Johnny Lingo is a 1969 short film produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was based on a story by Patricia McGerr in Woman's Day. At about a half-hour in length, it does not mention the LDS Church, but illuminates many of its teachings, such as kindness toward others and self-worth, and takes digs at measuring oneself against material things. The greatest lesson, however, is the true value of love.
In the story, Johnny Lingo (played by MaKee K. Blaisdell) is a shrewd, but honest and well-liked Polynesian trader. It is actually told from the perspective of a Caucasian shopkeeper, Mr. Harris (played by Francis Urry). Lingo has come to one island to bargain for a wife. Mahana (played by Naomi Kahoilua), the young woman he desires, is considered by her neighbors and even her father to be of little value— sullen, ugly, and undesirable. As the bargaining is about to begin, women of the island brag to each other of how many cows their husbands had given for each of them, and comment that Mahana's father will be lucky to see one cow as Lingo's offer. The counselor advises Mahana's father to ask for three cows so that finally, Moki (Mahana's father, played by Joseph Ah Quin) will at least get one cow.
The bargaining begins and— as the counselor suggested— Moki asked Johnny Lingo for three cows. Islanders laugh derisively, then wait for Lingo to make his counter-offer, certain that he will make a devastating bargain.
Lingo, considering, says that three cows are many... "But not enough for my Mahana!" He then offers the unheard-of price of eight cows for her hand in marriage. The next day, the villagers gather at the house of Mahana's father to see the completion of the deal. Some of the islanders say that Lingo reconsidered his deal and would not show up. But Lingo brings the cows and subsequently marries Mahana that night, enduring some derision for a deal that many believe to be foolish, while Moki revels in his newfound prosperity. Johnny and Mahana then leave the island on a trading trip.
When they come back, Harris discovers, to his astonishment, that Mahana is a beautiful, happy woman. Even Mahana's father began accusing Johnny Lingo of cheating him by giving only eight cows for a girl truly worth ten cows. Johnny, her proud husband, had proved to her that her true worth had nothing to do with what others saw, but only what she truly was.
He had made the best bargain of all—a few cows for a life with the woman that he loved.Makee K. Blaisdell - Johnny Lingo
Naomi Kahoilua - Mahana
Francis L. Urry - Trader Harris
Joseph R. TeNgaio - Moki's Counselor
Joseph Ah Quin - Moki
Malofou Maumasi - Tulo
The film is licensed by Covenant Communications, and is sold on DVD by BYU's Creative Works Office.
In the summer of 2001, the Salt Lake Acting Company staged a live parody performance of Johnny Lingo as that year's episode of their annual theatrical spoof series Saturday's Voyeur. The act was titled Mahana, You Ugly.
The book Hana, the No-Cow Wife continues the story and shows its affect on another, somewhat prideful young woman.
A 2003 remake of this film called The Legend of Johnny Lingo was directed by Steven Ramirez.