Remembering Johnny Lingo

Getting ready for the next shot. The little rented VW van in the background, used to carry production equipment,  is parked just outside the angle of the main camera.

Taking a break between takes. We didn’t bring any chairs, so the props were made good use of when needed. Seen at right is the little VW bus with the little Nagra sound recorder seen just under the tailgate door.

Myself with Francine Aiken and Tuione Polutu. Francine did two jobs on the production, handling makeup and script supervision. Tuione and others made the village set with few dollars and a lot of work. Francine was the only one who had the right hat. My hat? Well, rest assured I burned it a long time ago. Francine’s smile kept everyone in a good mood.

A first-hand remembrance of the making of the short film, Johnny Lingo. The film was released um-teen years ago—well, in 1969—with little fanfare. But it is fondly remembered today by legions who have seen it. It is even remembered by many more who were not yet born when the film was made, and it is still being shown today.  How did this happen? Part of the answer may lie in the purpose for which the film was made: it is a portrayal of love and loyalty and respect that is timeless. What isn’t so well-known is that it almost didn’t get made. In this book, one of its key makers recalls not only his recollections of an enthusiastic cast and crew, but the unusual and little-known circumstances that finally made it happen.

$1.99—for the Kindle

Every short story needs a twist at the end, and Dear Departed has one. But if you’re not an L.D.S. parent… well, it won’t be as easy to understand. Even so, it’s hard to describe the story without giving it away. I’ll settle for saying it’s about love and loss and sadness—with a little twist. Others are welcome anyway, or you could try one of my other stories. They’re made for everyone.

A short story.

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Two people wanted this valuable Picasso . One of them was a thief, who Detective Bramble thought deserved a pat on the back. If you love Picasso, you’ll love this light-hearted mystery. If you don’t, you’ll still be entertained.

A novella.
$2.99—Buy for the Kindle

It was bad enough the package was bigger than Benny, but hiding it—and keeping it hidden—was likely to be more trouble, and terrifying, than Christmas was worth.

A novelette.
$.99—Buy for the Kindle
$.99—Buy for the Nook

Recently, I was reminded that the short film, Johnny Lingo, is still fondly remembered, and not just by those who saw it in the years following its first release. Its story, about love and respect and loyalty, is certainly timeless.

When I was sent to Hawaii to look for a location for Johnny Lingo, everyone I spoke with told me what I was looking for didn’t exist on the island of Oahu. Today, not many are aware of the chain of events that led to the making of this classic short film, or that it faced the real possibility of not being made at all. Perhaps even fewer are aware of how it all came together, especially in the unusual circumstances involved in finding a location that many believe may have made the film possible. In the short ebook pictured at right, I’ve set down my recollections of working on this classic, and of discovering the location no one believed was there.

Those who worked on it may not have expected it to have the long life it has had. It was merely one of a string of annual training films for Sunday School workers in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But it has outlasted any of the series that came before, or after. It was put together on a shoestring by a group of filmmakers, most of whom had just gotten their careers underway, together with a cast that joined them with great enthusiasm. The behind-the-scenes images that appear below are from my personal collection. More images may be added from time to time.

A couple of smiling faces. Ok, one young face isn’t smiling, but that’s probably because I tripped the shutter a little too soon.

Where are you, Mister Sun? Actually, it seems to be peeking through the overcast because I can see shadows. The camera and dolly are at left, mounted on a track of pine planks in preparation for a dolly shot.

Lining up the shot. Bob Stum at camera, Judge in background, with Francine at far right, studying her notes on the script.

For some in the cast, making a movie was just another place to go and play.

“But, Mister Harris . . .”

The Village and trader’s store with the mountains in the background.  Judge is in silhouette at left center, Sharrol Felt, mike boom operator in red checked shirt is next, and Don Fisk, soundman is in white shirt. The sky you can see here was fairly typical of most days, until the volcano sent the overcast our way.

Getting set for the village master shot.

Young Cliff Mills could tell you about bad economic times as well as what could happen when a fellow puts a gun in your face. Cliff is sitting pretty. He works days as a highly-regarded auto mechanic to support his wife and son, and nights on a college degree.

But the big crash happens, and the fabric of the country, and his life unravels. His employer is forced to let him go, jobs become as scarce as dinosaur teeth, a bank failure robs him of his college tuition, and when he finds temporary work for a few days, his employer disappears with the money he needs to pay the rent and avoid eviction. To avoid life in the in the local Hooverville, takes refuge with his small family in a small town where his employment prospects are said to be even worse.

Before he can even try to get on his feet, his life is quickly complicated when he discovers he is the only one who seems to notice a series of strange and mysterious goings-on that may include murder.  He quickly finds himself ill-equipped to confront a couple of gangs of bootleggers, one of which is secretly facilitated by local law enforcement only slightly less corrupt than the vicious gang itself. Very quickly, he’s in their crosshairs and nobody wants to listen.

Everything is truly out of kilter.

A Cliff Mills Novel.

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Buy now for the Nook

I take a brief rest after getting the Harris store ready.

© 2021 Douglas Grant Johnson

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