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The Salvation Army is a Protestant Christian religious denomination that was first organized in London, England in 1865 by William Booth and his wife Catherine. Booth founded both a church and an outreach mission among the poor and disenfranchised. The followers and the group were originally known as The Christian Mission. After growing and adopting quasi-military terminology and organization, the group adopted its present name - The Salvation Army - in 1878.

Interestingly enough, the Salvation Army has become so famous around the world for its outreach ministry and charitable service, that many outsiders do not realize that the organization is a full-fledged religious denomination. The Salvation Army is an international religious body, just as other denominations such as the Catholic Church, Soka Gakkai or Seventh-day Adventists are. Certain of its community outreach efforts are highly visible, but the Salvation Army has weekly worship services for regular adherents, most of whom are regular citizens in the community, and are neither officers (clergy) nor service recipients such as homeless people.

The colorful uniforms worn by the denomination's officers and the church's of instrumental music groups have attracted the attention of some people from the entertainment industry. One of the most famous Broadway musicals of all time - Guys and Dolls (including filmed versions) - immortalized the imagery of Salvation Army officers and missions, even including a female Salvationist officer in the lead female role. The MGM movie The Belle of New York (1952) is also about a bachelor (Fred Astaire) who woos a Salvation Army mission girl (Vera-Ellen). The 1940s Mae West production Diamond Lil also featured the Salvation Army prominently, as did some early films by film pioneer Georges Melies. There are doubtless numerous other examples that could be cited.
  • William Booth - Protestant (Methodist) minister who became the founder of a new religious denomination: the Salvation Army
  • Catherine Booth - co-founder of the Salvation Army; wife of William Booth
  • Aimee Semple McPherson - Salvation Army worker who became an influential early female Pentecostal preacher and Hollywood darling; founder of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel
  • Elijah Cadman - prominent "fiery" Salvation Army preacher, converted in 1961
  • Clifton Sipley - prominent Brigadier in Salvation Army
  • Samuel Logan Brengle - prominent Salvation Army preacher
  • Eliza Shirley - prominent Salvation Army pioneer
  • Lyell Rader - prominent Salvation Army leader
  • The Joystrings - popular British pop band, all members of Salvation Army (best known: Bill, Sylvia, Joy, Peter and Wycliffe) See also: here

The Salvation Army in Film

Below are some recent references to the Salvation Army (or more recently noted references), not included in the article which follows:
  • Aimee Semple McPherson (2006) - biopic about the famous, colorful and influential Pentecostal preacher who was the founder of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. The Salvation Army is prominent in her history. She is shown as a Salvation Army worker in this independent film.
  • Lord Of War (2005) - Mention of selling arms to every army in the world except the Salvation Army
  • Batman Begins (2005) - Mention of the Salvation Army in the film
  • Life (1999) - Mention of Salvation Army Bell Ringers
  • Seabiscuit (2003) Salvationists from the Southern California Salvation Army appear as the Salvation Army Band in the film wearing strange light blue uniforms. They are playing "Joy In The Salvation Army" which was not even written yet according to the timeline.
  • Maid In Manhattan (2002) There is a bell ringer on a street corner.
  • Unsung (2002) This is the story of the unsung servants behind the heroes of September 11th. This video provides eyewitness accounts from survivors and rescue workers of The Salvation Army's relief work at Ground Zero.
  • Kettles (2001) A reality show which becomes a comedy in the vein of COPS. Shows a behind-the-scenes encounter of the age old tradition of bell ringing. Made by Salvationists.
  • The Other Sister (1999) The Salvation Army band continues a tradition of playing christmas carols at the Los Angeles Union Station. International Salvation Army Euphonium legend Chris Mallet can be scene.
  • Cold Chillin' (1989) Anti-gang and drug prevention movie made for the Salvation Army in Denver, Colorado. The Salvation Army Red Shield Community Center is a haven for street youth where counseling is offered from Salvationists.
  • The Lemon Drop Kid (1951) - Bob Hope creates a scam of bell ringers to raise money for a gambling bet gone wrong. The song "Silver Bells" is introduced to the world.

Article Title:
Were you a silver-screen sinner? The Salvation Army on film

By: Glen Horridge and Bob Brettle
Source: Salvationist, 24 January 2004, page 3
URL: (viewed 20 February 2005)

THE title of this article is a reminder that many years ago soldiers of The Salvation Army were forbidden to frequent worldly places of entertainment. Woe betide any bandsman, for instance, seen cheering on his favourite football team. If reported to his bandmaster he would still be expected to attend open-air meetings but would be ordered to march behind the band without his instrument until he learnt how better to use his free time. As for being seen going to the cinema . . . well!

Notwithstanding that, The Salvation Army has actually produced its own films. It has also been portrayed in a number of ways by film and television producers over the years, starting with the silent films produced by The Salvation Army in Australia from 1900 onwards.

There have been films primarily about The Salvation Army (for example Joe The Turk, Major Barbara), films having fun at the Army's expense (Major Barbara, The Belle Of New York, Guys And Dolls), and films with a fleeting glimpse of a Salvation Army canteen or a band carolling or holding an open-air meeting.

