Lost and Found: Fort Douglas Screens Rediscovered Film

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Photo credit Alice Lopez.

In celebration of the original release and the rediscovery of “Little Mr. Jim,” a movie filmed at the University of Utah’s Fort Douglas in 1945, Fort Douglas is hosting a Hollywood premier inspired screening on April 22.

This month marks the 70th anniversary of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studio’s release of the film “Little Mr. Jim,” based off of Tommy Wadelton’s book titled “Army Brat.” The book explores the life of Little Jim, the son of an American soldier who turns to alcohol after the boy’s mother dies, leaving Little Jim to be raised by the family’s Chinese cook, Sui Jen. Throughout the movie, Little Jim learns to cope with his loss and overcome adversity — to later vindicate the offenses committed against the Chinese people by the Japanese.

Several prominent actors of the time starred in the film, including Jackie “Butch” Jenkins, Frances Gifford and Luana Patten and directed by Fred Zinneman.

Though Zinneman later went on to win awards for “Oklahoma!” and other works, the film he put together did not do nearly so well.

Even so, there is fun in the discovery. In 2000, Fort Douglas staff found a box detailing the filming of a movie at Fort Douglas in what was thought to be 1945, as they were in the process of indexing negatives in their archives.

This began the mystery and rediscovery Fort Douglas is looking to celebrate this upcoming Saturday, 70 years after the movie’s creation.

The celebration, in the style of a Hollywood film premier, will be free to attend. The roughly 90 minute film will be screened and appearances will be made by people who played extras in the film to discuss life at Fort Douglas during World War II, as well as what it was like to put the movie together.

Beau Burgess, Museum and Historical Collections Curator at Fort Douglas Military Museum, and James D’Arc, the curator of the Motion Picture archive at Brigham Young University, will also be there to explain the mystery of the film negatives, the later rediscovery and the film’s historical context.

Guests will have the opportunity to explore an exhibit of the original paraphernalia advertising “Little Mr. Jim” and objects used in the original filming. This red carpet soiree starts at 1:30 p.m. in the Fort Douglas Post Theater and ends at 5:00 p.m.

j.eggleston@dailyutahchronicle.com

Jaycen Eggleston
Jaycen Eggleston is an intern in the Arts and Entertainment section of the Daily Utah Chronicle.

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