Dr. Ted Baehr (photo: Movieguide)
CAMARILLO, Calif. – At the height of the Golden Age of Hollywood, a man who would revolutionize the entertainment industry and "clean up American movie screens" was born to two prominent actors.
Ted Baehr, the son of Robert "Tex" Allen, star in Broadway's "Showboat," and Evelyn Pierce, an MGM actress, was raised in New York City. He performed in commercials, movies, television and on stage.
Baehr would become a famous media critic, founder and publisher of Movieguide and a champion of uplifting Hollywood movies with Christian worldviews. He would take on the giants of the industry and inspire filmmakers to produce wholesome, family films.
Early life and education
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"I grew up backstage in the theaters doing commercials, going to very elite schools," he told WND. "I was there, day after day, walking the streets of Broadway, going to the plays, sitting in the back on the steps with the stage manager and doing commercials."
Baehr endured a tragic phase in his life when his mother died in 1959. At the young age of 14, he left for boarding school at St. Paul's School in Concord, N.H.
Robert "Tex" Allen
"It was a bleak period, and I quickly got into sex, drugs and self-destructive behavior, although I did well academically," he said.
Baehr later attended the University of Munich, Germany; Cambridge University, England; and Bordeaux and Toulouse Universities in France. He graduated with honors from Dartmouth College, receiving a degree in comparative literature. He served as editor of the student newspaper at the New York University School of Law where he earned his juris doctor.
With an extensive background in entertainment, Baehr had been exposed to various "new Age" religions. He said his mother had "lukewarm" religious beliefs and was involved in Christian Science.
Baehr said he began to support left-wing and anti-Christian causes after studying at Dartmouth College and other "prestigious and politically correct colleges."
Accepting Jesus as Savior
In 1974, when he was financing several independent movies for Canon Films, a woman named Audrey Clark, a former friend of his deceased mother, dared him to read the Bible and tell her "what was wrong with it."
Ted and Lili Baehr (photo: Movieguide)
Baehr reluctantly accepted her challenge.
"Finally after six months, I decided to read the short part," he said.
After reading the New Testament, Baehr's views on Christianity changed drastically and he accepted Jesus Christ into his life.
One week later, he married his Argentine-born sweetheart, Lili, an architect. Her family immigrated to the United States in 1955 after living under socialist Juan Domingo Perón.
Baehr attended seminary at the Institute of Theology at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. He later accepted a position as the director of the Television Center at the City University of New York and started the Good News Communications ministry in 1978.
While at the City University of New York, he researched the impact of media in education and was elected president of the Episcopal Radio and Television Foundation, the organization that produced the Emmy Award-winning animated movie, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." Baehr also served on the communications board of the National Council of Churches.
Cleaning up the movie industry
Movieguide offices in Camarillo, Calif.
"Pink Panther" and "Christy" producer Ken Wales introduced Baehr to George Heimrich, former director of the Protestant Film Office – an organization that read every Hollywood script from 1933 to 1966 to ensure that movies adhered to high standards of decency.
Baehr said American movies were morally bankrupt prior to 1933, and the Protestant Film Commission, along with the Roman Catholic Legion of Decency, cleaned up the industry. However, the Protestant Film Commission shut down in 1966.
"The Baptists pulled their funding, and within three years, we went from 'The Greatest Story Ever Told' to the first sex and Satanism film and from 'The Sound of Music' to the first 'X'-rated movie," he said.
The U.S. suffered a severe decline in movie attendance when Hollywood was no longer producing wholesome movies – spiraling from 44 million tickets sold every week to only 20 million.
Sir John Templeton, 1912-2008
In 1985, Baehr formed the Christian Film & Television Commission ministry and Movieguide: A Family Guide to Movies and Entertainment. Heimrich donated his Protestant Film Office files to the commission, and Baehr began his monumental task of taking on Hollywood's film giants, using 22 biblically based objective standards to review films and clean up American screens.
Movieguide, a biweekly magazine, TV and radio show and successful website, offers in-depth analyses of movies and reviews nearly 100 percent of U.S. films released in at least nine theaters. The magazine also includes the latest news from the entertainment industry, articles on movies, TV, Internet and cultural trends in addition to warning discerning parents about the worst films coming out of Hollywood.