Here is an alphabetical list of films, including those made for television, either produced by The Salvation Army or in which the Army is featured. It is not exhaustive. Readers who know of other films in which the Army has put in an appearance, or been alluded to in some way, are welcome to admit their film-going guilt and let us know. We promise not to squeal on you!

  • Altars in the Street (2002). Starring Bill Cosby; a dramatic description of two inner-city children's lives. Produced by The Salvation Army in the USA.
  • The Belle of New York (1919). A silent film, nearer to C. M. S. McLellan's play, where The Salvation Army is specifically mentioned, instead of being called The Daughters of the Right (see below). Marion Davies heads the cast.
  • The Belle Of New York (1952). Vera-Ellen as Angela Bonfils, one of The Daughters of the Right (Salvation Army), with Marjorie Main as Mrs Hill and Alice Pearce as Elsie Wilkins.
  • Bowery at Midnight (1942). Bela Lugosi stars as Karl Wagner, the proprietor of a Salvation Army soup kitchen as a front for a criminal gang.
  • Die Heilsarmee (1924). A German silent documentary directed by Gertrud David.
  • Fires of Faith (1919). Charles Ogle plays William Booth, Clarence Geldhardt plays Railton, James Neil plays Booth's secretary and Edythe Chapman plays Catherine Booth. There is also an appearance from Evangeline Booth, playing herself. This film is based on the war work of The Salvation Army in France during the First World War.
  • Fringle (2001). A children's film about God's love based on the book Booth Tucker And The Fringle by Commissioner Doris Noland and produced by The Salvation Army in the USA.
  • Guys and Dolls (1955). Jean Simmons plays Captain Sarah Brown at the New York branch of the Save the World Mission (Salvation Army). Robert Keith plays Lieutenant Brannigan and Kathryn Givney plays General Cartwright. Also, briefly, Marlon Brando's character (Sky Masterson) is in Salvation Army uniform.
  • The Happy End (1979). German TV movie based on the musical by Bertolt Brecht. The plot pits organised crime against The Salvation Army. Lieutenant Lilian Holiday makes an attempt to reform a group of gangsters but is thrown out of the Army because they fear she is too close to them. The gang robs a bank and gives the money to Lilian and together they open a corps aimed at saving lost capitalists.
  • Heroes of the Cross (1909). Australian silent film made by the Salvation Army film unit in Melbourne.
  • Hot Lead and Cold Feet (1978). Jim Dale plays a Salvation Army corps officer (Captain Eli) at Bloodshy (a small town in the Midwest of America) - a Disney film.
  • Joe the Turk (2000). Cartoon about this colourful character from the Army's past, premiered at the International Millennial Congress in Atlanta, USA.
  • Laughing Sinners (1931) (also known as Complete Surrender). Clark Gable plays Carl Loomis, a Salvationist who befriends Ivy Stevens (Joan Crawford), an entertainer on the verge of suicide who goes on to join The Mission.
  • Love Your Next One! (1998). A German film directed by Detlev Buck, set in Berlin. Starring Lea Morna as Josefine and Heike Makatsch as Isolde, two Salvationists working among down and outs who come across a bunch of yuppies in a squat.
  • Major Barbara (1941). Wendy Hiller (Major Barbara Undershaft) and Rex Harrison (Adolphus Cusins) star in the film based on George Bernard Shaw's play. Sybil Thorndike also stars, as the General.
  • The Man Without a Past (2002). A Finnish film (also known as Mies Vailla Menneisyytta) about a man who arrives in Helsinki, gets beaten up and loses his memory until he meets Irma, a Salvationist played by Kati Outinen, when he slowly recovers his past. Peter von Bagh plays a Salvation Army officer and Marko Haavisto, Jouni Saarnio, Jukka Teerisaari and Jyrki Telila play members of an Army band.
  • Les Musiciens du Ciel (1940). A French film, with Michele Morgan playing Lieutenant Saulnier, Michel Simon playing Captain Simon and Auguste Boverio as the Commissioner.
  • Phantom Cart (1921). A short Swedish film about Salvationist Edith (Hilda Borstrom) who, although seriously ill, rescues an alcoholic tramp from the gutter on New Year's Eve.
  • Promoted to Glory (2003). A Thames TV romantic comedy starring Lesley Manville as a Salvation Army captain, Kevin Whately as a major and Ken Stott as a derelict alcoholic who becomes a Salvation Army soldier in an effort to win the captain's heart.
  • The Salvation Army Lass (1908). A silent film, with Linda Arvidson heading the cast.
  • The Scottish Covenanters (1909). A silent film by the Australian Salvation Army film unit.
  • She Done Him Wrong (1933). Cary Grant stars as Captain Cummings, a police agent posing as a Salvation Army officer. Mae West plays a bar owner who falls in love with Cummings with disastrous consequences.
  • The Sidewalk Santas (1993). A short film directed by Elliot Erwitt about the Volunteers of America Santa Claus training programme.
  • Soldiers of the Cross (1900). A silent film made by the Australian Salvation Army film unit; a story about early-day Christians in Rome.
  • The William Booth Story (2000). A video film by Harvester Productions. Salvation Army cameo appearances
  • Around the World in Eighty Days (1956). On his return to London Phileas Fogg (David Niven) encounters The Salvation Army, one of whose members is played by Beatrice Lillie.
  • Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery (1997) and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999). One of Dr Evil's consorts is head of the 'military wing of The Salvation Army'.
  • Battle of Britain (1969). Two cameo appearances: one of a Salvation Army van at an airfield and another of a Salvationist ministering to homeless people at a rest centre.
  • Bernard And The Genie (1992). A Salvation Army band is seen carolling in a shopping precinct (the band comprises genuine members of Croydon Citadel).
  • The Book of Life (1998). A band known as Yo La Tengo stars as a Salvation Army band.
  • Call of the Wild (1972). A couple of scenes show a Salvation Army open-air meeting in an Alaskan gold-rush town.
  • Christmas on Division Street (1991). This features a Salvation Army band carolling.
  • The Cockleshell Heroes (1955). Travelling through Britain in German uniform, one of the actors is given a lift and alludes to his uniform as pertaining to the 'Irish Salvation Army'.
  • The Grinch (2000). Apparently the band seen at the beginning is a Salvation Army band - a strange uniform if it is.
  • Heavens Above! (1963). During a melee in the marketplace members of Orbeston Parva Corps (complete with flag) march into the crowd.
  • It Always Rains on Sunday (1947). A British black-and-white film starring Googie Withers in a seedy city suburb drama, featuring a glimpse of a well-attended Salvation Army open-air meeting down a rainy backstreet of terraced houses.
  • It's a Wonderful Life (1946). A feel-good film about community spirit, with a glimpse of The Salvation Army.
  • The Last of the Blonde Bombshells (2000). A television film in which June Whitfield plays Annie, a Second World War jazz band trombonist who subsequently joins The Salvation Army.
  • Like Mike (2002). Rapper Lil Bow Wow stars in this movie. In one scene he is playing basketball in a pair of trainers from The Salvation Army with the initials MJ inside. He becomes a basketball superstar after this.
  • The Malta Story (1953). Includes a glimpse of a red shield hostel.
  • The Merry Mishaps of Mr Bean (1992). Mr Bean is seen conducting a carolling Salvation Army band.
  • Miracle on 34th Street (1947). A clip of a Salvation Army band carolling at Christmas.
  • North to Alaska (1960). A John Wayne comedy featuring James Griffith as a Salvation Army officer.
  • O Lucky Man! (1973). A drama (with songs by Alan Price) about a coffee salesman in Europe, with Philip Stone as a Salvation Army officer and Mary McLeod as a Salvationist.
  • On the Beach (1959). A post-Third World War film where Australia has survived the nuclear holocaust temporarily. John Cason plays a Salvation Army preacher.
  • Pandora's Box (1929) (also known as Lulu). A silent film about music-making features a Salvation Army band on the march.
  • Penelope (1966). Lee-on-Solent-born actor Arthur Malet as Major Higgins accepts a donation of $1,000.
  • The Saint (1997). Roger Moore is a radio announcer, telling of a donation from the baddy Ivan Tretiak to the Red Cross and The Salvation Army.
  • Waterloo Bridge (1940). A glimpse of a bonneted Salvationist buying a railway ticket.
  • Whistle Down The Wind (1961). Morecambe Band features in the opening sequence. The film also stars Patricia Heneghan as an Army girl.
  • The Woman Chaser (1999). Patrick Warburton as the woman chaser, including the seduction of a Salvation Army woman, played by Pat Crowder.
  • Worms 2 (1997). Another appearance by the 'military wing' of The Salvation Army.

