See Mormon Film: Key Films of the Third Wave
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.
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.