Caroline Friday

Caroline Friday is a novelist and award winning screenwriter with several film projects in development for both television and theatrical distribution. She is also a 2008 Kairos Screenwriting Winner for spiritually uplifting screenplays, sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation. Caroline currently serves as EVP of Sixth Day Media, LLC, a film finance and production company headquartered in the Atlanta area. She lives in Marietta, Georgia, with her husband and three children and can be found at

Billy: The Early Years

Billy, The Early Years

This is a delightful little independent film that tells the story of how Billy Graham became one of the world’s most well-known evangelists. The story opens with Billy’s former evangelist and friend, Charles Templeton (played by Martin Landau), as an old man on his deathbed. A reporter (Jennifer O’Neill) and TV crew are by his side in the hospital to question him about his friendship with the great Billy Graham, which conjures positive yet anguished memories. As Templeton tells the story of Billy’s early years, we go back in time to the young, teenage Graham living on his family’s prosperous dairy farm outside Charlotte, North Carolina. His parents are deeply dedicated to the Lord and pray fervently for revival in their area. While young Billy has faith, he scoffs at their prayers and refuses to share their zeal for God. His mother (played by Lindsay Wagner, of Bionic Woman fame) has a dramatic impact on his life, encouraging him to seek the truth and discover the Lord on his own.

One of the film’s most powerful scenes is when Billy reluctantly accompanies a friend to a tent revival, with plans to laugh and make fun, but instead, is drawn to the message. The fiery pastor picks Billy out of the crowd and prophesies to him, cutting his heart to the core. Billy responds to the message and a makes a profession of faith, which changes his life forever. His parents see in their son a dramatic change that pleases them—especially his mother. Little do they know, but their prayers for revival are being answered in this young man God has chosen.

The actor who plays Billy, Armie Hammer, is excellent, and captures Graham’s tall, lanky physique, abundant head of hair, and handsome, winning smile. But no one can emulate the look of God in the eyes that the real Billy Graham is known for. This is a characteristic unique to the original.

I loved the tender, romantic scenes at Wheaton College where he meets the beautiful Ruth Bell, who wins his heart. After his marriage proposal, she takes her sweet time to answer, and the excitement he displays when she finally says yes made me smile. There were some humorous scenes as well when the fledgling evangelist discovers that his rapid-fire, staccato preaching style is less than effective. Of course, as his nerves settle and his prayers are answered, he eventually relaxes into his powerful, gut-wrenching, cut-to-the-heart messages.

The only real conflict in the story came from the young Charles Templeton, who publicly pressured Billy to forsake his belief that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. Succumbing to intellectualism, Templeton cuts short his successful evangelistic career and turns away from God, ridiculing Graham for holding firm. My favorite scene was one I had read about and often thought of when family members and others hostile to the Word of God challenged me on its authenticity. Billy takes his Bible and wanders into the woods, kneeling at an old tree stump, where he prays a simple prayer that many of us have had to pray—that we would accept God’s Word on faith, even though we couldn’t understand or explain every jot and tittle. Tears rolled down my cheeks in gratitude for the act of courage it took for this young, Southern, farm-boy evangelist to take such a strong stand against others in the religious community. Many of us have benefited from his stalwart position.

Even though the story is cut short and is more docudrama than Hollywood movie, the film is a real treasure and is recommended for all believers. It sparked my interest in picking up my coffee table book on the evangelist after all these years and reminisce through its pages about the life of this obscure man from my home state who was thrust by God onto the world scene as an advocate for the Lord Jesus Christ. May he continue to be richly blessed for his life-long service and quiet, persistent obedience. Rent this movie and enjoy a tale that will warm your heart and encourage you in your faith.