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Light Up the Land

Father Daniel A. Lord, S. J. Biography

Fr. Daniel Lord Daniel A. Lord was born on April 23, 1888, in Chicago, Illinois. When he was six months old, he was bundled up by his mother and taken to a theater in his home town of Chicago. "If he cries, you will have to leave," his mother was warned. The story is that the boy, carried to the theater time and time again, never cried. In fact he seemed to enjoy it. As a child he took dancing and piano lessons and at thirteen he was putting on neighborhood shows on the South Side of Chicago.1

After graduating from Loyola University in 1909 he immediately entered the Society of Jesus at St. Stanislaus Seminary in Florissant, Missouri where he became famous for his "Seminary Shows."2 He received a Master of Arts degree from Saint Louis University and was ordained a priest in 1923. In 1926, Father Lord became national director of the Sodality of Our Lady, serving as editor of its publication, The Queen’s Work. Lord also founded the Summer School of Catholic action in an effort to train lay people to perform their share of the work of the Church. At this time he began writing pamphlets on all sorts of questions asked him by young folks like: what to do on a date, on drinking and smoking and sundry other problems.3 Millions of these booklets were printed.

Father Lord was also a composer, playwright, and producer. He was especially interested in civic shows of a spectacular nature. He would write the music and script, direct the acting, singing, and dancing in the production of two large stage performances while at the University of Detroit: "City of Freedom" (1951) followed by "Light Up the Land." (1952)4 Both shows were major musical extravaganzas involving a cast of over a thousand drawn from Detroit schools as well as the University of Detroit. Both shows were very well received by the critics.

In demand in Hollywood as a consultant for 25 years, Father Lord advised Cecil B. DeMille in the filming of "King of Kings". In a letter dated July 16, 1952 to the University of Detroit, DeMille wrote: "Detroit is fortunate to have Father Daniel A. Lord, S. J., at work on another musical production. Father Lord was very close to me when we were making THE KING OF KINGS. I learned then, and in the intervening twenty-five years have not ceased, to admire the combination of spiritual insight and understanding of dramatic values which characterizes his work. And, best of all, his great gifts are always devoted to "the greater glory of God". "5

"Light Up the Land" was presented as part of the 75th anniversary of the University of Detroit in November 1952. The story is about the history and value of education in an American democracy. It starts out with a young couple thinking about leaving school to get married believing that education is a waste of time. A kindly professor guides them through the history of education and how democracy played a role, from the time of Moses, the City of Athens during the Golden Age, the American Revolution, and other eras up to modern America.

After the eleven day run, the Ford Motor Company provided the funds to have the production filmed in color.6 The two and a half hour pageant had to be cut down to less than two hours, so many of the scenes from the original play ended up on the cutting room floor.7 The film made its premier June 11, 1954. The film was intended to be presented to schools and institutions around the state to show American ideals in education and democracy. This video is the only film record available of the work of Father Daniel A. Lord, S. J. He died of cancer on January 15, 1955.

1. Light Up the Land, (Program), University of Detroit Mercy Archives, General Files.
2. Herman J. Muller, S.J., The University of Detroit 1877-1977: A Centennial History, University of Detroit, 1976, 273.
3. Ibid 1.
4. Ibid.
5. Letter to Mr. Patrick H. Murphy, Public Relations, UDM Archives, General Files, "Light Up the Land"
6. Varsity News, November 25, 1952
7. Detroit Free Press, June 12, 1954

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