More than 60 years ago at the dawn of the sound era in film, my grandfather, Lester Card [sic: should be "Park"], whose dream it was to make movies, put all of his money, and the money of everybody he ever met, into a feature length movie entitled Corianton which opened in Utah in 1931 and flopped miserably.
Every dime was lost. There was great controversy about it; many of the people who had invested did not understand about risk investment, they felt they had been cheated. He left the state and never produced another feature film, though he did a lot of educational films, documentaries, that sort of thing.
He made a lot of mistakes in the making of the film, and I'll talk about some of those a little bit later on, but it existed. Now it's only a bunch of reels of film stored in my uncle's barn in Fenton City, Washington. But it existed then because he dreamed of doing something for his people, to his people, for his God. It was the first LDS commercial feature film, and to my knowledge it remains the only LDS commercial feature film. Maybe I'm mistaken on that, correct me later, but we're here because we are every bit as foolish as my grandfather was. We dream his dream...
I want to come back to my grandfather, Lester Park and the movie Corianton. He learned Cecil B. DeMille's lesson. He learned the Cecil B. DeMille formula which is, you have a scriptural story that is inspirational at its ending, but you have some sex along the way. So he chose the one story in the Book of Mormon that has any sex in it. In fact, it's one of the few women named in the Book of Mormon--Isabel the Harlot... But the reason that it flopped in Utah is because Mormons were outraged. The same Mormons who loved everything Cecil B. DeMille did and flocked to it. And the reason is they can take it from the world because they know it's the world!
...these days Mormons are writing their own scripts, depicting themselves in their own way and taking their own heat from the critics.
...Orson Scott Card, a long-time champion of LDS art, laughs off the criticism of Mormon film, but at the same time he cautions that when the novelty of LDS films wears off, quality will have to carry the genre.
Card is an award-winning author who has published in both mainstream and LDS markets. His mainstream work includes the science fiction "Homecoming" series and "Ender's Game," a book that is being developed for a movie of its own, according to Card's website. He spoke to The Herald Journal by telephone interview.
"God's Army" came to Card's town in North Carolina, he said, and he applauded the movie. It was courageous work, he said, and it created a genre. He hopes the success can continue, following in the footsteps of LDS printed media.
Mormon fiction didn't exist until the 1970s, he said; now it's a real genre.
Jack Weyland's novel "Charly" has even been made into an LDS movie.
Card would like to see Mormon film enjoy the same success that LDS fiction has seen. The fact that there are Mormon films means two things about Mormon culture, Card said: First, Mormons have become diverse enough to accept seeing opinions on-screen that might differ from their own. A successful Mormon film will still have to be loyal to the faith, he said, but people are less easily offended than they once were.
Second, the rash of Mormon films shows that Mormons are numerous enough to support the genre. Without a "critical mass," he said, the films would never re-coup their production costs.
Card grew up knowing Mormon films could fail; his grandfather, Lester Park, made "Corianton" in 1931. It tanked. Why? "The audience was too small, the rigidity (of the audience) was too great, and the film wasn't very good," Card said...
Web page created 7 March 2002. Last modified 11 February 2003.