The Lawton Story
|The Lawton Story|
The Prince of Peace film poster, circa 1950.
|Directed by||William Beaudine
|Produced by||Kroger Babb
J. S. Jossey
|Written by||Milton Raison
|Story by||Mildred Horn
Rev. A. Mark Wallock
|Narrated by||Knox Manning|
|Music by||Lee White|
|Edited by||Richard C. Currier|
|Distributed by||Hygienic Productions
Modern Film Distributors
The Lawton Story of "The Prince of Peace", also known as The Lawton Story and The Prince of Peace, is a religious-themed film that later made the roadshow rounds presented by exploitation pioneer Kroger Babb. Shot in Cinecolor in 1948, based on an annual passion play created in Lawton, Oklahoma, it was presented in various forms through the years following its debut. The film also served as the debut film of child actress Ginger Prince, who was touted as her generation's Shirley Temple.
Plot and production
The film's story revolves around a six-year-old girl (Prince) who becomes the positive influence in her town of Lawton. The girl, who lives with her grandfather in a small house, successfully convinces her great-uncle, a ruthless mortgage lender, to see the performance of a passion play in Lawton. The uncle is moved by the performance and changes his greedy and sinful ways. The scenes with Prince, filmed over a six-day period by William Beaudine in Lawton, were interspersed with scenes from nearly four hours of footage of the real-life residents of Lawton in their annual Easter Sunday performance of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
It was marketed in a manner similar to other roadshow-style film productions, such as Mom and Dad. Promoters of the film often sold Bibles and faith pamphlets following screenings to capitalize on the religious element, often with a lecture during intermission. Kroger Babb had no issue with his attempts at making money off the religious topic, saying that "It's no sin to make a profit."
Babb attempted to introduce Prince in this film as a replacement for aging child star Shirley Temple. A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Prince was given four musical numbers in the production, and featured prominently in the film's advertising and promotion, which referred to her as "42 inches and 42 pounds of Southern Charm" and, in reference to a sensational bathing scene with Prince, "soap washes off dirt, but only God can wash away your sins."
Even with new, professionally filmed segments, quality of the film was considered so poor—for example, telephone poles could be seen behind the crucifix—that, upon release, it was described as "the only film that had to be dubbed from English to English." It would be recut and redubbed several times, before eventually opening in Lawton to a respectable crowd, and, while it failed to be a hit, the film's run in New York City was so successful that the New York Daily News called it "the Miracle of Broadway."
Other reviews were not as glowing, however. Variety, in a review, specifically criticized Prince's performance in the film, saying the movie would have been better "had not producers seen fit to drag in a crass, commercial showcasing of a precocious moppet, apparently in an attempt to strike a broader popular market."
- Ginger Prince - Ginger
- Forrest Taylor - Mark Wallock (Ginger's grandfather)
- Millard Coody - Himself/Jesus
- Ferris Taylor - Uncle Jonathan Wallock
- Gwynne Shipman (credited as Gwyn Shipman) - Jane (Ginger's Mother)
- Darlene Bridges - Herself/Virgin Mary
- Maude Eburne - Henrietta
- Willa Pearl Curtis - Willa Pearl
- Raymond Largay (credited as Ray Largay) - Dr. Martin
- A.S. Fischer - Himself/Simon Peter
- Hazel Lee Becker - Herself/Mary Magdalene
- William Ruhl - Mr. Nelson
- Russ Whiteman - Mr. Cole
- Knox Manning - Narrator
- U.S. Copyright Office (1949). Catalog of Copyright Entries. Third Series. 3, Parts 7-11A, Number 1. Washington, D.C.: The Library of Congress. p. 80.
- Feaster, Felicia; Wood, Bret (1999). Forbidden Fruit: The Golden Age of the Exploitation Film. Midnight Marquee Press. pp. 111–113. ISBN 1-887664-24-6.
- Friedman, David F.; DeNevi, Don (1 November 1990). A Youth in Babylon: Confessions of a Trash-Film King. Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books. pp. 53–55. ISBN 978-0-87975-608-6.
- Marshall, Wendy L. (2005). William Beaudine: From Silents to Television. Scarecrow Press. pp. 246–247. ISBN 978-0-8108-5218-1.
- Staff (18 April 1949). "Something for the Soul". 53 (16). Time. p. 102.
- Turan, Kenneth (1 August 1977). "'You've Got To Tell'em To Sell'em,' Said Kroger Babb, and Did He Sell'em". The Washington Post. p. B1.
- Brog. (6 April 1949). "The Lawton Story". Variety. 174 (4). New York. p. 8.
- Staff Writer (5 April 1949). "Mother of Twins Plays Part of Screen Mother for Ginger". Wilmington News-Journal. Wilmington, Ohio. p. 14 – via Newspapers.com. (Subscription required (. ))
- The Prince of Peace on IMDb
- The Lawton Story of the Prince of Peace in the British Film Institute's "Explore film..." database
- Wooley, John, Shot in Oklahoma: A Century of Sooner State Cinema (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2011), in the chapter entitled "Jesus in the Wichitas," pp. 103-114, readable on-line through Google Books.