Famous Latter-day Saints

4 Mormons Who Won Academy Awards


Talented Church members in Hollywood have left their mark on the silver screen, as well as behind the camera. Check out these Mormons who have won an Academy Award or been nominated for an Oscar.

Gerald Molen


Photo from hollywoodreporter.com

Starting his career as the transportation coordinator of Republic Studios in 1957, Church member Gerald Molen slowly worked his way up the ranks. By 1985, he was the unit production manager for The Color Purple, working with Steven Spielberg.

His first role as a producer came with the 1987 movie Batteries Not Included, and a year later, he was co-producer of Rain Man (1988), which won four Academy Awards. Molen also played the role of Raymond Babbit's guardian, Dr. Bruner, in the film(Rain Man’s savant main character is based on Latter-day Saint Kim Peek.)

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Gerald Molen went on to work as head producer of Schindler's List (1993), for which he earned an Academy Award for “Best Picture.”

Molen's other work includes Jurassic Park and Minority Report, and one of his most recent releases is a documentary about fellow Mormon Timothy Ballard. When Molen learned of Ballard’s incredible efforts to rescue children from sex traffickers, he knew he had to capture the story for the big screen.

“We want to create awareness of this problem. I’m excited to help in the little way that I can,” Molen says.

With hidden cameras rolling on every rescue mission, Molen’s film crew captured powerful footage of the operations that not only makes for a compelling documentary but provides irrefutable evidence that leads to the conviction of child traffickers.

“The footage we shoot becomes an evidence package to help prosecute criminals,” says co-producer and director Darrin Fletcher.

“There’s no doubt when the judge sees that evidence. It seals the deal.”

“We’ve felt a hand on our shoulder guiding us the entire time,” says Chet Thomas, co-producer and director. “There’s a reason for this beyond a movie or a television series.”

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Leigh Harline


Photo from runmovies.eu

LDS composer Leigh Harline wrote the famous Disney song "When You Wish Upon a Star," for which he won two Academy Awards: Best Original Music Score and Best Original Song.

After being hired by Walt Disney, Harline scored more than 50 songs and worked on favorites such as "Whistle While You Work," "Heigh Ho," and "Someday My Prince Will Come."

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Kieth Merrill


Photo courtesy of Kieth Merrill

Kieth Merrill has worked in the film industry since 1967. A writer, director, and producer, he won the 1973 Acadamy Award for his documentary The Great American Cowboy.

Merrill also created the LDS films Mr. Krueger’s Christmas, Legacy, and The Testaments. His debut novel, The Evolution of Thomas Hall, was released by Deseret Book in 2011, and he has a new novel, Saga of Kings, Book 1: The Immortal Crown, releasing in May.

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Dean Jagger


Image from Exiled to Shanghai

Until Dean Jagger depicted the title character in the 1940 film Brigham Young, he was a little-known actor. He went on to star in White Christmas and Twelve O'Clock High (1949), for which he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Jagger joined the Church in his late 60s after marrying Etta Mae Norton, who was a Mormon. He appeared in nearly 100 films and was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960.

     ► You'll also like: 7 Mormons with Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Fun Fact: For the making of Brigham Young, Twentieth Century Fox consulted with Church historians and leaders, including President Heber J. Grant.

Nominee: Arnold Friberg


Photo from legacy.com

LDS artist Arnold Friberg, who worked as chief artist-designer for The Ten Commandments, received an Academy Award nomination for his work on the film. Cecil B. DeMille hired Friberg after Swedish publisher Herman Stolpe showed him Friberg's paintings. DeMille was so impressed with The Finger of the Lord (Friberg's depiction of the Brother of Jared in amazement of the finger of God) that it became the inspiration for Moses's costume in the burning bush scene. 



Image from imdb.com

An American Tail (1986)—an animated film directed by Church member Don Bluth—was nominated for an Academy Award for “Best Music, Original Song” for the song “Somewhere Out There.” At the time of its release, it was the highest-grossing non-Disney animated film ever.

At the 30th Grammy Awards, the song won awards for “Song of the Year” and “Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or Television.” It was also nominated for “Best Original Song” at the Golden Globe Awards.


Photo from donbluth.com

Don Bluth is perhaps the biggest name in feature-length animation since Walt Disney. His other films include The Rescuers (1977), Pete's Dragon (1977), The Secret of NIMH (1982), The Land Before Time (1988), and All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989). Bluth served a mission to Argentina and graduated from BYU.


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