There was a time when Christian charities would raise money by showing films of their good works in church basements.
Then Russ Reid, a marketing man who specialized in religious groups, came up with a bold plan for World Vision, a client that sought to feed the world's poor: Buy an hour of TV time and hire a camera crew to roam the world with a warmhearted celebrity, introducing viewers to impoverished children.
Even if the grand effort flopped, there would be a saving grace, he jokingly told a dubious charity executive: "You'll have the most expensive church film ever made."
Reid's 1971 brainstorm succeeded beyond his expectations. With help from Reid's...