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Mormons & Hollywood: 5 Fun Facts

Jamie Lawson - August 29, 2013

The history of Mormons and Hollywood is more exciting and far-reaching than most people realize. Check out these five ways Church members have left their mark in television and on the silver screen.

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1. Battlestar Galactica, a television series that aired in 1978 and 1979, was created by Church member Glen A. Larson and includes several references to Mormon doctrine.

For example, in the show, the colonies originated from the planet Kobol (thought to be an anagram of Kolob) and were governed by a "council" or "quorum" of twelve. And in the episode War of the Gods, Part 2, angels (or advanced beings) explain, "As you are now, we once were; as we are now, we may become." Sound familiar? Compare it to Lorenzo Snow's famous couplet, "As man is now, God once was; as God is now, man may become." Even marriages were referred to as sealings that lasted "not only for now, but for all eternity."

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Larson also worked on other popular television shows such as The Six Million Dollar Man, The Fall Guy, Magnum P.I., and Knight Rider.

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Photo from imdb.com

2. LDS artist Arnold Friberg worked as chief artist-designer for the film The Ten Commandments, influencing everything from costumes to set design.

Cecil B. DeMille hired Friberg after Swedish publisher Herman Stolpe showed him Friberg's paintings. DeMille was so impressed with The Finger of the Lord (Friberg's depiction of the Brother of Jared in amazement of the finger of God) that it became the inspiration for Moses's costume in the burning bush scene. Friberg received an Academy Award nomination for his work on the film.

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Photo from imdb.com

3. LDS composer Leigh Harline wrote the famous Disney song "When You Wish Upon a Star," for which he won two Academy Awards: Best Original Music Score and Best Original Song.

After being hired by Walt Disney, Harline scored more than 50 songs and worked on favorites such as "Whistle While You Work," "Heigh Ho," and "Someday My Prince Will Come."

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Photo from imdb.com

4. Dean Jagger, who depicted the title character in the 1940 film Brigham Young, joined the Church later in life.

Until Jagger starred in Brigham Young, he was a little-known actor. He went on to star in White Christmas and Twelve O'Clock High, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Jagger joined the Church in his late 60s after marrying Etta Mae Norton, who was a Mormon.

Another fun fact: for the making of Brigham Young, Twentieth Century Fox consulted with Church historians and leaders, including President Heber J. Grant.

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Photo from imdb.com

5. Reccently, two movies hit theaters based on novels by LDS authors: Austenland and Ender's Game.

The film Austenland is based on the novel by Shannon Hale. It is the story of a 30-something woman's experience during her stay at a Jane Austen-themed getaway. In fact, Twilight author Stephenie Meyer produced the film, with fellow LDS women Shannon Hale and Jerusha Hess (who co-wrote the screenplays for Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre with her husband) as the screenwriters. (Read a Q&A with Shannon Hale and Jerusha Hess here.) The cast includes Keri Russell, Jane Seymore, and Jennifer Coolidge.

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Austenland is currently in theaters. (Photo from imdb.com)

Ender's Game, released in the U.S. on November 1, is based on the science fiction novel by LDS author Orson Scott Card. It is the story of a young, shy, brilliant boy who is recruited to join International Fleet and battle an alien race after Earth is attacked. The cast includes Harrison Ford, with Orson Scott Card making a voice cameo as Pilot.

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Ender's Game hit theaters on November 1, 2013. (Photo from imdb.com)


Click here to read 5 more fun facts about Mormons in Hollywood. 

Comments 6 comments

grobyn said...

06:46 AM
on Aug 29, 2013

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Interesting that they didn't mention the Twilight phenomenon. The books were okay, but the screen adaptations were NOT "anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy". Just a bunch of worldly hyped-up trash....

traveler said...

06:52 AM
on Aug 29, 2013

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Interesting bits of trivia!Now,where is the effort to make the Book of Mormon into a motion picture(series?)on the epic,massive scale and quality of "Lord of the Rings",starting with Mosiah's founding of a represntative republic,through Moroni raising the Title of of Liberty,Helaman and the Striplings,the exploits ot Teancum etc.to the Savior's first coming. It's all there,the technology,massive action scenes,romance,love,betrayal,personal struggles,emotional conflicts, etc., everything needed to produce a powerful film(s) of man's age old war with good against evil. There is also that not so subtle comparison to this nation's founding and the subsequent events leading to this very today and beyond, as we look to the second coming.And the wondrous beauty is,this is a true story!

elarue said...

07:02 AM
on Aug 29, 2013

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I actually watched the 1978 Battlestar Galactica online (I was too young to see it broadcast live), and yes, I noticed plenty of LDS elements in there. I haven't watched the reimagined series, but from what I heard, didn't they dilute the LDS elements for the reimagined version? Just curious.

traveler said...

07:43 AM
on Aug 29, 2013

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Elarue; yes, the 'reimagined'BG was diluted, and that is being polite! Grobyn; I agree100+% on your assessment of the Twilight series.I can't imagine the Savior justifying or having anything to do with vampires,changlings,etc. in any format or context.

samepeterson said...

01:51 PM
on Aug 29, 2013

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Dennis H. Christen author of the novel, LUNDON'S BRIDGE AND THE THREE KEYS and soon to be made movie starring Michael Jackson's daughter, Paris Jackson, and produced by Christen, Stephen Sobisky, Lee Baker, Larry Call, Ryan Engemann and April Frampton, all of whom are LDS. Besides Dennis Christen, three members of the cast, Shawn King, Sunhee Kim and Jay Christen are also members of the church. www.lundons.com

jennya said...

03:21 PM
on Sep 20, 2014

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James Dashner, whose Maze Runner was just made into a movie (which opens this very weekend) is also LDS.
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