|By: Dan Wooding; ©2001|
|Dr. Ted Baehr remembers Lucille Heinrich, who, along with her husband worked in Hollywood for many years fighting for Christian values in movies and television.|
The death of Lucille Heinrich on July 25th at the age of 93, has “brought an end to the Golden Age of Hollywood,” says Christian media expert, Dr. Ted Baehr.
Dr. Baehr, founder and publisher of MOVIEGUIDE(R) and head of the Christian Film and Television Commission, went on to say, “Lucille’s life, and that of her husband George Heinrich, was remarkable for the work they did behind the scenes in Hollywood. She has passed onto glory and is now receiving her reward. The lights have been turned out, and the stage is empty.”
Lucille Heimrich was born on March 18, 1908 in Canton, Ohio.
“For the many people who knew her, her passing was an eventful experience,” said Baehr. “She blessed a lot of people, and she had taught singing for many years to many renowned singers. She was a member of the National Federation of Music Clubs and she had been President of that organization and many other music oriented organization. She started out singing in radio in the 1940s, and she was also the backbone of the Protestant Film office by supporting the ministry of her husband, George.
“George and Lucille in their years at the Protestant Film Office didn’t get much publicity, but behind the scenes they probably reached more people with the Gospel of Christ than almost any evangelist, perhaps even including Billy Graham.
“George was directly responsible for inspiring The Greatest Story Ever Told, and worked behind the scenes to guarantee the theological accuracy and poignancy of many other great movies like A Man Called Peter, Ben Hur and The Ten Commandments. When you look back at that era and those God-ordained movies that this couple guided, you realize that they didn’t get much credit for what they did, but they reached a lot of people with God’s message through what they did.
“Part of the reason for the breakdown of morality is that the Church retreated from being salt and light in the culture. From 1933 to 1966, the church was one of the predominant forces in Hollywood. During that period, the Roman Catholic Legion of Decency and the Protestant Film Commission (which started several years after the Legion of Decency) read every script to ensure that movies represented the largest possible audience by adhering to biblical standards of decency. As a result, Mr. Smith[went] to Washington, It [was] a Wonderful Life and The Bells of St. Mary's rang out across the land!
“It must be noted that it took 10 years and God’s Grace acting through three dedicated Christian men to position the church to be such a powerful moral influence on Hollywood. As the videotape Hollywood Uncensored all too clearly demonstrates, prior to the church’s involvement in 1933, American movies were morally bankrupt—full of nudity, perversity and violence. From 1922 to 1933, church men and women tried everything, including censorship boards, to influence Hollywood to make wholesome entertainment. Nothing succeeded until the church volunteered to work alongside the Hollywood studios to help them reach the largest possible audience, a strategy which is being used successfully today at the Christian Film & Television Commission and MOVIEGUIDE®.
“When the church closed its advocacy offices in Hollywood in 1966 (in spite of many pleas to stay by the top Hollywood filmmakers), not only did it open the floodgates to violence (The Wild Bunch), sex and Satanism (Rosemary's Baby), and perverse anti-Christian bigotry (Midnight Cowboy); but, it also caused a severe drop in movie attendance from 44 million per week to 17 million (where it has hovered ever since).”
Dr. Baehr explained how he first met George and Lucille Heinrich.
“In 1983, while serving on the Communications Board of the National Council of Churches and the National Religious Broadcasters, I was introduced to George and his work by the great movie producer Ken Wales,” he said.
Inspired by George Heimrich, Ted Baehr began contacting prominent members of the industry, and in 1986, formed the Christian Film and Television Commission. Heimrich donated his Protestant Film Office files to the Christian Film and Television Commission, where they now reside.
Dr. Baehr asserted that the Church in America has abdicated its role in Hollywood.
“It is a surprising fact that the Church and charity take in 27 times more money than the movie industry or the Church alone takes in 11 times more money than the movie industry,” he said. “Yet, the church seems to have so much less impact on children than the movie industry. The situation was reversed in the old days, because the churches worked together.
“Today, the church is almost like those who lost the Crusades (which were not a Christian approach to a mission opportunity) and alienated many people because they couldn’t work together: they were all at each other’s throat. Thus, feudalism was the downfall of the Crusades. The Crusaders would win the battles and lose the war because each wanted his own fiefdom. Regrettably, the church is so disconnected and unwilling to work together and unwilling to support good work such as the work we do behind the scenes in Hollywood, and so the church as a whole is losing the war.
“I think it is a very sad moment when you think of what George and Lucille represented in my generation and my parent’s generation. It was a time when people didn’t just go out and rant and rave about their work for God, but actually did God’s work in very kind and gentle and loving ways. George and Lucille’s work inspired a lot of people to do good. It was a wonderful age, and Lucille was a wonderful person right up to her death. She was clear, bright and succinct.
“When George died, Lucille gave me all the files that George had from the Protestant Film Office, and we have tried to revive their wonderful ministry.
“I met them in the early 1980s when I was the head of the Episcopal Radio and TV Foundation, which produced the famous C.S. Lewis classic, the Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, on CBS Television. I was president when this program was finished and received the Emmy Award. The prior administration had worked on the program for 26 years, and I got there in time to get the credit. Most Hollywood movies take nine years to produce. It takes years of pushing, shoving and begging people to produce your project. It is just a long, tedious project. I was talking to Ken Wales about it and asked him how we could be more effective, and he told me of the days when the Church wasn’t producing movies, but was working with Hollywood behind the scenes to help Hollywood, and so that’s what we see we are doing. We are an advocacy group.
“The National Council of Churches closed the Protestant Film Office for want of George’s salary and the salary of his secretary, which was less than $100,000 a year in 1966, the year it closed (equivalent to $1 million today). Within three years, Hollywood went from producing The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins to the first sex and Satanism movie (Rosemary's Baby), the first perverse X-rated movie (Midnight Cowboy) and the first ultra-violent movie (The Wild Bunch).”
Baehr then addressed the reason he believes that evil has triumphed in Hollywood.
“Edmund Burke said that ‘evil will triumph when good men do nothing’ and the church abandoned the good Lucille and George did in Hollywood to counteract evil,” he said. “You could ad a codicil to what Burke said and that is ‘when the people of God are not willing to work together as the Body of Christ, especially when we know that Jesus prayed fervently for unity, evil will triumph!’”
He concluded by saying, “A friend of mine who was a big name preacher had told me that he had gone to Africa to preach. While his staff was setting up the 10,000-seater stadiums where he would preach, he took time to visit a little village, and there he saw this old, white-haired northern European woman who was blind. He asked his guide who she was, and the guide replied, ‘Oh, she’s the Wycliffe Bible Translator, and she gave her sight to give us the Bible.’ Now, that woman is forgotten. Nobody knows her name, but she gave them the Bible. Lucille was not a big name, but George and Lucille gave their lives to the Kingdom of God and may there be more like them in the future.”