Hard Times for Hollywood?

By Jerry Newcombe Published on December 14, 2023

This year is the 100th anniversary of the Hollywood sign. It used to say “Hollywoodland.”

But today the city is on hard times. A recent headline at deadline.com is, “Hollywood Jobs Down Nearly 20% This Year, & Not Just Because Of The Strikes, Study Says.”

The article notes, “Despite the now-resolved writers and actors strikes shutting down Hollywood production for several months, the loss of tens of thousands of Tinseltown jobs this year actually is part of a larger economic contraction, a just-released study claims — and those gigs might not be coming back.”

I see these constant stories on how Disney is producing one flop after another in the box office. In their effort to be as woke as possible, they purposefully violate the maxim that “the customer is always right.” They also seem to have forgotten the adage of “Let kids be kids.”

Whether you’re a person or a company or a nation, you can never escape from an important principle in life found in the Bible.

Paul said, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” We can never escape the consequences of our actions, good or bad. That’s why we need the Savior whose birth we celebrate at this time of year.

There was a time, during the Golden Age of Hollywood, when the movie moguls were not at war against America, against Christianity, against Biblical morality.

Christianity’s Role in the Golden Age of Hollywood

Dr. Ted Baehr is an author and the publisher of Movieguide, which provides a Biblical perspective on the movies. I reached out to him for a statement along the lines of: “What, if anything, did the Church have to do with the Golden Age of Hollywood?”

His email to me was so lengthy I posted his whole answer here.

Baehr said, “Part of the reason for the breakdown of morality in movies and television today, and in the culture at large, is that people of faith retreated from being salt and light in the culture.”

He continued, focusing on movies and media programming, “From 1933 to 1966, people of faith were 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 high 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!”

The Change was Clear

Consider the movies of the year in 1966 and 1967 respectively had Christian themes: “The Sound of Music” and “A Man for All Seasons.” But then the Church left Hollywood, and by 1970, the movie of the year was X-rated, “Midnight Cowboy.”

I’m a big fan of old movies, especially comedies from the 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s. I have seen scores of these films. I enjoy the films of Laure and Hardy (1927-1940), W.C. Fields (1932-1941), the Marx Brothers (1929-1940), Charlie Chaplin (1917-1940), Buster Keaton (1920-1929), and others.

What a contrast to many, if not most, of today’s comedians. So many of them are so dirty; they get nervous laughs by shocking their audience, not by providing something actually funny.

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But when a comedian is forced to resort to his wit, he is much funnier by being clean. I’m so glad W. C. Fields and Groucho Marx were born when they were. If they belonged to a later generation, they could have easily gone the lazy route for cheap laughs. But I doubt people would be watching their movies decades after they performed (as I do).

In recent times, many busy Christians have been working to provide positive Christian films, people like the Kendrick Brothers, Erwin Brothers, Kevin and Sam Sorbo, Dean Cain, and the team at Pure Flix. What a positive trend this is turning out to be.

The smash hit last summer, Sound of Freedom, starring Jim Caviezel, was a faith-based movie. Mel Gibson helped begin this trend two decades ago with “The Passion of the Christ” by doing an end-run around the biased anti-Christian media.

The Original Vision of Hollywood

Some people might think Hollywood has no place for the Church. But who created the city of Hollywood and why?

In his book, Inventing the Dream, author Kevin Starr writes: “Hollywood, as Horace and Daeida Wilcot envisioned their city-to-be, would be a model Southern Californian community: Christian, righteous, and very dry — no saloons, no liquor stores, with free land offered to Protestant churches locating within the city limits.” (p. 284) The city incorporated in 1903, 11 years after the death of Mr. Wilcot.

For too long, many well-meaning Christians have ignored the popular culture, despite its impact for bad or good. As Dr. Ted Baehr warns us: “Whoever controls the media controls the culture.”

 

Jerry Newcombe, D.Min., is the executive director of the Providence Forum, an division of D. James Kennedy Ministries, where Jerry also serves as senior producer and an on-air contributor. He is also the author or co-author of 33 books, including (with D. James Kennedy) What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? and (with Dr. Peter Lillback) George Washington’s Sacred Fire.

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