Johnny Lingo

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Johnny Lingo
Directed byWetzel Whitaker
Produced byWetzel Whitaker
Written byOrma W. Wallengren
Patricia McGerr
StarringMaKee K. Blaisdell
Naomi Kahoilua
Francis L. Urry
CinematographyRobert Stum
Edited byFrank S. Wise
Distributed byThe Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Release date
  • 1969 (1969)
Running time
26 minutes
CountryUnited States

Johnny Lingo is a 1969 short film produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). It was based on a story by Patricia McGerr in Woman's Day.[1] At 26 minutes in length, it does not specifically mention the LDS Church outside of the credits. The film illuminates many LDS teachings, such as kindness toward others, believing in one's inherent self-worth, the importance of beauty, and the way men should treat their families. See: Mormonism and women. It explores the idea of measuring oneself against material things, and expresses that the greatest lesson is the true value of love.[according to whom?]


In the story, Johnny Lingo (played by MaKee K. Blaisdell) is a shrewd, but honest and well-liked Polynesian trader. It is actually told from the perspective of a Caucasian shopkeeper, Mr. Harris (played by Francis Urry). Lingo has come to one island to bargain for a wife. Mahana (played by Naomi Kahoilua), the young woman he desires, is considered by her neighbors and even her father to be of little value— sullen, ugly, and undesirable. As the bargaining is about to begin, women of the island brag to each other of how many cows their husbands had given for each of them, and comment that Mahana's father will be lucky to see one cow as Lingo's offer. The counselor advises Mahana's father to ask for three cows so that finally, Moki (Mahana's father, played by Joseph Ah Quin) will at least get one cow.

The bargaining begins and— as the counselor suggested— Moki asked Johnny Lingo for three cows. Islanders laugh derisively, then wait for Lingo to make his counter-offer, certain that he will make a devastating bargain.

Lingo, considering, says that three cows are many... "But not enough for Mahana!" He then offers the unheard-of price of eight cows for her hand in marriage. The next day, the villagers gather at the house of Mahana's father to see the completion of the deal. Some of the islanders say that Lingo reconsidered his deal and would not show up. But Lingo brings the cows and subsequently marries Mahana that night, enduring some derision for a deal that many believe to be foolish, while Moki revels in his newfound prosperity. Johnny and Mahana then leave the island on a trading trip.

When they come back, Harris discovers, to his astonishment, that Mahana is a beautiful, happy woman. Even Mahana's father began accusing Johnny Lingo of cheating him by giving only eight cows for a girl truly worth ten cows. Johnny, her proud husband, had proved to her that her true worth had nothing to do with what others saw, but only what she truly was.

He had made the best bargain of all—a few cows for a life with the woman that he loved.



The film is licensed by Covenant Communications, and is sold on DVD by BYU's Creative Works Office.[2]

In the summer of 2001, the Salt Lake Acting Company staged a live parody performance of Johnny Lingo as that year's episode of their annual theatrical spoof series Saturday's Voyeur. The act was titled Mahana, You Ugly.

The book Hana, the No-Cow Wife[3] continues the story and shows its effect on another, somewhat prideful young woman.


Johnny Lingo has strong elements of sexism and colonialism. The film has been criticized for "[hinging] on the idea that a woman’s self-esteem is based on the price she commands in a financial transaction between men, not on any internal sense of who she is." [4] Rather than being recognized as “industrious”, or any other personal characteristic, Lingo notes, after he has paid eight cows for Mahana, "she now knows, she is worth more than any other woman on the island". [5] Writer Holly Welker comments further, “[the movie] does not view the buying and selling of women as property as essentially or inherently wrong.” [6]


A 2003 remake of this film called The Legend of Johnny Lingo was directed by Steven Ramirez.


  1. ^ "Celluloid Watch" (PDF). Sunstone: 78. October 2003. Retrieved 2009-01-21.
  2. ^ "LDS Film Classics: Johnny Lingo". BYU Creative Works Catalog. Brigham Young University. 2007. Retrieved 9 July 2016.
  3. ^ Hana, the No-Cow Wife on Goodreads
  4. ^ ""A Price Far Above Rubies vs. Eight Cows: What's a Virtuous Woman Worth?"". Sunstone 2009. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  5. ^ ""LDS classic 'Johnny Lingo' now on YouTube"". Salt Lake Tribune 2011. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  6. ^ ""A Price Far Above Rubies vs. Eight Cows: What's a Virtuous Woman Worth?"" (PDF). Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Spring 2010. Retrieved 11 February 2019.

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