In 1988, Sir John Templeton, the late billionaire philanthropist and entrepreneur who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, called Baehr to share a new proposal.
"He said, 'I see what you're doing in Hollywood. You're having a good effect, and I've always felt that we should have an award for Hollywood because the Templeton Prize, which is the award for science and religion, has been so effective," Baehr said. "I didn't even know him. He just called out of the blue."
Chuck and Gena Norris present award at 2009 Annual Movieguide Faith & Values Awards Gala
Baehr welcomed the idea with enthusiasm, and the Christian Film & Television Commission initiated the Annual Movieguide Faith & Values Awards Gala and Report to the Entertainment Industry in 1992 in Los Angeles.
The gala honors "good and uplifting" productions in film and television and has become a wild success.
"We always focus on Jesus at the gala, and we get a lot of non-Christians there because we're in Hollywood," he said. "People talk about Jesus. We talk about Jesus. We're giving them church. The films testify to Jesus. Everything about it testifies to Him. That's our major point."
Many now refer to the event as the "Christian Oscars," and along with the Report to the Entertainment Industry, it has led to a dramatic increase in family movies and movies with positive moral content.
"When we started, there was only one movie with positive Christian content, and last year it was 44 percent of the movies," Baehr said. "Christian movies always do better because people want redemption. They have a tough life. They want to go to a movie and be delivered from all of that."
The Annual Report to the Entertainment Industry has shown that moviegoers prefer clean movies without explicit sex, nudity, foul language and drug abuse. According to Movieguide's analysis of the top movies released in 2008, box office earnings for movies with 0-25 obscenities/profanities made $32,145,527 at the box office while movies with no obscenities or profanities made $55,569,733. Likewise, movies with no sex, no nudity and no drug references regularly made tens of millions of dollars more at the box office than movies with immoral content.
Additionally, a seven-year Movieguide study of the top 275 movies reveals that Americans prefer conservative, patriotic, pro-American movies with traditional, Judeo-Christian values and free-market ideals rather than films pushing anti-capitalist, socialist, atheistic, communist or anti-Christian agendas.
"In fact," Baehr added, "movies with more conservative values averaged more than seven times as much money as those movies promoting liberal or leftist values, $81.2 million versus only $11.4 million."
He said viewers are looking for three things in a film.
"They want to be entertained, so they want great drama; they want a moral worldview; and then they want a savior," he said. "They always want someone to come in and rescue them, so movies about salvation do incredibly well."
Baehr said it is pertinent that parents pay attention to the movies and television shows their children watch.
"We're concerned about the vulnerability of kids at different stages of their development. They need to be protected," he said. "Parents can't be there all the time, so we want to ensure that children are self-motivated to do the right thing and make the right choices."
A 'rotten' ratings system
Parents must never rely on the traditional rating system to determine whether films are appropriate for their families.
"The ratings system is rotten," he said. "In the movie industry, you can use whatever words you want. They just color it blue and give you an 'R' or whatever it happens to be. But the system has no basis on any understanding of cognitive development. It has no basis for understanding values."
Each year two or three "G"-rated films have a completely occult and new-age worldview, he said. They contain propaganda and condition children to be anti-parent. At the same time, a movie such as "The Passion of the Christ" – with a healthy message – is inexplicably rated "R."
"In the old days, they would say that you could have violence, but you couldn't have it in such a way that a susceptible youth would want to copy the violence," he said. "The question is, how do you do it? Today we seem to be so simplistic that we can't figure that out. The violence in 'The Passion of the Christ' is such that nobody will be attracted to being a Roman centurion whipping Christ."
On the other hand, violence in movies such as Warner Brothers' "Watchmen" is meant to be exciting and entertaining.
"In one scene, they're out killing and chopping and maiming. They are superheroes, so they're beating the other guys up. There's lots of blood. Arms are sawed off. Things are splattered, and they look at each other and say, 'This is fun.' So they have sex together," he said. "When you combine sex and violence in a way that it's a pleasurable relief, that is a very bad motivation for kids."
