Johnny Lingo bargains for a bride, paying an exorbitant amount and causing a sensation on the island. Being an expert trader, he knows the value of things--especially self esteem. Unfortunately, Mahana's neighbors do not acknowledge her great worth until the couple returns to the island later, and the community sees that the marriage has blossomed into a partnership of equals.
See Mormon Film: Key Films of the Third Wave
Johnny Lingo began as a routine assignment to create a film about self-worth for the February 1969 General Sunday School Convention. (The Sunday School was a regular client of the BYU Motion Picture Department, with their yearly metes often keeping the studio in the black.) Given its secular nature, however, it was eventually made with funds from both the Sunday School and the university's educational film budget. The story came from a Woman's Day magazine article called "Johnny Lingo's Eight Cow Wife" by Patricia McGerr, a Catholic. It was adapted by Orma Wallengren and filming proceeded fairly easily in Hawaii in late 1968. The only professional actors brought in were Francis Urry, who had played Lorenzo Snow in Windows of Heaven (1963), and Blaizdell MaKee for the title role of Johnny. All the others were locals, including BYU-Hawaii student Naomi Kahoilua who played Mohanna. The crew worked through a few small miracles, primarily concerning weather and cattle rustling (there were never eight cows on set); essentially the only problem that could be satisfactorily resolved was the lack of realistic wigs in Hawaii, but in subsequent years these large hairpieces have added much of the film's charm.
Johnny Lingo premiered in 1969 to an enthusiastic response that has hardly waned. It has woven itself into the fabric of American LDS life more than any other book, play, or movie; it even spawned a children's book in 1993 and a theatrical remake in 2003.
Judge Whitaker was intially quite concerned about the inherent racism of the piece, and was relieved when all the locals in Hawaii apparently loved the story. There is no record of concern on Whitaker's or any one else's part about the film's sexism (even eight cows still commodify Mohanna), and it is interesting that apparently no revisionist readings have been offered.
BYU/ LDS Motion Picture Studio Production #0612.
Additional details at Internet Movie Database
View BYU Library catalog record
Deseret Sunday School Union
HBLL Call No: VC 989
Medium: 16mm color
Cast Members: Blaizdel MaKee - Johnny Lingo; Naomi Kahoilua - Mohanna; Francis L. Urry - Mr. Harris; Joseph R. Tengaio; Joseph W. Ah Quin; Malofou Maumasi; Kent Fonoimoana
Film Editor: Frank S. Wise
Cinematographer: Robert Stum
Distributor: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints