Category: Christians working in Arts and Media

Venerable Father Patrick Peyton — A Newly Ordained Priest

A newly ordained priest, recovering from near-fatal illness, looked at the world and prayed. He saw a world filled with violence, families torn apart, a pace of life that made it increasingly difficult for individuals to find time to be with people they love the most.

Authentic prayer would lead to peace. He believed in the presence of God, the compassion of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and the goodness of people. He did not despair. He turned to prayer, and there he found hope and began a project that would consume his whole life.

That young priest was Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C., who this week was declared Venerable by Pope Francis.

Previously he was named Servant of God, and being declared Venerable moves Father Peyton one more step up the rung toward possible sainthood. Learn more about him here.

The project idea that came to Peyton arose from his own experience growing up poor in Ireland and later emigrating to the United States. On the hardest days of work on the farm, the most discouraging days of poverty, Peyton’s family, (mother, father and nine siblings) gathered together each evening to pray the Rosary. The prayer gave them strength and consolation.

Later, as the siblings moved away to find work, many of them to United States, Peyton found that prayer sustained the unity of their family across great distances. He had a foundation of faith and love wherever he found himself. He knew he was not alone, and that he was loved. He wanted others to know that, too.

So, he started a national campaign to promote family prayer, especially the Rosary.

Not even five years ordained, and he had written every bishop in the country about his project. They responded enthusiastically. When offered radio time on a local station in Albany, New York, Peyton grabbed the chance. The response was overwhelming.

Peyton realized that the way to reach people was over the airwaves with mass media. In 1946, Father Peyton turned to Bishop Fulton Sheen, who advised the young priest on how to proceed. Within three years, Father Peyton had come to Hollywood and started a national radio program on the Mutual Broadcasting Network.

When searching for a tag line for his radio show, Peyton enlisted the help of ad writer Al Scapone. They came up with the slogan, “The Family That Prays Together, Stays Together,” now known all over the world. Peyton and the staff at Family Theater Productions produced radio plays with stars like Jimmy Stewart, Lucille Ball, Loretta Young, Kirk Douglas and Gregory Peck.

Radio led to film and TV projects, books and massive public prayer rallies in cities around the world, on six of the seven continents. (Sorry Antarctica.)

Here is an excerpt from a TV special, in which he prays the Rosary with Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta …

Father Peyton died in 1992 in San Pedro, California, cared for by the Little Sisters of the Poor. He had remained in California, so that to his end here on earth, he could continue his work at Family Theater, inspiring and encouraging families through media. His last projects were TV specials and a series of stories for teens.

As I write this, I am sitting in the very office that Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C., worked in for the last 32 years of his life. I am sure that if he were here today he would be working with our production team making videos, posting messages on Facebook and photos on Instagram.

He would be doing it for the same reason our team here does it today.  We see a world filled with violence, families torn apart, a pace of life that makes it increasingly difficult for individuals to find time to be with people they love the  most.

We believe in the presence of God, the compassion of Mary the Mother of Jesus, and the goodness of people. Authentic prayer will lead to peace.

Father David Guffey, C.S.C., is the Head of Production for Family Theater Productions on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California.

Image: Family Theater Productions

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

Venerable Father Peyton — The Power of Family Prayer

On Tuesday, Dec. 19, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis had approved a declaration naming Family Theater Productions’ founder, Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C., as “Venerable.”

He was previously named Servant of God, and this change moves him one step closer to sainthood (learn more here).

It’s a little crazy to think that a man who spent much of his priestly life in the heart of Hollywood (even today, our local neighborhood includes a strip joint) — and, having worked with many big stars, could properly be called a Hollywood producer — may one day become a saint.

But Venerable Father Peyton didn’t set out to be a producer, that was just the means he used to promote the idea of family prayer, especially the rosary.

As he famously said, “The family that prays together stays together.”

Over the last couple of years, we’ve spoken to Catholics at the annual Religious Education Congress in Anaheim, California, about a variety of subjects, including Family Prayer and, specifically, Father Peyton.

Here are some of them.

First, Bishop Vann, the Bishop of the Diocese of Orange (which includes Anaheim), talking about his own work promoting family prayer and what Father Peyton means to him:

Next is Joseph Nesta, the Senior Community Relations Officer for Immaculate Heart Radio, who speaks movingly of his personal connection to the Venerable Father Peyton and his work:

Finally, here’s Patrick Coffin, former host of “Catholic Answers Live” and currently podcasting and blogging at his own Websites — PatrickCoffin.net and PatrickCoffin.media — with a short and sweet message about Father Peyton and the power of family prayer:

And if you don’t know where to start, here’s Coffin’s own personal family prayer:

Image: Family Theater Productions

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

3 for Tuesday: ‘The Middle,’ ‘Scrooged,’ ‘Kranks’

The Middle

Our biweekly TV family-viewing guide returns with three choices between Tuesday and Thursday, starting with the Christmas episode from the final season of one of America’s favorite sitcoms, starring one of our favorite Catholic stars.

