Faith based films have seen a marked increase in Hollywood in the last several years. Critics were quick to dismiss the success of the Passion of the Christ some 12 years ago claiming its success was only caused by controversy, and the bankrolling of the picture by a celebrity like Mel Gibson. However, a few short years later came Fireproof and Courageous. Both these films had an estimated budget of 1-2 million dollars and they grossed about $33,000,000. In 2011 a subtle pro-life film October Baby came out and moved the genre along to more success.
This set up the wildly successful 2014 which included films like God’s not Dead, Heaven is for Real, Mom’s Night Out etc. The success continued in 2015 and 2016. Word is the big studios are now reaching out to small faith based companies to see if they forge partnerships, which while helpful also presents some serious concerns for faith based companies.
In full disclosure, the writers and producers of God’s not Dead are friends of mine who a few years ago came to a talk I gave at Family Theater in Hollywood, and then took my wife and me to dinner after reading one of screenplays. In a faith based world filled with Evangelicals, Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman, as well as the crew at Family Theater in Hollywood are Catholic. For those interested in Family Theater, you might want to read my past article on the late Father Patrick Peyton , the Rosary priest who is on the road to canonization.
In secular 2016, it is hard to believe how well received Father Peyton was in Hollywood. Family Theater is where James Dean and William Shatner got their starts. A trip inside Family Theater affords one an array of pictures from Hollywood’s Golden Era when Lucille Ball, Bob Hope, Ronald Reagan and Grace Kelly all starred in Family Theater production films. A side note, tucked away in closet at Family Theater is an old film splicer. Rumor has it a young film student from USC named George Lucas used it to edit a Family Theater production film featuring a recently arrived young Canadian actor named William Shatner.
Everyone has their own story on how they ended up in the faith based realm. Chuck and Cary worked with the likes of Sylvester Stallone and other action oriented films for years until they could no longer resist the call to do faith based films. While they like Stallone, too few other people had the heart or character of Rocky Balboa in Hollywood. The initial years were tough, especially when hardly anyone was doing faith based films, they literally went into the valley before they could get back up to see the Promised Land. Needless to say, many thought they had lost their minds saying goodbye to the mainstream and taking the road less traveled.
Some readers might recall my initial 2014 review of God’s not Dead. The film made on a budget of $1,000,000 that initially generated a US box office figure of $60,000,000 and when all the worldwide receipts were accounted including foreign box office, DVD, movie subscription services etc totaled over$100,000,000. Generally writers and producers don’t see the kind of big money on an out of the blue success story like God’s not Dead. It comes later. If one thinks politics can be dirty, one needs to understand how the movie and music industry works.
Some film critics, even those in the faith based community complain that some of the scripts can be predictable, and perhaps the faith based angle needs to be more subtle, grittier and more provocative. Most faith based writers have no qualms with this argument. They are often put in a Catch 22, they either write a film that would be approved by faith based film companies like Pure Flix or risk the big studios saying a more subtle faith based approach is still too “faithful” for them.
Some secular critics showed nothing but venom for God’s not Dead, ( a Variety review actually used the words “Nazi propaganda film” to describe a scene) and the just released God’s not Dead 2 claiming Christians aren’t persecuted by the secular world. Then stories emerged that literally came right out of the plot lines of both films. Yet, these militant secularists give no apology.
While the critics of faith based films will always be sharpening their pens and swords, there is reason to believe that some of the Big Studios are seeing the light–or at least the financial possibilities. As mentioned above, some of the big time Hollywood studios are beginning to reach out to smaller faith based studios. Also, more faith based film companies are emerging. In addition up and comers like Nathan Leon, a talented writer, producer and director received some notice for his film/documentary Sidewalk Chronicles on Unplanned Pregnancies which led to adoptions that positively changed the lives of so many. He and many others like him are generating some buzz in Tinseltown.
Indeed I met Leon and many other young talented men and women, while I was out in Hollywood a few weeks ago. I had been invited invited by Chuck and Cary for their premier party for God’s not Dead 2, over dinner they shared with me their big plans. They are literally this week putting the fishing touches on God’s not Dead 3 which should start to film in a month or so and be out in theaters next March or April. Also, they have an ambitious blueprint for the future and are seeking investors for their own studio and several projects are already in the works. Who knows where there this will all lead, but there are shoots and blossoms being seen in Hollywood. In a town known for fully embracing the dark side, shoots and blossoms of faith are a very good thing.
Back during the 1970s I was in college as an undergraduate. I was unable to hear him consistently, but I always enjoyed Ronald Reagan’s daily three minute radio broadcasts whenever I head them. From 1975-1979 he gave over a 1000 of them and he personally wrote around 700 of them. This was an unusually effective mode of campaigning for President. He became a familiar figure to younger Americans who did not recall his Hollywood days, and honed his thoughts on the issues of the day. Derided as an “amiable dunce” by some of his opponents, Reagan came to the White House as a man with a well developed political philosophy who had thought and written about virtually all the issues he would confront as President. Reagan was far closer to being the mastermind portrayed in the hilarious Saturday Night Live skit linked below than he was to the idiotic actor of the fantasies of most of his political adversaries who stood by helplessly, shocked as he won the Presidency twice and became the most consequential president since Harry Truman. Continue reading
One of the major factors in transforming Ronald Reagan from a New Deal Democrat into a conservative Republican was his confrontation with Herb Sorrell in 1946-47 Hollywood. Head of the Conference of Studio Unions, Sorrell was a veteran union organizer. He was also a secret member of the Communist Party and a frequent contact for Soviet intelligence agents.
Sorrell in 1945 launched a strike to ensure that his union dominated Hollywood labor. Sorrell had no problem using physical intimidation to reach his goals. This was demonstrated at what has been called the Battle of Burbank on October 5, 1945 when 800 members of the Conference of Studio Unions battle with police of the Los Angeles Police Department, using knives, bats, chains and pipes to shut Warner Brothers down. The violence shocked Hollywood and attracted nationwide attention and led to a negotiated settlement of the strike. Continue reading
On Fathers’ Day it is easy to recall and honor all the good fathers. However, even a very flawed father can have a positive impact on a child. Case in point Jack Reagan, the father of Ronald Reagan.
To be blunt, Jack Reagan was a drunk. At eleven years old Ronald Reagan came home from school to find his father passed out on the porch, dead drunk to the world. In a small town the shame of that moment for a boy would be clear. An alcoholic, one would think that the only impact that Jack could have on the life of his son was to be a negative example, but such was not the case.
Jack was gregarious and a born story teller, traits he passed on to his son.
He and his wife were always deeply in love, and his wife Nellie made sure that their sons knew that Jack was a good man in spite of his addiction to drink.
An Irish Catholic, he hated racial and religious bigotry. He refused to allow his kids to see the film Birth of a Nation, because of its racist theme. One cold winter night when he was on the road selling shoes, he slept in his car, rather than taking a room in a hotel that discriminated against Jews.
Reagan said of his father:
Released in 1945, The Stilwell Road, narrated by Ronald Reagan while he was a Captain in the Army Air Corps, tells the story of the forgotten theater of the War, the China-Burma-India theater where the Allies, fighting over some of the most rugged terrain on Earth, wrested victory from the Japanese. The Stilwell Road refers to a section of the Burma Road by which Nationalist China was supplied by the United States and Great Britain during the War.
