Evangelical Filmmaker Russell Doughten of 'Thief in the Night' Dies at 86

Evangelical filmmaker Russell S. Doughten Jr., best known for the "Thief In The Night" series, died at his home in Carlisle, Iowa, after a long battle with kidney ailment.

Doughten "passed to be with the Lord" on Aug. 19, Peterson Funeral Home said Saturday. He was 86.

Doughten's "A Thief in the Night" is a 1972 Christian End Times film, and the first in his four-part series on the Rapture and Second Coming of Christ. It is the most widely seen Gospel film and has brought millions to Jesus. Doughten also appeared in the film and its three sequels as a pastor who doesn't ascend to heaven.

The other three films in the series are "A Distant Thunder," "Image of the Beast" and "The Prodigal Planet."

Doughten was also the producer for Steve McQueen's first film "The Blob," a science fiction classic.

According to former Iowa Film Office head Wendol Jarvis, Doughten toiled to make the state a filmmaking destination. "A lot of people learned their trade from Russ Doughten," The Associated Press quoted Jarvis as saying. "He was a man who believed in his message and loved his trade. He was very generous to the people he worked with, and he was never one to boast about anything he did."

Doughten is survived by his wife Gertrude, three sons, four grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

Doughten worked at Good News Productions, a Christian film company, in Chester Springs, Pa., from 1954 to 1958. This is where he produced The Children's Gospel Hour. He moved to Monterey Park, Calif., in 1958.

In 1964, he went to Iowa to produce feature length dramatic films. He created a film production company, Heartland Productions. In 1972, he formed a new company, Mark IV Pictures, with Donald Thompson.

Doughten also started a non-profit company, Mustard Seed International, for translations of Christian films to be made available to missionaries around the world. The company also produced a "Share Your Faith" seminar, which was presented live in the U.S. and other countries including Ireland and India.

Doughten was also instrumental in the formation of the Christian Film Distributors Association and helped form the Christian Film Producers Association. He was part of the National Religious Broadcasters Association for decades.

He was born on a stormy night of Feb. 16, 1927 while his father, Russell Samuel Doughten Sr., drove his mother, Dorothy Woods Doughten, from Woolstock, Iowa to the hospital in Iowa Falls.

A memorial service was held at Carlisle Missionary Baptist Church on Saturday.