In 2022, we’ll celebrate the 70th anniversary of World Wide Pictures with a look at memorabilia and photos from many of the films produced over the years.
Billy Graham and his team desired to share the Gospel “by every effective means,” and in a time when technology was growing by leaps and bounds, one avenue of sharing the truth of Jesus was through motion pictures.
In 1950, Billy Graham met filmmaker Dick Ross, who produced a documentary about the 1950 Portland, Oregon Crusade. After the success of that film, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) purchased the film company which would officially become World Wide Pictures in 1952.
The first film the company produced with the BGEA was a western titled Mr. Texas. Billy Graham wanted to appeal to popular interest and create a film that would appeal to young people, while still sharing an evangelistic message. The film’s cast included Redd Harper and Cindy Walker and tells the story of a rodeo rider who becomes a Christian during a Billy Graham Crusade.
In his autobiography, Just As I Am, Billy Graham recounts the night of the premiere: “In a fit of brashness, we rented the Hollywood Bowl for the world premiere. The outdoor arena seated 25,000 people; 5,000 more sat on the hillside. The audience included some of Hollywood’s best-known film executives, among them Cecil B. DeMille, Frank Freeman, and Walter Wanger.”
The evening of the premiere did not go off without a hitch. As Billy Graham remembers, “As soon as the showing started, we realized that the loudspeakers were too far away from some of the audience and the sound was not synchronized exactly between the forty-foot screen and the top tier of seats a thousand feet away. Then the projector broke down… After five minutes, the movie came on again, and we were able to watch the remainder without incident. To my utter amazement, when I gave the Invitation at the end of the film, 500 people responded.”