Russell S. Doughten Jr., 86, helped produce ‘The Blob,’ made films dealing with Christian Rapture
BY DANIEL P. FINNEY Gannett News Service August 25, 2013 12:26AM
Updated: September 27, 2013 6:21AM
Russell S. Doughten Jr. saw the movie theater the way some evangelical Christians see rivers, lakes and streams — as a place for spiritual rebirth and rededication to the Christian faith.
The Iowa native rose to international fame for a series of four films that showed life on Earth after the rapture, or end of times, and the second coming of Jesus Christ.
He died Monday at his Carlisle, Iowa, home. The cause of death was a longtime renal ailment, his family said. He was 86.
“His whole purpose in life was to win people to Christ,” said Gertrude Doughten, his wife of 63 years. “He believed the best way to do that was through his films.”
His most famous Christian film, “A Thief in the Night,” has been seen by more than 300 million people worldwide, and viewings led more than 1 million to deepen their Christian faith, according to figures from his production company.
Mr. Doughten reached a secular audience, too. He was associate producer and assistant director of “The Blob,” a 1958 monster movie about an amorphous alien mass that threatens to devour an entire town. The movie is considered a cult classic and was the first starring role for actor Steve McQueen.
Mr. Doughten also produced the 1967 crime noir thriller “The Hostage,” starring John Carradine, father of “Kung-Fu” star David Carradine, in his final role.
And he made “Fever Heat,” a story about the thrills of stock car racing, filmed in Stuart, Iowa. The movie proved to be the final film for Nick Adams, best known for playing Johnny Yuma from TV’s “The Rebel” from 1959 to 1961. Adams died of a drug overdose shortly before the movie’s release.
“A Thief in the Night,” filmed in Des Moines and released in 1972, was the first film in Doughten’s Christian tetralogy. The story follows the life of a young woman left behind on Earth after the rapture, when true believers ascend to heaven and others are left to fight in the war between Christ and the Antichrist, evangelical Christians believe. The young woman in the film grapples with a crumbling society and the rise of the Antichrist.
Mr. Doughten appeared in “A Thief in the Night” and its three sequels as a pastor with weak faith who doesn’t ascend to heaven. The long, wiry beard he wore in the film was his trademark throughout much of his career.
The passion evoked by his film was illustrated by a comment left on his online obituary through Peterson Funeral Home in Carlisle.
“I was saved through the viewing of ‘A Thief in the Night,’” wrote Lisa Rosales of Des Moines. “Although I never met your loved one, I will after I pass from this life and into life eternal and [I will] thank him for his service to the Lord.”
Mr. Doughten also founded Mustard Seed International, a nonprofit whose mission was to translate Christian films for use by missionaries around the world.
Mr. Doughten was born en route to the Iowa Falls hospital on Feb. 16, 1927, to his Woolstock parents. He graduated from Chester High School and studied drama at Drake University in Des Moines, where he met his future wife, Gertrude Sprague, then a pre-med student.
Mr. Doughten told his wife he fully became a Christian in 1951, about a year after they married. The couple moved to Chester Springs, Pa.
Mr. Doughten first worked in Christian films for Good News Productions, which produced children’s television and other religious programs. After a stint in California, he came to Iowa in 1964 to form his own film production company.
Gertrude Doughten would become a psychiatrist and eventually worked at Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines until her retirement last year.
“We each gave the other the opportunity to pursue our dreams,” Gertrude Doughten said.
Mr. Doughten and his wife had four sons, one of whom, Mark, died in infancy. Twins Paul Doughten and Joel Doughten each became medical doctors, and the youngest, Tim Doughten, followed his father into the film business.
Gannett News Service