The Church will proclaim its belief in the living, resurrected Christ via a half-hour television special to be broadcast in the United States and Canada during the days preceding Easter.
“The Last Leaf: An Easter Parable” is a two-part production, the longest segment of it based on O. Henry’s short story, “The Last Leaf.” The second part of the show, titled “The Road to Emmaus,” is based on Luke’s account in the New Testament of two disciples who unknowingly walk with the resurrected Savior and finally realize his identity as he breaks bread with them.
Richard P. Lindsay, managing director of Public Communications, estimated the program may be seen by as many as twenty million viewers. Arrangements are currently being made for it to be broadcast in the top television markets in the United States and Canada.
A special missionary effort is being planned in which Church members may bring friends to preview showings in LDS stake centers, he said.
“The Road to Emmaus” was filmed in Utah’s Cedar Valley, about forty miles southwest of Salt Lake City, but “you’ll think you’re in Palestine when you see it,” Brother Lindsay said. Costuming, sets, and animals give a strong impression of the ancient Near East.
In the four-minute “Emmaus” presentation, Luke and Cleopas talk of the recent crucifixion of Jesus, and a stranger joins them in their walk down the dusty road. His explanation of the scriptures helps them comprehend the meaning of the Savior’s suffering and death. The stranger, of course, proves to be the resurrected Christ. (See Luke 24:13–35.) The presentation leaves a powerful impression of discovery, or perhaps rediscovery, on the part of the two disciples, and of the viewer.
“The Last Leaf” is the story of two sisters in turn-of-the-century New York and of their friend, an old French painter. The elder sister, also an artist, takes lessons from the painter, who lives in the same apartment building. The younger sister, a girl of fourteen, has become ill in the frigid early winter. Fascinated as the dead autumn leaves disappear one by one from a vine growing on the wall opposite her window, the young girl is convinced she too must die, when the last leaf falls.
Each of the three principal characters has his or her own struggle with the value of life. Alone in his studio, the painter reviews his years of labor to put on canvas the masterpieces in his heart. He recalls his dead wife’s admonition in a time of discouragement to keep sharing his talent with others, as well as her retort to his self-condemnation as a “common painter”: “The greatest portrait is the life of a common carpenter.”
Noted movie and television actor Art Carney portrays the French artist. Jane Kaczmarek portrays the older sister, and Sydney Penney is the younger sister. Some of Chicago’s older areas were used to represent turn-of-the-century New York in the production.
Brother Lindsay said it is hoped that “The Last Leaf: An Easter Parable” will follow the pattern set by “Mr. Kreuger’s Christmas,” a Church production first broadcast in 1980. Since then, many stations have aired the program each Christmastime on their own, as part of their public service programming, providing repeated opportunities for new audiences to see it.
Brother Lindsay said “The Last Leaf: An Easter Parable” will eventually be available on videocassette.