The Hollywood Christian Group

Today, Hollywood has plenty of high profile practicing Christians, but there were few in the early days of the movies until a small, determined group of actors started the ‘Hollywood Christian Group.’ These early members were determined, passionate believers who began a Christian revival, the legacy of which lasts to this present day.

Started in the early 1940s, it was in the ’50s, that the growing group of actors, singers, producers, agents and other professionals gathered regularly for times of prayer, fellowship and outreach that had a real impact upon others in their sphere. It was of course the same era that championed a Christian revival across the United States which then spread across the Atlantic to Britain and other parts of Europe. Many well-known evangelists emerged including Billy Graham and Oral Roberts. 

Roy Rogers and Dale Evans

Amongst the most popular actors of the day, Roy Rogers was the cowboy hero of many western movies and TV series from the late 1940s through to the 1970s. They remained so popular that Roy and his wife Dale even had a short TV series in the 80s. Roy became a Christian through the strong example of his actress wife. Their marriage was like a fairy tale, particularly for Dale who had a rocky ride to stardom. She wrote,

I had accepted Christ as a ten-year-old, but was a lukewarm, wishy-washy, half-way Christian who wanted to have her cake and eat it too. I wanted to do as I wanted, and yet expected Christ to stand by me. I simply realised that Christ had never had his way with me.

Dale had a turbulent early life. After a difficult home life, she lived with her aunt and uncle for a while before eloping with her young boyfriend and having her first child at just 15 years old. After her man left her she moved to Memphis and started to sing in clubs. Dale had a beautiful voice and was soon recognised and signed up by 20th Century Fox. By the time she met Roy, both of them had been married and divorced three times. Now settled into acting, she finally found lasting love and inner peace. 

Her difficult early life left Dale searching for truth and she was open to the good news of the Gospel. She soon responded to an invitation at a Christian meeting and she gave herself over fully to Jesus Christ. She later said, 

I went, surrendering whole to Christ, to be used by him. The relief and happiness that flooded my being is something I cannot begin to express… from that moment on I have begun to live for Christ.

Husband Roy had generally high ‘Christian’ standards in life, but he was not initially interested in becoming a dedicated believer when Dale first became a Christian. However, she had a plan. 

The Megastar and the Problem of Suffering.

Roy was not just any regular ‘A-list’ actor, he was a ‘megastar’ of his day. As children in more recent generations looked to star ship captains and superheroes for inspiration, children in the 1950s were mesmerised by cowboy heroes Roy Rogers and The Lone Ranger with their respective ‘superstar’ horses ‘Trigger’ and ‘Silver.’ Dr J Edwin Orr, the co-founder of the Hollywood Christian Group, wrote, 

Roy’s chief handicap in his search for truth was his bewilderment over the problem of suffering. He had been greatly moved by his visits to hospitals where he saw children who had been born crippled or blind. He could not understand the operations of kindly Providence in the face of it.” 

Prayer Power and Compassion

Dale’s maxim was simple. Although a new Christian herself, she took hold of the adage ‘the family that prays together stays together!’ She presented this request to God and, just a year later, Roy too became a Christian. Both compassionate people, they ended up caring for nine children after the death of their baby daughter Robin, who was born with Down’s Syndrome.

In 2001, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars was dedicated to Roy and Dale Rogers.

Jane Russell and ‘The Four Girls’

Another megastar of the era was Jane Russell. Thanks to her godly mother, Jane’s Christian beliefs began to develop at an early age. An avid reader, she joked that “I have always been in love with C.S. Lewis and said he was to be my next husband. But the man up and died many years ago!” Through reading Lewis’s Christian books she realised how bad she would have been if she hadn’t believed and put her faith in Jesus.

In 1954, one of the Hollywood Christian Group members, Beryl Davis, asked for help in raising money for her church.  Beryl was English and already a successful singer. An all-girl gospel group was formed consisting of Jane Russell, Connie Haines, Della Russell (no relation) and Beryl. Connie suggested they sing a gospel song, Do Lord. Baptists Jane and Connie were used to singing ‘spirituals’ as they were called then, but it was something new for Catholic Della and Anglican Beryl. 

