Mom loved Hallmark Christmas movies. During the few years I served as her caregiver, I could count on seeing bits and pieces of these feel good masterpieces as soon as they began to air, which was around the 4th of July, as I recall.
Fast forward to a time not long after mom’s passing, when I was entertaining my wife with an amusing account of mom’s fondness for such holiday romances. I made the fatal mistake, as I am prone to do, of saying that I could write a better screenplay. My wife, true to her character, said “Prove it,” a two-word statement she has said to me countless times since we first started dating. I am not sure even yet if she has ever been satisfied as a consequence of one of my boasts.
I did, however, complete a screenplay of a non-Hallmark Christmas movie written for a Hallmark audience. The substance of that epic is not germane to this message. What is, and the reason I begin with telling these few salient facts, is that the screenplay, which is the subject of this blog series, basically has its origins at the conjunction of mom’s love of Christmas movies, my wife’s challenge to man-up once again, and a comment recorded in last week’s message about the impact of Dale Evans Rogers on our perception of people whose physical and mental development falls short of what we perceive as normal.
Dale wrote a book entitled Angel Unaware. Its publication in 1953 was timely as it nicely coalesced with a national movement of parents seeking to provide more and better opportunities for their children labeled with the once acceptable though pejorative word retarded. Dale’s celebrity as the Queen of the West, the wife of Roy Rogers and the mother of a daughter with Down syndrome, resulted in her book becoming an international bestseller. It changed peoples’ attitudes and the donated royalties from book sales helped establish the National Association for Retarded Children, now simply known as The Arc.
When I heard Dale’s son-in-law make the comment about Dale’s book changing the willingness of parents to bring their less than perfect children out of the shadows and into Dale and Roy’s rodeo audience to see their western heroes perform, I knew instantly what I wanted to do; first, to research the backstory of Larry Barnett’s comment and second to tell the story in a screenplay format. After all, what better format could there be for telling Dale and Roy’s story than in a script?
All of that was achieved in a scant seven months in time to meet the deadline for a script writing contest, known as the Kairos Prize, offered by MovieGuide. Therein resides another appropriate aspect of this project. Dale and Roy were devout Christians. The primary purpose of the Kairos Prize is to further the influence of moral and spiritual values within the film and television industries. You can define these values as Christian. Dale and Roy lived them, on screen and off.
There is a financial reward for the prize winner. Trust me, please. Submitting my script to this contest was not about the money. The more research I did into the life of Dale Evans and Roy Rogers the more important the story became to me. Hers in particular emerged as the dominant feature and the reason why I started writing her name first instead of using their customary billing. Next week I will share some of what I found out about her by answering the question “Whatever happened to Francis Octavia Smith?”