The unit known as Merrill’s Marauders is mentioned in the film. Officially designated by the uninspiring title of 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), the press tagged them as Merrill’s Marauders and thus they have come down through history. 3000 volunteers, most of them veterans of the fighting in the Pacific, including some veterans who volunteered from military stockades and who were known as The Dead End Kids, the Marauders were organized to fight behind Japanese lines. Led by Brigadier General Frank Merrill, the Marauders were trained in the deep penetration tactics supported by air drops pioneered by British General Orde Wingate, with Merrill throwing in some American touches, for example the importance of marksmanship, as old as Roger’s Rangers, wilderness fighters of the French and Indian War, famed for their long distance raids. Continue reading
I became a conservative by watching this speech on television a half century ago in 1964 at the age of seven. Barry Goldwater’s campaign was doomed ab initio, but this speech of Reagan on behalf of Goldwater launched Reagan’s meteoric political career that would see him elected President sixteen years later. What he said in that speech still defines American conservatism for me, and, I think, the vast majority of conservatives in this country. As the intellectual godfather of the modern conservative movement in America, Russell Kirk said:
Ronald Reagan will be remembered as the President who gave hope to the American people — even great expectations. Old sureties that the ritualistic liberal had mocked were unshaken in Ronald Reagan’s mind; and President Reagan’s reaffirmation of those ancient convictions began to arouse the nation from the discouragement of twenty years or more.
Contrary to some truly misguided individuals, conservatives do not “worship” Reagan. Reagan was simply a man, who made mistakes and had his share of human foibles and flaws. However, he has never been surpassed for his ability to articulate conservatism to the American people and to convince vast swathes of the American people to embrace conservatism. Reagan was the greatest conservative statesman in American history, and I pray that I will see a leader as great as him again in my lifetime, although I do not expect that I, or the country, will be that fortunate. Here is the text of what has become known as The Speech: Continue reading
Martin August Treptow was a barber from Cherokee, Iowa. Enlisting in the National Guard, during World War I his unit was called up and Treptow found himself in the 168th Infantry, part of the 42nd Division, called the Rainbow Division by Major Douglas MacArthur, who would rise during the War to eventually command the division, because it consisted of National Guard units that stretched across the country like a rainbow.
July 30th, 1918 was a hard day for the division. Participating in the Second Battle of the Marne which stopped the last major German offensive of the War and saved Paris from capture, the division was attempting to take Hill 212 on La Croix Rouge Farm and incurring heavy casualties. A message from Treptow’s unit needed to be taken to another platoon. Private Treptow did not hesitate, but grabbed the message and ran off with it. As he neared the platoon leader to deliver the message, Treptow was cut down by a burst of German fire. He was twenty-five years old. Sergeant Joyce Kilmer was killed on the same day, in the same battle, a little bit later. Go here to read about him. Continue reading
An interesting training film made by Warner Brothers for the United States Army Air Corps in 1943. Burgess Meredith has the feature role as the tail gunner in training. Ronald Reagan is in a supporting role as the pilot of the B-17. Both of them were Lieutenants in the Army Air Corps and both would complete their service as Captains. A cut above the usual training films of the period.
John C. Wright, Catholic convert and science fiction author, has a brilliant post at his blog, John Wright’s Journal, in which he examines the threat to freedom posed by the contemporary left:
It is darker than you think. Perhaps you have heard about speech codes on campus, about the intolerance of the Left, about their mob tactics, their fetid hypocrisy, and you thought we who complain about it were exaggerating.
You perhaps thought that, at least here in America, certain ideals and values were so much a part of our way of life, so deeply embedded into the hearts of the people, that there was no real threat to our beloved freedoms.
Those ideals and values are not a part of our way of life any longer. They have not been for twenty or thirty years. We are past the tipping point, and it will be a very, very difficult struggle to get back up the pebbly slope to the brink of the cliff down which we fell.
I could list any number of examples from my own field, starting with the expulsion of Theodore Beale from SWFA based on a false accusation by a leftist, going through my editor at Tor books having his child taken from him based on a false accusation, and ending with my agent at Tor books being fired due to a false accusation by a leftist.
I will content myself with a single item of evidence; you can find countless additional items from sources as wide ranging as the monstrous Peter Singer to the absurd Pajama Boy Ethan Krupp.
A creature named Korn writing in the Harvard Crimson calls for an end to Academic freedom.
I am not kidding, I am not exaggerating, and I am not making this up. Here is the link:
Allow me to quote at length, lest I be accused of misrepresenting the true sewer depth of evil being promoted here, the bland banality of the call for chains and gags. Continue reading
“Over half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: ‘Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this is happening.’ Since then I have spent well-nigh fifty years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some sixty million people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat; ‘Men have forgotten God; That’s why all this happened.'”
