For, Friday, Sept. 13, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: Despite the tenor of these cynical times, good deeds are sometimes rewarded. The late John Earle, who was the head of the Utah Film Development office (now the Utah Film Commission) for eight years and, in 1978, was one of the founders of the Utah/US Film Festival (now the Sundance Film Festival), was just being his affable, helpful self when he unintentionally had a positive impact on a major movie being filmed locally. This ‘Hicks on Flicks’ column, under the headline ‘Utah’s no joke, Hollywood filmmakers learn,’ was published in the Deseret News on May 26, 1985. Two months later, Earle unexpectedly passed away. This anecdotal column is intended as a tribute to him, and more importantly some 34 years later, a reminder that putting your best self forward can sometimes earn unintended happy consequences.

The other day Joe Walker in his TV column discussed Utah jokes in national television series, explaining that our fair state is often the butt of uninformed humor around the country.

Movies also rib Utah from time to time and next week a film opens that offers more than its share of Utah jokes.


 “Fletch,” the new Chevy Chase comedy-thriller, is partially set in Provo, Utah (and was partially filmed in Salt Lake City), and from time to time you hear such jokes as:

— “You don’t got to Utah to escape boredom.”

— “That makes him a bigamist – even in Utah!”

And there are others.

But it was interesting to find out — quite accidentally on a trip to Los Angeles this past week — that the number of Utah jokes in the film were considerably toned down.

On a tour of the Disney studios last Tuesday I was shown the set of a new film going into production and the film’s art director happened to be there. After an introduction, he mentioned that he had been Utah last year shooting “Fletch,” as art director on that film.


During the course of our brief conversation I mentioned that there were many Utah jokes in the film and he commented that after they were so well treated by John Earle and the Utah Film Development Office, the producers of the film felt bad about including so many negative jokes about Utah. As a result, a number of such jokes were excised during the final editing.

There are still some unflattering jokes in “Fletch” but it’s interesting to note what a little positive P.R. can do for the image of the entire state.

Good for you, John, keep up the good work