Baehr continued, "They tell you it's fun. They tell you it's exciting, but the more intelligent children are, the more likely they will respond to those scripts. They create our view of reality."
WND asked Baehr which film is his favorite and which one he believes is the worst ever produced.
"My overall favorite popular film of all time is 'Finding Nemo,'" he said. "It's the story of the Prodigal Son and the love of a father. It's also a well-plotted movie with wonderful dialogue and construction."
He continued, "One of the worst films of all time, the worst made and the worst topic, is 'Hounddog.'"
Dr. Ted Baehr holds 'Teddy Bear' Award for best family friendly films
In terms of impact, he said one of the worst films of all time was "The Da Vinci Code," starring Tom Hanks. Baehr said the book suggests Jews had orgies in the temple.
"To me, that's extremely offensive, because the Jews protected the temple with their lives," he said. "They would never defile a temple. So this is just outlandishly anti-Semitic. It's just vile stuff."
Despite these films, Baehr has encouraging news for parents and moviegoers: The six major Hollywood studios have all begun focusing on making more family films in recent years.
"Now there are more than 100 ministries in Hollywood. There are conservative groups in Hollywood," he said. "We've told producers, if they put this into their work, their movies will do better at the box office. It has now become the buzz in Hollywood that you will do better at the box office when you do movies with faith and values in them. It has made a tremendous impact on Hollywood."
Academy Awards ≠ Hollywood
But don't look to the Academy Awards for proof of this family friendly trend, he said. Many awardees are from independent films and not Hollywood studios.
"Movies like 'Harvey Milk' are not Hollywood movies," Baehr said.
"Most of those are made by kids who want to go to the Sundance Film
Festival, which is one of the most debauched places on the face of the
planet. There's a whole other side of Hollywood, which is the suits
behind the scenes. You will find more conservatives and Christians than
Baehr with actor Michael Clarke Duncan
He said studios lost control of the Academy Awards in 1989. So
if moviegoers want to know about family films, they must look to
Baehr now has many relationships with famous Hollywood figures and serves on the board or board of advisers of more than 20 groups, including the National Religious Broadcasters, the American Theater of Actors and the Theological Summit Conference.
He has appeared on major networks and shows such as "Hannity & Colmes," CNN, ABC, Fox News, MSNBC, "Oprah" and "Entertainment Tonight." His commentary pieces have been featured in USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, Time magazine and WorldNetDaily.
'Everything relates to Christ'
On Feb. 11, Movieguide held its 17th Annual Faith & Values Awards ceremony in Beverly Hills. The movie "Fireproof" received a $100,000 Epiphany Prize for the Most Inspiring Movie of 2008, sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation.
For television, "The Christmas Choir," a story of homeless men who form a choir, also won an Epiphany Prize. The prizes are awarded to encourage filmmakers and television producers to create movies and television shows that help increase man's understanding and love of God.
Movieguide and the John Templeton Foundation also presented Kairos Prizes at the gala. The top three winners were: "A Matter of Time," "Touched" and "Moody Field."
According to Movieguide, the purpose of the Kairos Award is to "inspire first-time and beginning screenwriters to produce compelling, entertaining, spiritually uplifting scripts that result in a greater increase in man's love or understanding of God."
Baehr family, from left to right: Daughter Evelyn, son Pierce,Ted, wife Lili, son Robby and son James
Because Movieguide is a Christian organization, Baehr said everything relates to Christ and glorifies Him. He said he has felt God's hand in his work since the very beginning.
On numerous occasions, God has protected and provided for the ministry. And after Baehr prayed for His help during tough economic times, anonymous donors delivered six and seven-figure checks to the commission.
"They were not from people I knew," he said. "To this day, I don't know who gave them."
Baehr said his goal is to see the Christian and Television Commission grow beyond movies into television, because many TV shows have morally deteriorated in recent years.
"There's so much work to do. One person said that God never takes you home until you finish your mission," he said. "Well, I figure this mission is so big that I'm going to be doing this for a long time."