Before Video: A History of the Non-Theatrical Film

By Anthony Slide | Go to book overview

Dr. Bob Jones, Jr., president of the university since its renaming from Bob Jones College in 1947, pointed out, "An angel is a messenger and our films are films with a message." 28

The first two productions of Unusual Films, released in 1951, were Light of the World, an "illustrated sermon" based on a popular message frequently preached by Bob Jones, Sr., and a feature-length production, shot in color, of Shakespeare Macbeth.

A number of illustrative sermon films were produced in the early years, but it quickly became apparent that the university's background in classical theatre made Unusual Films best suited to the production of dramatic films. Wine of Morning, released in 1954 and based on the life of Barabbas, was a two-hour drama that became immediately successful within the conservative Christian community and set the tone for future productions. It also led to the university's offering Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts degrees in film production. Unusual Films and Dr. Stenholm were founding members of the University Film Producers Association (now the University Film and Video Association); through the efforts of that organization, Wine of Morning was selected to represent the United States at a special university division of the 1958 Cannes Film Festival.

Later Unusual Films productions include Red Runs the River ( 1963), Flame in the Wind ( 1971), Sheffey ( 1978), Beyond the Night ( 1983), and The Printing ( 1990). The large-scale nature of these productions is primarily due to the support services provided by Bob Jones University, including the participation of students and faculty as performers, catering by the University Dining Common, and recording by the University Orchestra of scores provided by the music faculty. With the exception of laboratory work, every aspect of production, from script to screen, is handled in- house, with the films intended as a ministry rather than for profit.

America's best regarded evangelist Billy Graham was a student at Bob Jones College for four months in 1936-1937; he left because he was more interested in baseball than in the school's academic teachings. In 1951, Graham founded Billy Graham Evangelistic Films, Inc., which produced documentaries of Graham's crusades and fictional evangelical subjects under the direction of Richard Ross. The company name was changed to World Wide Pictures in 1957, at which time it was merged with Ross' Great Commission Film Company.


NOTES
1.
Orrin G. Cocks, "Libraries and Motion Pictures--An Ignored Educational Agency," Library Journal, vol. XIX, no. 9 ( September 1914), p. 666.

-73-

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Before Video: A History of the Non-Theatrical Film
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions to the Study of Mass Media and Communications ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction ix
  • Notes xii
  • One Origins 1
  • Notes 16
  • Two Chicago-- the Non-Theatrical Film Capital of the World 19
  • Notes 31
  • Three the Eastman Kodak Connection 33
  • Notes 43
  • Four Specialization 45
  • Five Film in Education and Religion 59
  • Notes 73
  • Six the Chronicles of America 75
  • Notes 87
  • Seven the 1930s and 1940s 89
  • Notes 105
  • Eight Decades of Progress and Prosperity 107
  • Notes 120
  • Nine the Waning Years 123
  • Notes 136
  • Appendix A: Major Non- Theatrical Distributors of the 1920s 137
  • Appendix B: Major Non-Theatrical 16mm Distributors of the 1930s 141
  • Appendix C: Major Non-Theatrical 16mm Distributors of the 1940s 145
  • Appendix D: Useful Non-Theatrical Addresses 151
  • Selected Bibliography 155
  • Index 161
  • About the Author 172
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