During their fundraising performances, a representative of Coral Records heard them and persuaded them to record the song on his record label. At Coral’s studio, they became frustrated when, after many takes, the song was not sounding very good. Suggesting that they pray, Jane Russell said, “let’s join hands.” It worked! It took just one more ‘take’ to get a great sound. When they listened to the playback, Coral Records’ manager came in saying, “That’s a million dollar seller if I ever heard one” – and it was! Jane wrote in her biography, 

No pop label had ever recorded anything like it. The record sold over a million copies.

‘The Four Girls’ became increasingly popular. They did TV shows with top entertainers including Bob Hope and Ed Sullivan, who introduced The Beatles to America. They went on to have more gospel hits with ‘I’m Really Living,’ ‘Old time Religion,’ and ‘Jacob’s Ladder’. They also recorded a best-selling album, ‘Make A Joyful Noise’, which had lasting success and was still popular when re-released on CD in the 1990s. 

Prayer Power

Jane Russell was a great believer in prayer. She knew that more than once prayer saved her life, including one night when she was attacked by a burglar in her home. Jane especially prayed to have children.  She had no idea that God would answer that prayer thousands of times. Following a failed first marriage and a second marriage where her husband died young, Jane eventually married John Peoples. Their marriage lasted until he died in 1999. Between the two of them, they had eight children, fifteen grandchildren, and seven great grandchildren. 

Jane’s movie career spanned forty-three years, during which she acted in thirty-three films. She also had five hit singles and a successful album singing with The Four Girls. Throughout her career she was well-known to be a very moral Christian actress who was prepared to turn down jobs rather than compromise her faith in Christ. 

Pat Boone

Another popular Christian singer/actor of the era was Pat Boone. He was America’s second most successful pop star behind Elvis Presley. Each of them sold more records in their native land than anyone else during the 1950s and 60s. Pat Boone still holds the record for the most consecutive weeks in the US singles charts with 220 consecutive weeks – a whopping 4 years and 14 weeks! He sold over 45 million albums with 38 top 40 hit singles and he appeared in 12 Hollywood films. In Billboard’s top 100 artists of the period 1955 to 1995, Pat was still ranked ahead of The Beach Boys, Aretha Franklin and The Platters.

Born in Jacksonville, Florida, Pat did most of his growing up in Nashville, Tennessee. Unlike other popular singers and actors who later became Christians, Pat Boone was a church attending Christian from the start. Like Jane Russell, he turned down a number of ‘inappropriate’ movie roles. He knew that he was an important role model to young Americans.


But Pat’s life was not all plain sailing. In the 1960s he became hooked on alcohol. His fame was accompanied  by countless invitations to the Hollywood party scene. The lure of an alcohol fuelled ‘high’ gradually began to take hold. Pat’s wife Shirley recognised the problem and found help in a caring church where both Shirley and Pat experienced a renewal of their faith. Their daughter soon followed suit. The result was a strong, renewed Christian family commitment to each other as well as to God.

In recent decades, Pat has concentrated on being an ‘ambassador for Christ.’ His long-term celebrity status meant that he has been able to influence the rich and famous in a way other Christians would not be able to. He has made it his life’s purpose to show people whenever he can that fame lasts for a short time, but a relationship with Jesus Christ lasts forever.


The Christian legacy continues. Currently, Hollywood has a considerable number of Bible-believing Christians who are unashamed to declare their faith in Christ. To name just a few, they include household names like Denzel Washington, Patricia Heaton, Chris Pratt, Mark Wahlberg, Carrie Underwood, Nicole Kidman, Martin, Sheen, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Stephen Baldwin, Lacey Chabert, Ryan Gosling, Jim Caviezel, Chuck Norris, Mel Gibson, and Jon Voight. 


Story by Ralph Burden.

Photo attribution:

Feature photo by Thomas Wolf,  License Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Roy Rogers photo: Public Domain

Jane Russell with Marilyn Monroe photo: Public Domain


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