Historic Moments -- Rotary’s great Hollywood adventure
I n 1953, the RI Board of Directors authorized the production of a film featuring several Hollywood heavyweights to celebrate Rotary’s golden anniversary.
The 1955 movie titled The Great Adventure featured film actor Edward Arnold ( Annie Get Your Gun, Diamond Jim ) and television star Jim Backus ( I Married Joan ), now widely recognized for his role as Thurston Howell III on Gilligan’s Island .
Arnold played the lead, Dr. Grayson, a Rotarian who hosts a barbecue for six Rotary Foundation Fellows (now called Ambassadorial Scholars). Backus played Larry Matheson, a friend of Grayson’s whose questions about Rotary lead into segments describing the founding of the organization, The Four-Way Test, and what it means to be a Rotarian.
Sujata, of the famous East Indian and Tibetan dance team Sujata-Asoka, played the role of scholar Usha Rani Tagore. She and the other scholars reminisce about their homelands -- Australia, Brazil, India, Japan, Scandinavia, and Scotland -- in flashbacks that illustrate the local significance and unifying ideals of Rotary clubs around the world.
The film was written by Leo Rosencrans, produced by Jerry Fairbanks Productions, and directed by Harold Schuster ( My Friend Flicka, The Tender Years).
Filming began in Hollywood in April 1954. English, French, and Spanish versions of the movie were distributed on 16 mm film to clubs and districts for use during and after the semicentennial year.
The 30-minute movie is included in English on The Rotary Heritage Collection DVD (020), available for purchase at shop.rotary.org.
For more historical information about Rotary, visit Rotary History and Archives or the Rotary Global History Fellowship.