Sunday, February 26, 2017

“The orphan is not a cause. The orphan is not an issue. The orphan has a human face, and that face is ours. Jesus tells us that when we see the orphan child, we see Him there.” — Russell D. Moore

                  It’s Sunday here and tonight is the Oscars, the Academy Awards.   My vote was for “Lion” but it won’t get best picture and that’s not what this blog is about.  No, this is about a friend of mine who actually won an Oscar.  It was the only one I’ve ever held in my hand, and it was awarded in 1946 for best short film.  When I was writing for Hollywood back in 1975, I took a course in writing screenplays at the University of California, Riverside.  My teacher was an old man (only mid sixties, but I was just thirty—so very old for me) named Art Arthur.  We became friends and had many sessions at his house.  That’s where I saw the Oscar gathering dust in a corner.  I picked it up and asked him about it, and he said it was not as important as what the short little film that earned it made happen.  He said that of all he had written over the years, he was proudest of that little twenty-minute film.  During World War II, Art was a war correspondent in Italy, and he and several others could see the tragedy of all the starving orphans of the Holocaust and the war in general.  He and some buddies got together and made this little film that Art wrote called “What About The Children?”  They showed it to anybody and everybody that they could get to see it.  They showed it to some American generals who got the Defense Department involved who renamed it “Seeds of Destiny” and showed it to anyone who would watch, particularly those involved with the new United Nations which was created in 1945.  Art’s film,  “Seeds of Destiny” is about the desperate situation that was faced by millions of children in the wake of the Holocaust and the war who were homeless, parentless, orphaned, and in poor health at the end of World War II. The film was ultimately distributed by the Defense Department of The U.S. Army War Department to keep the world's attention focused on the suffering of those displaced and orphaned refugee children in transit and in displaced persons camps in Europe.  They wanted to champion the work of UNRRA—which later became UNICEF.  So, this little film helped create UNICEF.
       My friend had written several TV shows like “Sea Hunt” starring Lloyd Bridges (the father of Jeff and Beau) and “Flipper” along with many others.  If you look him up (Art Arthur) on the internet at IMBD you can see all the tv shows and movies he wrote.  He also wrote the pilot for “Daktari” and over a dozen films for the silver screen including the story of the Dorsey brothers and “Sun Valley Serenade” a Sonja Henie (ice skating champion) musical.  He had made a lot of money over the years, spent it quickly, and was now retired and just teaching this one course.  At the time, I was living the high life in Los Angeles and didn’t think much about the children that UNICEF helped and was much more impressed with the tv shows he had written and that I had watched growing up in the fifties and sixties.  I didn't care about orphans, only what might help me sell my next screenplay.  That night at his house, I put the Oscar back where it had been and forgot about it for decades.  Now that I have spent twelve years working with orphans and poor children in a third world country, I think of Art more and more and am more and more impressed with what he did.  He has become a hero to me and reminded me that much more important than money or fame is how you serve others.  He didn’t think as much about winning an Oscar as he did about how instrumental his film was in creating UNICEF.  The Oscar was almost an afterthought as far as he was concerned.  Life is not about the awards you receive or the applause you get, it’s about serving others.  It’s about being a “good tree.”   At the very beginning of  “Seeds of Destiny” (I’ve watched it several times) there is a Bible verse from Matthew on the screen.  It’s the verse that says that a good tree can only produce good fruit and a bad tree only bad fruit.  I so very much want to be that “good tree” and hope that when I am gone, people remember not me but the good fruit that was produced by my humble efforts.  Most of the orphans I have helped and continue to help will never remember me or my help, but they will have a chance at a better life and hope for the future.  I don’t need an Oscar for my efforts, just the knowledge that when given a chance, I worked to help these poor and orphaned children have a better life, like my friend, Art Arthur did when he wrote that short little film.  Art passed away in 1985, but I will always remember him.  More importantly, millions of children have and will have better lives because of what he did.  He’s a hero of mine that no one’s ever heard of.  I am quite confident that those of you reading this blog today have never heard of Art Arthur till now.  He wouldn’t mind.
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