The Middle: The Christmas Miracle — Tuesday, 8 p.m., ABC

From ABC:

It’s Christmastime, and Frankie (Patricia Heaton) and Sue (Eden Sher) are devastated after Axl (Charlie McDermott) informs them that he’s not going to church this year because he’s beginning to question his faith. Meanwhile, Mike (Neil Flynn) goes to war with the Glossner kids after they keep defacing his new, giant inflatable snowman; and Brick (Atticus Shaffer) goes all out in an attempt to wrap his first present for a planned Christmas Yankee Swap.

Here’s a promo:

Fans know that Heaton is a devout Catholic, but they may not be aware that Atticus Shaffer is also an outspoken Christian. Here’s a clip of his appearance on season 2 of the interview show “Frankly Faraci” on Dove Channel (click here for season one; click here for info on season 2 on Dove Channel).

MythBusters: Star Wars Myths Countdown — Wednesday, 8 p.m., Science Channel

With “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” hitting theaters this weekend, seems like a good time for the MythBusters to look at the scientific truth behind a lot of the show’s most spectacular special effects.

Speaking of the movie, here’s an extended trailer:

Christmas With the Kranks (2004) — Thursday, 8 p.m., Lifetime

This one wound up on the USCCB’s list of recommended Christmas movies, Here’s what the U.S. bishops had to say:

Delightful yuletide comedy about a Chicago couple (Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis) who boycott Christmas after their daughter leaves home to join the Peace Corps, sparking unforeseen reactions from their militantly merry neighbors (led by Dan Aykroyd). The film is based on the novella “Skipping Christmas” by John Grisham. Director Joe Roth delivers a dose of holly-jolly fun that is, by turns, extremely funny and poignantly tender, and its warmhearted message of selflessness, family and coming together as a community clearly embodies the truest spirit of the season. Some suggestive humor, comic violence and mildly crude language.

See you later with 5 for Friday, looking forward to the weekend.

Image: Courtesy ABC

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

Golden Globe Awards: A Few Things to Remember

The Golden Globe Awards nominations came out today. Some folks are cheering; some are cranky; many are both.

Some films and TV shows got lots of love from the voters in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, some got bits, others got none.

In the current climate of scandal in Hollywood, how are we to think about nominations? Among the films and TV shows getting nods are those that celebrate objectively sinful behavior; among those snubbed are ones with uplifting or positive themes (but we are happy to see NBC’s family-centric drama “This Is Us” getting several nods).

Unless recent trends take a 180-degree turn, the Golden Globes broadcast, airing Jan. 7 on NBC, with host Seth Myers, will be rife with political references and jokes, generally at the expense of one side of the aisle.

So, what are Catholics to do?

Here are some helpful things to remember:

People in the entertainment industry (and the journalists that cover it) are not a representative demographic sampling of the general American populace — politically, ideologically, socially or religiously. While that has always been true to an extent, it has become much more publicly obvious in recent decades.

Long ago, Hollywood felt obligated to reflect the likes and interests of the general American public — and to appear to be in agreement with it on major issues — but now it feels more obligated to represent its own interests. The people still speak at the box office, but theirs is not the only voice.

Some entertainment is produced to answer a need and want from the public — hence the popularity of Hallmark’s feel-good Christmas movies, for example — and some is produced based on concepts that have a proven track record (like comic books, young-adult books, video games or bestselling novels).

Other movies and TV shows represent either the passions and interests of those making them, or are designed to appeal to a very specific audience. Among these people, such projects may be considered the highest form of art and tremendously compelling, while to the general public, they may be unappealing, bewildering or even appalling.

If, say, faithful Catholics overwhelmingly ran studios and TV networks, were top agents and screenwriters, financiers and producers, then the landscape would be dramatically different.

That’s emphatically not the case.

People in Hollywood generally tell stories for two reasons (or some combination of the two reasons): to make money, or to satisfy a longing of their hearts.

As a radio friend of mine is wont to say, that which gets rewarded gets repeated. If content that Catholics and other Christians don’t find appealing still makes lots of money, more will get made. If good things come out — like “The Star,” for example — and they don’t make lots of money, more may not be made, at least by major studios.

But if Christians have a longing in their hearts to tell a story that reflects their sensibilities, many will find a way. The same is true of other folks whose hearts and sensibilities tend in very different directions.

And many of these other folks are also awards voters. Like anyone else, they vote for what they like and ignore what they don’t. If they don’t like the same things as you, well, that’s life.

So, to expect awards shows to honor only movies we love and find worthy is to be perpetually disappointed. To expect Hollywood folks to not expound upon their beliefs at awards shows is just as futile.

In the end, our power lies in choice: to see a movie or TV show or not, and to watch an awards show, or not.

Whether Hollywood responds to those choices and makes some changes … well, I’m hopeful but not optimistic.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

‘The Ten Commandments’ Found (or at Least the 1923 Movie Set)

Set of “The Ten Commandments” (1923)

Archaeologists have excavated a sphinx from the sand, and they didn’t have to leave California to do it.

