The Prodigal (1984)

PG | 105 mins | Drama | 3 February 1984

Director:

James F. Collier

Producer:

Ken Wales

Cinematographer:

Frank Stanley

Editor:

Bill Brame

Production Designer:

William J. Creber

Production Company:

World Wide Pictures
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HISTORY

The Prodigal was produced and distributed by World Wide Pictures (WWP), founded in the 1950s as the non-profit filmmaking division of the Billy Graham Association, the ministry of evangelist Billy Graham. A 29 Dec 1983 DV article reported that WWP, based in Burbank, CA, was slated to produce and release one theatrical film every eighteen months, in addition to distributing several 16mm shorter films to churches.
       Although WWP filmmakers primarily relied on Graham for input regarding the scripts’ Christian themes and messages, the evangelist often made appearances in WWP productions, usually as part of real-life footage from his sermons. In The Prodigal, the evangelist plays himself in a scene addressing a group of seminary students, which WWP touted as his “theatrical acting debut.” However, in Oiltown U.S.A (1953, see entry), one of the first WWP productions, Graham gives a sermon on a television program that appears to have also been shot specifically for the screen.
       A 20 Oct 1982 Var brief mentioned that principal photography was set to begin that day, while a 2 Nov 1982 HR production chart listed the start date as 11 Oct 1982. According to a 5 Nov 1982 DV column, filming took place in Seattle and Tacoma, WA, and included the Seattle Tennis Club.
       The $3 million project was the most expensive, to date, for World Wide Pictures. Additionally, the organization spent $700,000 on television advertisements and relied on four-wall engagements, at least during the first week, as stated in a 7 Feb 1984 LAHExam. The film opened in Los ... More Less

The Prodigal was produced and distributed by World Wide Pictures (WWP), founded in the 1950s as the non-profit filmmaking division of the Billy Graham Association, the ministry of evangelist Billy Graham. A 29 Dec 1983 DV article reported that WWP, based in Burbank, CA, was slated to produce and release one theatrical film every eighteen months, in addition to distributing several 16mm shorter films to churches.
       Although WWP filmmakers primarily relied on Graham for input regarding the scripts’ Christian themes and messages, the evangelist often made appearances in WWP productions, usually as part of real-life footage from his sermons. In The Prodigal, the evangelist plays himself in a scene addressing a group of seminary students, which WWP touted as his “theatrical acting debut.” However, in Oiltown U.S.A (1953, see entry), one of the first WWP productions, Graham gives a sermon on a television program that appears to have also been shot specifically for the screen.
       A 20 Oct 1982 Var brief mentioned that principal photography was set to begin that day, while a 2 Nov 1982 HR production chart listed the start date as 11 Oct 1982. According to a 5 Nov 1982 DV column, filming took place in Seattle and Tacoma, WA, and included the Seattle Tennis Club.
       The $3 million project was the most expensive, to date, for World Wide Pictures. Additionally, the organization spent $700,000 on television advertisements and relied on four-wall engagements, at least during the first week, as stated in a 7 Feb 1984 LAHExam. The film opened in Los Angeles, CA, on 3 Feb 1984 and earned $188,000 during its initial run at thirty-two Southern California theaters.
       The film ends with the following statements: “People the world over are finding inner peace and meaning to life as they reach out to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord”; and “In seeing this film, perhaps you have sensed a need to commit your life to Him. As you leave, a brochure will be given to you that will help on that spiritual journey. God bless you, Billy Graham.”
       End credits include the following information: “Photographed on location in the state of Washington.” More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
5 Nov 1982
p. 3.
Daily Variety
29 Dec 1983
p. 1, 11.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Nov 1982.
---
LAHExam
7 Feb 1984.
---
Los Angeles Times
3 Feb 1984.
---
Variety
21 Dec 1983
p. 1.
Variety
20 Oct 1982
p. 306.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
World Wide Pictures Presents
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Asst cam
Asst cam
Gaffer
Gaffer best boy
Key grip
Key grip best boy
Dolly grip
Still photog
Aerial photog
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Prop master
Const foreman
COSTUMES
Ward supv
Women's costumer
Costumer
MUSIC
Scoring mixer
Mus ed
Mus ed, Mx Inc.
SOUND
Sd mixer
Sd boom
Re-rec supv
Re-rec tech
Re-rec tech
Sd ed
Sd eff supv
Sd eff asst
Dial ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
Titles and opticals
MAKEUP
Make-up
Hair stylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
[Casting] assoc
Prod exec
Scr supv
Loc mgr
Unit pub
Loc casting
Loc casting-asst
Tennis adv
Prod co-ord
Prod secy
Prod auditor
Asst auditor
Asst to prod
Asst to exec prod
Transportation co-ord
Transportation capt
Loc asst
STAND INS
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
COLOR PERSONNEL
[Col by]
SOURCES
SONGS
"I Have Today," music by Bruce Broughton, lyrics by Dennis Spiegel, sung by B. J. Thomas
"Where Nowhere Is," music by Bruce Broughton, lyrics by Dennis Spiegel, sung by John Hammond.
DETAILS
Release Date:
3 February 1984
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 3 February 1984
Production Date:
began October 1982
Copyright Claimant:
World Wide Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
10 August 1983
Copyright Number:
PA186587
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses
Panaflex® camera and lenses by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
105
Length(in feet):
10,176
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

