Lloyd C Douglas, 1877-1951

Lloyd Cassel Douglas, an American minister and author, was born Doya C. Douglas.

American writer who published popular novels about religious and moral issues. Douglas’s first book, MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION, appeared in 1929 and became a huge success. The work was rejected by two major publishers. It was issued by a small religious publishing firm and sold in a few years three million copies. In the 1930s Douglas was one of the most popular novelist in the United States. THE ROBE (1942), set in Christ’s time, was made into a lavish Technicolor film in 1953, starring Richard Burton, Jean Simmons, Victor Mature. It received 5 Academy Award nominations and won 2.

“Most of the people they knew were in a constant dither about their slaves; buying and selling and exchanging. It wasn’t often that Father disposed of one; and when, rarely, he had done so, it was because the slave had mistreated another over whom he has some small authority. They had lost an excellent cook that way, about a year ago. Minna had grown crusty and cruel toward the kitchen crew, scolding then loudly and knocking them about, She had been warned a few times. Then, one day, Minna had slapped Tertia. Lucia wondered, briefly, where Minna was now. She certainly did know how to bake honey cakes.” (from The Robe)
Lloyd Cassell Douglas was born in Columbia City, Indiana as the son of Alexander Jackson Douglas, a Lutheran clergyman, and Sarah Jane (Cassel) Douglas. He was educated as a minister at Wittenberg Seminary in Springfield, Ohio. After his ordination he served as pastor in North Manchester, Indiana. In 1904 he married Bessio Io Porch, by whom he had two daughters, Bessie L. Douglas (bc 1906) and Virginia V Douglas (bc 1908).

In 1905 Douglas moved to Lancaster, Ohio, and in 1908 to Washington, D.C. From 1911 to 1915 he was chaplain and director of religious work at the University of Illinois. Later Douglas became a Congregationalist. He spent many years as the pastor of churches in the United States and Canada. In 1933 he retired from the ministry and become a full time writer.

Magnificent Obsession introduced themes that reappeared in the author’s later books – a medical setting, the wealthy background, the conversion of the atheist hero to a practising Christian, due to feelings of guilt, this time after causing a death of a brain surgeon, Wayne Hudson. He is a genius who believes that if man harbors any sort of fear, no matter how benign and apparently harmless, it percolates through all his thinking and damages his personality. One of the characters says, “whoever loveth a genius is out of luck with his devotion except he beareth all things, endureth all things, suffered long and is kind.” DOCTOR HUDSON’S SECRET JOURNAL (1939) was a prequel to the story.

Several of Douglas’s books have been adapted into screen, Magnificent Obsession twice. GREEN LIGHT (1935) was filmed in 1936, starring Errol Flynn. After Captain Blood (1935) and The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936) Flynn was labelled a swashbuckler, but in Green Light he was a dedicated doctor, who gives up his practice when a patient dies. The Robe, published 1942, gained wide audience as the first film in Cinemascope. The book’s title refers to the crusifixion garment worn by Jesus. The protagonist of the story is a young Roman soldier, Marcellus, in charge of the Crusifixion. He wins in a dice game at the foot of the cross Christ’s robe. Marcellus then starts to his quest to find the truth about Jesus. He becomes a convert and a martyr in Colosseum to the new religion. Burton in the role of Marcellus – in a short Roman mini skirt – was in his first great role. The book has sold over six million copies.

Douglas’s last novel, THE BIG FISHERMAN (1948), shared the same New Testament world of Palestine and Rome and focused on Jesus, Peter, and a pair of young lovers., Esther and Voldi. The Roman world of the early Christian Church is carefully drawn. However, for a modern reader, the style is perhaps too tendentious. Douglas’s main purpose was to present a Christian thesis in the form of a novel and include in the gospel narratives the aspect of human interest.

His last book was the autobiographical Time To Remember which described his life up to his childhood and education for the ministry. He died before he was able to write the intended second volume but the task was completed in The Shape of Sunday by his daughters, Virginia Douglas Dawson and Betty Douglas Wilson.

Douglas is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.

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