denny. Can I quote you on that? ;)
Hey Denny, thought you might be interested to hear that one of the things I quoted you saying in this article was re-quoted on page 129 of this book (you can find it with the "Search Inside!" feature). Too bad we don't get royalties, eh? :)

Yes - but now we are a part of the literature...culture...life...

Denny

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So that was two films from the 1970s, and I wanted to include at least one film that was made before I was born, and since I didn't care for most of the Dick Ross / Georgia Lee films . . .

Wow. I just finished watching the three films that Georgia Lee made with her daughter Robbie Lee in the early '70s: Switchblade Sisters (a Tarantino favorite), Big Bad Mama (a Roger Corman film starring Angie Dickinson, William Shatner and Tom Skerritt) and Linda Lovelace for President (erm, uh, well...). Who was this woman, and why was she so tight with the Billy Graham moviemakers in the '50s and '60s, and why was she chaperoning her daughter in nudie and/or exploitation films in the '70s? (Note: her acting in the exploitation flicks is not particularly better than it was in the Billy Graham films.)

Serious question. I am very curious to know what was going on here. Especially since Georgia Lee herself continued to play very prim and proper, respectable types in her bit parts in the '70s films (with the possible exception of the woman in Switchblade Sisters who says she hopes her landlord roasts in hell), yet her daughter was cavorting with thugs, getting knocked up by momma's boyfriend, or playing an incestuous hillbilly. (And then her daughter went on to do voice parts for the Rainbow Brite and Get-Along Gang cartoons in the '80s. Bizarre.)

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UPDATE: I take that back. I believe the first Australian movie studio ever built -- secular or Christian -- was a Salvation Army film-making operation in, like, 1900 or something. So obviously Christians were making films before Billy Graham was.

This is sort of a tangent to the thread, but FWIW:

- - -

Return to Oz: A History of Australian Cinema (1896-1968)

Of course, random shots of commuters and bushland were never going to fascinate paying patrons for very long. The idea of creating a fiction feature film may have been in many minds, but the man regarded as the first to accomplish it was an unlikely figure: Major Joseph Perry of the Salvation Army's Magic Lantern and Photographic Department. Perry, an Englishman residing in Melbourne, had shot a few short documentaries, and his first stab at a new kind of cinema was part of an early multimedia experience, with portions of his film shown in alternation with slides, sermons, and hymn singing, as part of a religious lecture. This movie, entitled Soldiers of the Cross, was essentially a series of illustrative sequences portraying the grisly fates of early Christian martyrs.

Perry's opus was shot on the tennis court of a Salvation Army girls' home in Melbourne, utilizing hastily made sets and costumes, and, by all accounts, some clever trick photography. The first advertisements for the exhibition of Soldiers of the Cross appeared in newspapers on September 14, 1900. Perry not only helped invent the concept of the feature film, for his work, at 900 meters, was more than three times as long as The Great Train Robbery, made three years later, but he also helped define the historical religious epic. Still photographs from Soldiers, all that remains of that vanished work, reveal images of the Roman decadence that readily prefigure the likes of Quo Vadis? and Ben-Hur.

By the time The Great Train Robbery was produced, Soldiers of the Cross had already been exported to the United States and shown across that country. Australia, even more so than the US, was an extremely young country ripe to be colonized by a new idea and mode of communication. In fact, it wasn't even actually a country yet, being a year away from Federation when Perry's film was released, and an anything-goes openness to innovation was immediately apparent in Aussie cinema. . . .

Apart from fascinating snippets portraying Ned Kelly's final, armour-clad rampage and downfall, The True Story of the Kelly Gang is, like Soldiers of the Cross, today a lost film, and so whether or not it was more than a landmark of running time is impossible to judge. These hand-made productions, both of which had used family and friends as cast and crew, as well as taking cues from the theatrical culture of the era, were probably typical in their combination of amateurish and professional reflexes. . . .

These cinematic pioneers had little subsequent impact on the course of Australian cinema. Joseph Perry remade Soldiers of the Cross as Heroes of the Cross in 1909, and would later resign from the Salvation Army to move into film distribution. . . .

GreenCine Daily, February 16

Soldiers-of-the-Cross-Australian-film.jpg

Wow. I just finished watching the three films that Georgia Lee made with her daughter Robbie Lee in the early '70s . . . Who was this woman, and why was she so tight with the Billy Graham moviemakers in the '50s and '60s, and why was she chaperoning her daughter in nudie and/or exploitation films in the '70s?

FWIW, I wrote a blog post on this back in November 2008, but I don't seem to have linked to it here before.

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