Category: Kate O’Hare

Easter Sunday: James Dean Proclaims the Resurrection in ‘Hill Number One’ on EWTN

James-Dean-Hill-Number-OneEverybody’s got to start somewhere, and for screen legend James Dean, that was Family Theater Productions.

One advantage of being founded in 1947 is that we’ve gotten to work with some of the biggest stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age — from Bing Crosby to Gregory Peck to Maureen O’Hara to Jimmy Durante.

On March 25, 1951, when the Korean War was in full swing, we released a TV special called “Hill Number One” (click here to watch). The reluctance of a group of American G.I.s to take one more hill on Easter Sunday provides the backdrop for an unusual retelling of the Passion, and that first hill, Golgotha, also known as Calvary.

Hill Number One 1

The cast includes Roddy McDowall as Pvt. Huntington (The Professor), Ruth Hussey as the Virgin Mary, Leif Erickson as Pilate, Joan Leslie as Claudia Procles, Jeanne Cagney (sister of James Cagney) as Mary Magdalene, Gene Lockhart as Matthew. and a very young James Dean — in his first speaking role — as John.



As described at the IMDB:

A respectful interpretation of what might have happened among Jesus’s followers in the three days before Crucifixion. The story is told in the modern context of an US Army company stationed in Korea during the Korean War.

As the Catholic chaplain (Gordon Oliver) tells the tale of the Crucifixion and Resurrection, the scene switches to Jerusalem. When the action returns to Korea, the chaplain finishes his talk with an exhortation to listen to Mary and pray always — and use the rosary.

He says, “Of course, the beads don’t tell it to me; I tell it to the beads. That’s what meditation is. That’s what prayer is.”


It’s a fitting addition, since FTP’s founder, Servant of God Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C. (above) — who produced the special  — was deeply devoted to Mary and to the rosary, earning the nickname “The Rosary Priest.” He appears at the end to speak about the thing dearest to his heart, getting families to pray the rosary together.

Click here to learn about his life and the cause for his sainthood.

As it did last Easter, “Hill Number One” airs Easter Sunday, April 16, on EWTN, at 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT.

The DVD of “Hill Number One” can be bought from the online store of Holy Cross Family Ministries, the parent organization of Family Theater, or from It can also be streamed on Amazon Prime Video,

Among the comments at Amazon, from “Chief”:

Just as I was walking out the door on my way to Church this past Easter my wife was channel surfing and this movie caught my eye. I was unable to watch it and of course by the time I returned from Mass it had ended. So the next day I looked it up on Amazon ordered it and to my delight it was available, delivered before the expected delivery date and in the condition stated. The movie is corny but the message is timeless and needed now more than ever in this country. This will become a staple for my Easter time movie watching in addition to Jesus of Nazareth.

Last but not least, a peek at James Dean:

Images: 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.

Christopher Awards: ‘Hacksaw Ridge,’ ‘This Is Us,’ Dolly Parton and More …

Hacksaw-Ridge-This-Is-Us-ChristophersHollywood can often seem hostile to family values, but The Christopher Awards intend to honor good where it can be found, whether in movies, television or books.

The Christopher Awards were created in 1949 to celebrate writers, producers, directors, authors and illustrators whose work “affirms the highest values of the human spirit.”

Today, March 28, The Christophers — founded by Maryknoll priest Father James Keller in 1945 — released the 68th Annual Christopher Award winners, to be presented in New York City on May 16.

Said director of communications Tony Rossi:

“The powerful love of family is a thread in so many of our winning projects this year, be it family we’re related to by blood or those whose kindness and selflessness lead us to form an emotional and spiritual connection with them. These are the kinds of bonds that can change people’s lives and change the world.”

The movie winners are “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Hidden Figures,” “The Hollars” and “Queen of Katwe” (or own Father David Guffey reviewed that one). Said “Hidden Figures” director Ted Melfi (a previous winner for “St. Vincent” in 2014):

“Movies that entertain are the norm, but films that enlighten, educate and inspire are so rare, yet so important and the Christopher Award shines light on these films, further illuminating their footprint on the planet. As one candle has the ability to cast out darkness, such is the power of one film to impact hearts and minds for the better. It’s truly an honor to be considered for a Christopher Award…and an incredible blessing to be awarded one.”

The TV offerings blend TV-movies, scripted series and documentary. They are “60 Minutes: Gold Star Parents,” “America ReFramed: In the Game,” “Born This Way: Bachelor Pad,” “Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love,” “Marathon: The Patriots Day Bombing” and hit freshman drama “This Is Us” (I had my say on that one).

Click here to read the whole release, including the rundown of worthy books for adults and young people.

Image: Courtesy NBC/Lionsgate

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.

Almsgiving for Lent: A TV Ad Nails the Message of Giving Back

State-Farm-Neighborhood-Volunteer-Alms-LentIt’s amazing how a secular ad agency can sometimes nail an essential tenet of Christianity, without necessarily meaning to do so.

We all want to help, and we’re bombarded with messages about helping — and during Lent especially, we’re commanded to give alms — but at what point do we actually reach out a hand to our fellow creatures?

Kudos to State Farm Insurance for summing it up in one short, heartfelt video, set to Joy Williams’ cover version of “Don’t Let Me Down,” by the Chainsmokers.

It’s a great reminder of the power of sound and images to touch the heart and the mind.

We also did a little video about Lent:

Image: Courtesy State Farm Insurance

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.

Happy Birthday, William Shatner — Thanks for Working With Us!

William-Shatner-The-Soldier-ffbIn the early ’60s, before he landed the gig on “Star Trek,” which premiered in 1966, William Shatner was just another young actor in Hollywood looking for interesting work.

Among the places he landed was Family Theater Productions, on Sunset Boulevard, run at that time by its founder, Irish-born Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C. Among FTP’s projects released in 1962 was a series of short films that were meditations on the Psalms, and Shatner appeared in three of them.

The first one features his narration and focuses on Psalm 83:

The next one features Psalm 3:

The last one, with Psalm 41, also gave an aspiring filmmaker his first official credit, as an assistant cameraman.

His name was George Lucas.

Shatner continues to be a force in entertainment and on Twitter. He turns 86 today and shows no signs of slowing down.

Happy Birthday!


Image: Courtesy Family Theater Productions/Wikimedia Commons: Gage Skidmore

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.

What ‘This Is Us’ and Jack Teach Us About Fatherhood on St. Joseph’s Day

This-Is-Us-Milo-Ventimiglia-Mandy-Moore-ffbNBC’s hit family drama “This Is Us” just ended its first season — to a chorus of strong emotional reactions. For the sake of those who haven’t seen it yet, I won’t go into what happened, but a lot of the show is about fatherhood, and that’s very appropriate for today, March 20, the Feast Day of St. Joseph.

Joseph, a simple but honorable carpenter in Nazareth, was the spouse of Mary. He not only had to take on the notion of a wife who became pregnant by supernatural means, but raising a child who was also the Son of God. Now, THAT’S a dad.

“This Is Us” looks at a family at two points in time: the past, when the young parents, Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore), are dealing with marriage and raising triplets, including an adopted child, taken in after one of the triplets dies at birth; and, in the present day, as the siblings (Chrissy Metz, Sterling K. Brown, Justin Hartley) in their mid-30s, deal with dating, marriage, divorce, kids, etc.

We see Jack raising his own children, and then, after his death, his divorced friend Miguel (Jon Huertas), stepping in as a stepfather, with all the complications that brings.

In the present day, daughter Kate (Metz) has a lot of issues surrounding the loss of her father (she still watches football games with the urn containing his ashes). At the same time, adopted Randall (Brown) is in the middle of an emotional maelstrom with his birth father, William (Ron Cephas Jones), whom Randall just found, but who has been dying of cancer. Randall is also a loving father of two daughters himself, with patient wife Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson).

The show deals realistically with a lot of the challenges and joys of being a dad, but it offers a portrayal of fatherhood that’s much too rare in today’s entertainment. Today, many young men are reluctant to get married, let alone become fathers. And a lot of TV fathers — and real fathers — seem to be willing to do anything to get away from their wives and kids for a time.

But Jack, the son of an abusive father, has desperately wanted to be the dad he never had, and to be there for his children. He’s sacrificed for them, taken jobs he didn’t want, swallowed his pride to ask his father for money to get a home, and even sold his prized car.