Today is the feast day of Saint Joseph the Worker, instituted by Pope Pius XII on May 1, 1955 as an alternative to the Communist May Day marches. Today is also the Victims of Communism Day. Hattip to Ilya Somin at The Volokh Conspiracy who began the campaign to make this day a day to remember the some one hundred million men, women and children murdered by Communist regimes and movements.
On this day we honor the victims of applied Marxism, but we also honor Pope John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Lech Walesa, Cardinal Mindszenty, Harry Truman, the American fighting man and his gallant allies, and all those other men and women, many known only to God, who led the ultimately successful fight against this abominable tyranny.
This is a good day to reread Divini Redemptoris, the encyclical, issued on the feast day of Saint Joseph in 1937, in which Pope Pius XI set forth that Communism and Christianity were completely antithetical. Continue reading
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
C.S. Lewis Continue reading
The things that you find on YouTube. Ronald Reagan in a training film for Army chaplains, For God and Country (1943). Much higher production values than the average training film, and I found it moving. Reagan was assigned to the 1rst Motion Picture Unit of the United States Army Air Corps. During the War it made some 400 training films for the Army.
Yet another social conservative yahoo railing about evil, abortion, and sin. A guy like this couldn’t even sniff the presidency.
Ht: Right Scoop for the video, and Rush Limbaugh for reminding us about it today.
Many have heard the term, The Family That Prays Together Stays Together. Yet, how many are familiar with the life of Father Patrick Peyton, his rosary rallies which drew millions, and Family Theater which he started in Hollywood in 1947 and is still going strong today? How many are aware that Father Patrick Peyton drew over 1,000,000 people to several rosary rallies in the 1950s. He even drew over 550,000 to a 1961 San Francisco Rosary Rally, six years before the city became a focal point for the 1960s counter culture revolution and subsequent 1967 Summer of Love. As you can see, when we turn our back to faith, we find ourselves going down a very slippery slope. Yet, Father Patrick Peyton was a true visionary. He saw the slippery morals in tinsel town long before the 1960s and knew he needed to do something to counterbalance what was going on. He knew of Hollywood’s bad influence and moral collapse long before most realized it, and yet he truly believed that Family Theater would one day bring faith back to Hollywood and all who are influenced by her.
Who was this Renaissance man, a man of wealth and privilege, a man of many letters? Hardly, Father Patrick Peyton CSC came to the US during his teen years, penniless, uneducated and according to the world’s precepts harboring little potential. However, before he left the docks of Ireland his mother told him in no uncertain terms that with the Blessed Mother’s aid, he could do great things. After doing manual work for the Holy Cross Fathers he was allowed to enter the seminary at Notre Dame. Yet, shortly before he was to be ordained, he received a dire medical prognosis and it appeared that not only was his ordination in question, but his life itself was in peril. He did the only thing he could, pray unceasingly. His prayers were answered and he thanked the Blessed Mother along with St Joseph, both of which he had a strong devotion. He along with his brother was ordained in 1941. Continue reading
Hattip to Pauli at Est Quod Est. A rising political storm is coming.
Kathryn Elizabeth “Kate” Smith (May 1, 1907 – June 17, 1986) was an American singer, best known for her rendition of Irving Berlin‘s “God Bless America“. Smith had a radio, television, and recording career spanning five decades, reaching its pinnacle in the 1940s.
Smith was born in Greenville, Virginia. Her professional musical career began in 1930, when she was discovered by Columbia Records vice president Ted Collins, who became her longtime partner and manager. Collins put her on radio in 1931. She appeared in 1932 in Hello Everybody!, with co-stars Randolph Scott and Sally Blane, and in the 1943 wartime movie This is the Army she sang “God Bless America”.
Late in the following video you’ll see a young Lt. Ronald Reagan make a cameo. 39 years later President Ronald Reagan awarded Kate Smith the Presidential Medal of Freedom America’s highest civilian honor.
(Biretta tip: Lucianne)