Hey film detectives--
I have a colleague doing a documentary who has a film with no title, and
she needs to find the title (or other leads) to secure copyright. A
description of this fascinating artifact is below, which should pique your
interest. If any of you have ideas, please let me know.
I am working with WGBH/PBS Boston on a documentary for the American
Experience Series. The film is about Aimee Semple McPherson, a famous
evangelical preacher from the 1920s and 1930s. ASM founded the Foursquare
Gospel Church, and built Angelus Temple in LA. She had hundreds of thousands
of followers and was one of the most famous, powerful women of her time.
In 1926, ASM staged her own kidnapping, and returned after a month claiming
that she was in Mexico (turns out she was actually with her radio engineer,
Kenneth Ormison, on a secret rendezvoux). The film that we are in possession
of is about 20 minutes long and reenacts this "kidnapping." In the start of
the film, a man named John Phillips, known in Mexico as Don Felipe, smokes a
cigar and plots to kidnap Aimee. She is swimming in Venice Beach, and a
couple approaches her asking her to pray for their sick son in the car. She
obliges and goes with them to their car. They then kidnap her and bring her
to a house in Mexico, where they stay for a month. Eventually the couple
ties ASM to the bed and leave to get some food, which is when she escapes.
She walks for fourteen hours across the desert and arrives in New Mexico,
dazed and confused, at a police station. The woman who appears in the film
is not Aimee herself, but definitely an actress. One other noteworthy
aspect of the film is that is misspells Angelus Temple, Aimee's church. It
instead spells it "Angeles," as in Los Angeles.
There are no credits or titles on this film, merely a forward by one
"Randolph H. Clement". We have no idea who Clement is, as he did not come
up in any of the Foursquare records or as a filmmaker in any search from
several film historians and the AFI and UCLA libraries. Since William
Randolph Hearst helped her cover up the news surrounding the scandal after
her return, so we speculate that this could be him (dropping William and
adding Clement for anonymity). However, there is no proof that currently
exists on this.
The foreword reads:
"This picture is made with only one view in mind and that is to portray
graphically what I consider one of the most sensational kidnappings this
country has ever known and the story that follows is merely my own
conception put into picture for what it is worth in entertainment value.
-Randolph H. Clement"
We were told by one of our historians that kidnapping was generally
spelled with one P in the twenties, as opposed to two Ps as it is seen in
I greatly appreciate your help with this! We are stumped and very much want
to use this film in our documentary!
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