Your help is wanted with the following:

  • A film with Laurel and Hardy (c 1930) which shows them as members of a Salvation Army band. What is its title?
  • An American film featuring troops marching off to war around 1916-17 shows Salvationists waving enthusiastically. Title please.
  • A film set in Australia or New Zealand featuring two lesbians - one of whom is apparently a Salvationist. Title?
  • Is it true that Bombay Corps has featured in a number of Bollywood movies?
  • Is it also true that the Army appears in:
  • Die Hard 2 (1990);
  • Home Alone (1990);
  • Kinder, Kader, Kommandeure (1954);
  • Titanic (1997) - briefly at the beginning of the film?

Any help in confirming these queries would be appreciated by Bob Brettle, compiler of the above list of films.

The list was originally featured in the November 2002 Journal Of The Christian Mission Historical Association, which has given permission for it to be reproduced here.

The CMHA, run by an independent body of Salvationists, maintains a private Salvation Army museum at Ilfracombe, North Devon, which is open to visitors. The association's Journal is dedicated to recording, preserving and displaying Salvation Army history and heritage worldwide, recent and ancient, which might otherwise be lost to posterity.

Occasional papers are published during the year but the main Journal appears annually. Membership fees are £5 for the UK and £6 for the rest of the world. Inquiries should be addressed to Dr Glen Horridge, c/o Salvationist, 101 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6BN.

Salvationist 24 January 2004
Page Number: 3


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