Billy Graham Center

Interview of James Kempe Friedrich - Collection 327

[Note: What follows is a description of the documents in this collection which are available for use at BGC Archives in Wheaton, Illinois, USA. The actual documents are not, in most cases, available online, only this description of them. Nor are they available for sale or rent. Some or all of this collection can be borrowed through interlibrary loan. ]

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Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions

Biography of James Kempe Friedrich

An Essay on the Contents of the Collection (Scope and Content)

List of Audio Tapes in This Collection (Location Records)

Brief Description.

Interview of Friedrich, made at Green Lake, WI, during the fourth International Workshop in Audio-Visual Education, 1947, conducted by Mr. Kearney (?) in which Friedrich discusses his career as a pastor specializing in production of Christian films to be used in churches, particularly for children. Included is a discussion of his reasons for choice of actors, use of Walt Disney Studios, and effectiveness of a film ministry.

Collection 327
[June 21, 2005]
Friedrich, James Kempe, 1903-1966
Interview; 1947

1 Reel of Audio Tape


There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.


James K. Friedrich was born in Red Wing, Minnesota on August 22, 1903. He graduated from Virginia Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia in 1936 and was ordained as an Episcopal priest. During his academic work, a course on the life of Paul struck him as ideal for adaptation to film as a teaching tool for the pastorate. After ordination in 1938, he began to work in Christian film production in Cincinnati in addition to his duties as a pastor. When his attempts at production in Ohio proved unfruitful, he requested a transfer to Hollywood under the Episcopalian diocese of Los Angeles in order to be close to better film production facilities.

Friedrich's first film was The Great Commandment, and gradually his involvement with movies led him to leave the active pastorate to concentrate on production. His contribution to the Christian film industry was to make use of the finest available technical quality and experienced actors, though he was sometimes criticized for not limiting his staff to professed Christians. Friedrich made use of Walt Disney Studios to produce films for what became his own company, Cathedral Films. The films were distributed to many denominations, primarily for the Christian education of children.

Friedrich participated in a number of workshops sponsored by the Broadcasting and Film Commission of the National Council of Churches. These were held at Green Lake, WI. His work was important in encouraging other Christian film producers to continue the pattern of excellence in the technical aspect and research which he pioneered during his career.

He died in Los Angeles, California on July 12, 1966 and was survived by his wife Elaine.

Scope and Content

James K. Friedrich was interviewed by a Mr. Kearney (?) during the Fourth International Workshop in Audio-Visual Education, Green Lake, WI, in 1947. The dates of the events covered by the interview were from the mid 1930's to 1947. Time elapsed in minutes and seconds is recorded to the left of the topics discussed in the interview. The index is keyed to the cassette copy and not to the reel-to-reel original.

Tape T1 - side 1
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:05 Introduction
00:30 Course on life of Paul at seminary and its impact on possibility of adaptation for filming
01:45 Graduation in 1938; attempts at film production in Cincinnati; move to Hollywood to work under Episcopalian Bishop of Los Angeles; first film, The Great Commandment
03:00 Reasons for move to Hollywood; negative impact of poor technical quality on films produced by and for the church
04:00 Interviewer's comments on film quality; children as main focus for productions of Cathedral Films; New Testament Bible stories as starting point for Christian education
05:45 Using actors to portray Christ; children's lack of preconceptions and the need to have concrete visualization for best use of imagination and learning
07:30 Reminiscence of first Biblical film about a nobleman; six-year-old's comment about what he learned from this film and its value coming from independent source rather than teachers
08:30 Use of visual aids in Sunday School work conducted by Friedrich's church
09:15 Frequency of use of films in the program; description of methods of preparing students, quizzes following films
11:00 Use of filmstrips for children below fourth grade
11:45 Necessity of using stories for character-building of young people as counter for delinquency; the church's role in this process
12:45 The story of Esther as Cathedral Films first venture into the Old Testament
13:45 Need to plan production schedule according to income from film rentals; plans for 4 more productions including story of outstanding individuals in Christian history; St. Telemachus and the gladiatorial games; religious motives of early American government leaders and church's influence on education, work, thought, play
15:45 Response to question about high cost of film rental; pro-rated cost of films per child and permanent impact on their Christian background; use of films as investment, not luxury; 40% production cost increase in recent year
17:45 Work with other denominations, Episcopal and United Lutheran churches, United Christian Missionary Society; value for denominational relationships
18:45 Reasons for choosing actors for skills, not beliefs
20:00 Reasons for attending workshop; advantage of knowing what is wanted by
churches for their education
21:45 Response to recent address at the workshop
22:00 Variety of learning opportunities for all types of backgrounds at the workshops
22:15 Opportunity for interdenominational cooperation provided by workshops
22:30 Main desire of Cathedral Films to serve Christ with instrument of films; Edison's fear of misuse of the moving picture; deleterious effects of its contemporary use on young people; hopes for building Christian production studio to influence American and international lives
25:15 Expression of thanks by interviewer
25:30 End of tape


The materials for this collection were received by the Center in July 1985 from Harvey Marks.

Accession 85-100
July 30, 1986
Frances L. Brocker
J. Nasgowitz

Accession 85-100
Type of Material: Audio Tapes

The following items listed below are located in the AUDIO TAPE FILE:

T1 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 speed, transferred from cassette tape, 25 minutes. One side only. Interview of James K. Friedrich by Mr. Kearney (?) at the Fourth International Workshop in Audio-Visual Education, Green Lake, WI, 1947. Friedrich discusses Cathedral Films and use and production of films for Christian education.

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