On Dec. 4, 1923, director Cecil B. DeMille’s first — B&W and silent — version of “The Ten Commandments” had its Los Angeles premiere, at the Grauman Egyptian Theater. More than 50 years later, in 1956, DeMille returned to the story in a full-color, widescreen spectacular, starring Charlton Heston as Moses.

The Egyptian scenes from the original film were built at the Guadalupe-Nipomo sand dunes on the Central California coast, between San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara.

From Deadline.com:

Long before the days of green screen, motion capture, and CG, DeMille had Paul Iribe, a designer known for his spectacular art deco work, to construct a massive set that was 12 stories high and 800 feet wide on the Guadalupe-Nipomo sand dunes. Like the film, the set was ambitious in scale, but as soon as the film wrapped DeMille realized it was too expensive too move and he didn’t want another filmmaker using it. That said, he had it buried.

In early November, archaeologists exploring the dunes unearthed the head of a sphinx, made of Plaster of Paris and weighing about 300 pounds. Even though the film was in black and white, it — like the rest of the set — is painted in brilliant colors.

The saga of finding and digging up DeMille’s 95-year-old set is a story in itself. Back in the ’80s, filmmaker Peter Brosnan heard about the set and wanted to find it. But, he faced headwinds from environmental preservationists, and the actual dig didn’t begin until many years later.

In 2017, he released a documentary called “The Lost City of Cecil B. DeMille,” which includes footage of the dig and interviews with local residents who saw the filming back in the ’20s. Also appearing in the film are DeMille, niece Agnes DeMille, granddaughter Cecelia DeMille Presley (who wrote a book not long ago), Heston and producer A.C. Lyles.

Here’s the trailer:

Sadly, many movie and TV sets, costumes and props have been considered junk once the project ends, winding up recycled, discarded or warehoused. So, much of Hollywood history has been lost, along with the work of countless craftsmen.

Luckily, remnants of the 1923 “The Ten Commandments” are once again seeing the light of day — and you can view the results of the dig.

From Variety:

 The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. is among the organizations helping fund the costly excavation activities. The artifacts can be viewed at the Dunes Center museum in Guadalupe, where the latest sphinx head will go on display in summer, 2018.

Image: Courtesy Paramount Pictures

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

3 for Tuesday: ‘Rudolph,’ Rockefeller Center (with Pentatonix) and ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’

One great thing about the Christmas TV season is older generations get to share with the next generation the beloved holiday specials they grew up on. This week is a prime example.

All times Eastern (check local listings for time and channel in your area.)

For those who’d rather listen than read, here’s an audio version of this post:

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Tuesday, 8 p.m., CBS

First aired in 1964, this stop-motion animated special has spawned scads of Christmas decorations, toys and games. But strangely enough, no one has tried to do a live-action feature-film version. THANK THE LORD– because modern Hollywood would try to make it either crass or intentionally meaningful, and either would ruin it.

Based on the song of the same name, this apparently simple story of an outcast reindeer that saves Christmas is a light but surprisingly deep tale. It speaks to anyone who’s ever been rejected, who stepped out of a comfort zone, had an adventure, made new friends, helped the despondent, grew up and faced fears head-on, and was forgiving enough to save the day — even for those who persecuted him.

This is one of the Christmas specials that doesn’t mention Christ, but for a reindeer, Rudolph is a pretty good Christian.

On a personal note, Clarice is my spirit animal. Girl knew a good thing when she saw it.

And the songs are unforgettable, like these:

Christmas in Rockefeller Center, Wednesday, 8 p.m., NBC

The magnificent tree outside iconic Rockefeller Center in midtown Manhattan — home to NBC and very near to St. Patrick’s Cathedral — lights up in this annual special. Among the performers are Brett Eldredge, Jennifer Nettles, Leslie Odom Jr., Pentatonix, Gwen Stefani and The Tenors. Doing hosting duties are “Today” regulars Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb and Al Roker.

Here’s a little background on this year’s tree:

And here’s this year new Christmas video from Pentatonix, “Away in a Manger” …

A Charlie Brown Christmas — Thursday, 8 p.m., ABC

This 1965 “Peanuts” classic has a lot going for it: Charles Schulz’ immortal characters, sharp wit, a great jazz score by Vince Guaraldi, Snoopy and the Christmas lights, a sad little tree and, most wonderful of all, a Gospel recitation of the true meaning of Christmas that probably wouldn’t make it past today’s PC censors.

Take it away, Linus:

Whether intentionally or not, when Linus begins his recitation from the Nativity narrative in the Gospel of Luke, he’s bathed in pink and purple — the colors of Advent, which begins this Sunday.

So, do you have the Advent wreath and purple and rose candles ready to go? Is the Advent calendar on the wall?

After all, we’re Catholics, and we’ll celebrate no Christmas before its time (and then we’ll keep celebrating it for a good long time).

What’s Advent, you say? If you’ve got two minutes, this video from Busted Halo is happy to explain:

Image: Courtesy Warner Bros/CBS

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions