The first film made by the Mormon Church that I saw knocked me over. It was called “Man’s Search for Happiness”. It was so skillfully made and had such wacky ideas. It was like no other film I had ever seen. I had to see more. See notes at bottom.
You Make The Difference (1967) excerpt
Man’s Search for Happiness (1964)
The Mailbox (1977)
How Do I Love Thee (1965)
The first film made by the Mormon Church that I saw knocked me over. It was called “Man’s Search for Happieness“. It was so skillfully made and had such wacky ideas. It was like no other film I had ever seen. It was made for the Mormon Pavillion at the New York Worlds Fair of 1964. It was made by Wetzel Whitaker. He had worked for Disney in the Thirties and Forties and upon retiring to Salt Lake City in the Fifties took it upon himself to create a film studio to produce films promoting the Mormon Church. The film was shot in Technicolor. It had a wonderful mix of high production values along with over the top dialogue.
I wanted to see more.
The next one I saw was “How Do I Love Thee”. It is about Jan. Jan’s new boyfriend, Brad, gets advice from a frat brother who looks just like young Bill Clinton. Young Bill tells Brad that the physical act is the only proof of real love. Jan asks her roommate Penny for advice. Penny tells her to put out. Jan asks “What about my self respect?” Penny answers “Self respect doesn’t matter when you’re in love.” Jan sticks to her guns.Brad walks out on her. Jan anguishes. Finally Brad breaks down and takes Jan back. They go to the big dance, where Jan recites “How Do I Love Thee” to him. They realize they can wait and their love is forever.
I liked it even more than the first one.
Both “Man’s Search for Happiness” and “How Do I Love Thee” were made by Wetzel Whitaker. He was the genius behind dozens of short films made by the Mormon Church starting in the late 1950s. Cinematographer Reed Smoot also has extensive Mormon film credits. He has gone on to be the head cinematographer on Imax films with dozens of credits including ULTIMATE X THE MOVIE and SHACKLETON’S ANTARTIC ADVENTURE.
I was hooked. I wanted to see more. Several people who came to my educational film shows mentioned a film they had been shown in school that I should find. Most could not recall the title but all said it was about an old later in a rural setting waiting for a letter to arrive. That turned out to be a film simply called The Mailbox. The best thing of all was that whenever I would find a Mormon film for sale it would be shockingly cheap. I was able to buy more and more of them. Most people sneer at religious films. This keeps their prices down. When I had a ninety minute program, I advertised it as “Films That Could Change Your Life…But Why Bother?” It ran for two weeks at the Pike Street in 1994 to awestruck audiences. A film critic wrote she never thought a film could change her life, but that was before she saw “How Do I Love Thee”. I took the program on the road, and showed it in San Francisco, Portland, and New York City. I got a letter from a theater in Salt Lake City asking me to take it down there, but I refused. I thought it was a trap. I thought the films would be confiscated from me. The last time I was in Seattle showing silent films, a man came to a show and asked me “Won’t you come back and show the Mormon films!”