As hard as he tries, Jack’s not perfect. There are some marital issues, there’s drinking, and there are times he’s working too much.

But in one episode, called “The Big Day” — a prequel that shows what led up to the triplets’ birth — which aired in January, Jack is out with Miguel and other friends at the golf course. There, the guys explain how golf is their escape, how it gets them away from their wives and families for “five blissful hours.”

Even though very pregnant Rebecca is a little nuts at the time, Jack doesn’t want to get away from her. He says, “I want to freeze time just so I can get a little more.”

The same episode featured firefighter Joe — seen briefly in the pilot — who brought the abandoned baby that would grow up to be Randall to the hospital, after he was left at the fire station. In “The Big Day,” the firefighter, who’s a sincere Catholic, confesses to his priest about the breakdown of his childless marriage.

Joe first brings the baby home to his wife, in hopes of salvaging the relationship, but she orders him to take the infant to the hospital. But later, when they talk again, the wife admits that his gesture touched her heart.

They reconnect with the love they felt at the beginning and go out with a coffee date.

And it doesn’t end in youth. Obstetrician Dr. Katowski, or Dr. K. (Gerald McRaney), reflects on picking up the pieces after the death of his wife. Years before, they lost a child, which inspires him to suggest that Jack and Rebecca adopt Randall. But first, he needs to tell his own worried children that he will grieve and move on at his own speed and in his own way.

Here’s the promo:

Life is complicated on “This Is Us,” just as it is in reality — the family is nominally Christian but not churchgoers, and there are some edgy elements — but one of the strongest messages that comes through is that fathers matter, fathers can love their families just as much as mothers do, and that, if we didn’t have good fathers, we aren’t necessarily doomed to repeat the mistakes.

With hope and faith, there’s always a choice to be better and do better.

That’s a message lots of fathers — and mothers — need to hear every single day. You can do this, and despite all the trials and heartbreaks, it’s worth it.

You can watch the whole first season of “This Is Us” at, or at Hulu.

Image: Courtesy NBC

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.

Patrick, Francis and ‘City of Saints’ — New Saintly Stories

City-of-SaintsMarch 17 is St. Patrick’s feast day, but as all Catholics know, we are surrounded by a cloud of saintly witnesses every day of the year.

Now, the Augustine Institute and the Norbertines of Saint Michael’s Abbey are offering new ways to see and hear saintly stories.


Released today, “The Trials of Saint Patrick,” the second production from the Augustine Institute Radio Theatre, tells the truth behind the legend. From the homepage:

The Trials of Saint Patrick tells the dramatic story of how a kidnapped slave risked his life to become a champion of the Christian faith to the outer-reaches of the Roman Empire. With the Augustine Institute Radio Theatre’s high-quality acting, cinematic sound design and musical score, the much-loved Saint Patrick will be seen in a fresh new light.

Augustine Institute audio dramas capture the power and passion of the most compelling stories on the best theatre screen there is: your imagination.

You can listen to episode one by clicking here.

Brother-Francis-Augustine-LighthouseIt follows on the earlier release of “Brother Francis: The Barefoot Saint of Assisi” (the link also features a trailer video).

It’s described as:

A young man of wealth who became a traumatized prisoner of war and outcast. A holy beggar, he embraced the lepers, challenged a Pope, debated a Sultan and shook his world to its very core. Discover the Francis you never knew in Brother Francis. The Barefoot Saint of Assisi. 10 exciting episodes with over 50 actors capturing the power and passion of Francis of Assisi.

Both are available on CD, from Lighthouse Catholic Media.

Also, in the inbox today landed “City of Saints,” a seven-episode series from the Norbertines of Saint Michael’s Abbey (in Orange County, California), and Kinnane Films.

We don’t know much about it yet, except the trailer (click here for that; it can’t be embedded), which shows scenes of the Norbertines and of various people, says that the series tells seven true stories, and reminds is that “Every saint has a history; every sinner has a future.”

If you enter your email, the first episode lands in your own inbox on Monday, April 10.

If you don’t know about the Norbertine Fathers, here’s a little vignette of their communal life, from 2010:

Image: Norbertines of Saint Michael’s Abbey/Kinnane Films

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.