Greg Stuart, a young man in his twenties, has escaped society and lives in a makeshift hut on an island in Washington State’s Puget Sound. He occasionally works on a fishing boat, but earns more money growing marijuana. Although Greg has kept his exact whereabouts a secret from his family, he receives a surprise visit from his brother, seminary student Scott Stuart. Despite their differences, the siblings are close, and Scott indicates he had a hunch about the hiding place. Scott’s reason for visiting is to convey that their mother, Anne, would like Greg to come home for their father Elton’s birthday. Anne and Elton Stuart are devoted members of their church and have invited Reverend Keith Wharton and his wife to the celebration. During the occasion, the Stuarts, as affluent members of society, question Scott’s decision to live in a slum neighborhood called Factory Town, but Anne is also proud of her son’s dedication to helping the poor. Sporting a scruffy beard, Greg arrives in the middle of the birthday dinner and remains overnight at his parents’ house. Scott chastises him for lighting a marijuana cigarette on the porch and convinces him to extinguish it before their disapproving father finds out. Encouraging Greg to find suitable employment, Elton tells his son about a job opening for a tennis instructor at an elite club. Greg indicates to his brother that he might consider the idea, since fishing during the winter is not appealing. The next morning, Anne is thrilled when she sees Greg leave the house clean-shaven and carrying his tennis rackets. Auditioning for the job, Greg plays an exhibition match against another skilled applicant and ... +


Greg Stuart, a young man in his twenties, has escaped society and lives in a makeshift hut on an island in Washington State’s Puget Sound. He occasionally works on a fishing boat, but earns more money growing marijuana. Although Greg has kept his exact whereabouts a secret from his family, he receives a surprise visit from his brother, seminary student Scott Stuart. Despite their differences, the siblings are close, and Scott indicates he had a hunch about the hiding place. Scott’s reason for visiting is to convey that their mother, Anne, would like Greg to come home for their father Elton’s birthday. Anne and Elton Stuart are devoted members of their church and have invited Reverend Keith Wharton and his wife to the celebration. During the occasion, the Stuarts, as affluent members of society, question Scott’s decision to live in a slum neighborhood called Factory Town, but Anne is also proud of her son’s dedication to helping the poor. Sporting a scruffy beard, Greg arrives in the middle of the birthday dinner and remains overnight at his parents’ house. Scott chastises him for lighting a marijuana cigarette on the porch and convinces him to extinguish it before their disapproving father finds out. Encouraging Greg to find suitable employment, Elton tells his son about a job opening for a tennis instructor at an elite club. Greg indicates to his brother that he might consider the idea, since fishing during the winter is not appealing. The next morning, Anne is thrilled when she sees Greg leave the house clean-shaven and carrying his tennis rackets. Auditioning for the job, Greg plays an exhibition match against another skilled applicant and draws the attention of several onlookers, including attractive socialite and club owner, Sheila Holt-Browning. Greg wins the hard-fought competition and later accepts Sheila’s invitation for a drink at her waterfront mansion. On the church bulletin board, Reverend Wharton hangs a poster for the upcoming Pacific Northwest crusade by popular evangelist Billy Graham. Elton is surprised that Keith wants the congregation to participate, since their church is restrained compared to the style of evangelicals, but he agrees to support the crusade. As Greg and Sheila begin an affair, he enjoys the benefits of her lavish lifestyle, such as borrowing her Porsche. Sheila also tries to advance Greg’s tennis career and arranges for him to play his first match against a ranked professional. After Greg triumphs, Sheila flaunts his talent at a club party and introduces him to her influential father. While shopping, Anne Stuart meets Riley Wyndham, a charming bookstore owner who has recently published a novel. After Riley autographs a copy, he invites Anne to a literary seminar he runs. Meanwhile, Scott Stuart begins a romance with Laura, a fellow seminary student, who also lives in Factory Town and shares his commitment to serving the working class. One day, Greg joins his brother for a lecture by Billy Graham and asks the evangelist a challenging question about non-believers. Afterward, the brothers engage in a heated argument, as Scott declares that Greg is too afraid to completely accept the teachings of Jesus Christ and reminds him that sex, money, and sports cars only satisfy the ego and not the soul. As Anne Stuart becomes more despondent in her marriage on account of her husband’s long hours as an insurance executive, she benefits from the camaraderie and common interests of Riley Wyndham’s seminar. The author is impressed with Anne’s observations and invites her to lunch. Meanwhile, the tension between Greg and his father escalates when Greg arrives home intoxicated in the middle of the night. Their shouting match ends with Elton slapping his son. Unable to sleep afterward, Elton contemplates his worth as a “burned-out executive.” In Factory Town, Scott and Laura hand out pamphlets about tenant rights, prompting an angry landlord to threaten Scott. While Elton and the Reverend Wharton attend a meeting about Billy Graham’s upcoming crusade, Anne enjoys another literary seminar. Afterward, she accepts an invitation to Riley’s house, but soon changes her mind. Later that night, she confesses the near-infidelity to her husband and complains that their marriage has become one of co-existing and not sharing. The next day, Elton stays home from work and begins to reconcile with his wife. At the tennis club, Sheila is jealous of Greg’s new, pretty student and suggests he quit teaching to focus on training. Tired of Sheila’s attempts to control him, Greg escapes one night and accompanies his friend, a drug dealer named Tony, on a pick-up to earn extra cash. As the two retrieve drugs from buoys in the harbor, the siren of a police boat sounds. While Tony speeds off in his boat, Greg falls overboard and narrowly evades the police searchlight. He almost drowns and stumbles upon the beach the next morning. As Greg recovers from bruises and a broken arm, an irritated Sheila exclaims she needs a winning player, not an injured one. When Scott picks up Greg and his things from Sheila’s house, he reveals his own frustration with his brother’s self-destructive behavior. Elton visits Scott at his run-down apartment and reiterates his anger over his son’s choice to live there, but Scott tries to explain his need to experience the conditions of the poor. Weeping, Scott wants to believe his father is a true Christian, but he is not certain. Meanwhile, Greg continues to behave recklessly, and Scott retrieves him from a bar one night. During the walk home through Factory Town, the brothers are accosted by the hostile landlord’s henchmen. Scott receives a severe blow to the head and is nursed by Laura and the next-door neighbor. That night, an emotional Greg admits to his brother that he yelled for God when he nearly drowned. Sometime later, Elton and Anne attend Billy Graham’s crusade at a football stadium. Scott and Laura are also there, but sitting in a separate section. Graham asks the audience members who want to start or renew their commitment to God to walk onto the field. From outside the stadium, Greg listens to Graham’s appeal and begins making his way to the field. When his brother and parents spot Greg in the crowd, Elton and Scott leave their seats to join him. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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