aka: Deadeye Dewey and the Arkansas Kid
The 1974 movie billed on its original posters as Charles B. Pierce’s BOOTLEGGERS was later re-released as Deadeye Dewey and the Arkansas Kid, and yet again as Charles B. Pierce’s THE BOOTLEGGER’S ANGEL. The 115-minute film was shot on location in the Ozark Mountains of northern Arkansas near Calico Rock (Izard County). It chronicles two feuding families of bootleggers, the Pruitts and the Woodalls, in rural Arkansas during the 1930s. Its original poster contained the tagline “Revenge, Love and Liquid Dynamite!” Significant is the billing of two of its minor cast members: “Introducing Jaclyn Smith” followed by “AND Slim Pickens.” Variously categorized as an action/adventure, a revenge drama, and a period comedy, the low-budget movie earned more than $4 million at the box office.
The plot concerns two young men, Othar Pruitt (played by Paul Koslo) and Dewey Crenshaw (played by character actor Dennis Fimple), who have been raised by their grandparents in the Arkansas Ozarks. In the early 1930s, Othar carries on the family bootlegging business with Dewey. They make a living by selling moonshine while running from the law and clashing with the rival Woodall family for control of the bootleg routes. Othar and Dewey also seek adventure and romance wherever they can find it.
Two relatively minor characters in Bootleggers were portrayed by actors hired by Pierce at significant points in their careers. Local beautician Sally Fannie Tatum was played by Jaclyn Smith at the start of her career. Two years after Bootleggers, she went on to star in the hit television series Charlie’s Angels, which ran from 1976 to 1981. Smith portrayed “Angel” Kelly Garrett and was the only original female lead to remain with the series for its complete run, even reprising the role with an appearance in the 2003 film Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.
Slim Pickens (born Louis Burton Lindley Jr.) was an established character actor in westerns when he signed on to play Othar’s grandfather in Bootleggers. With a career that began in 1950, Pickens was an easily recognizable actor who gained widespread fame in the movies Dr. Strangelove in 1964 and Mel Brooks’s Blazing Saddles, filmed in 1974, the same year as Bootleggers.
Also making cameo appearances in Bootleggers were director Charles B. Pierce in the role of Homer Dodd. His wife, Flo Pierce, played a girl at a local dance. The film’s soundtrack contains banjo tunes such as “Wings of the Wind” and “Bootleggers,” both performed by Dorsey Burnette and later compared favorably to the soundtrack of the hit movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? released in 2000.
While reviews were mixed, many critics singled out cinematographer Tak Fujimoto for praise. He went on to film such major hits as The Silence of the Lambs, The Sixth Sense, and Signs. Many said his lush photography of Arkansas landscapes lent weight to the plot of Bootleggers.
Pierce made several films in Arkansas in the 1970s, starting with his first movie, The Legend of Boggy Creek, in 1972. That movie cost $160,000 to make, and grossed more than $20 million at the box office. With that financial cushion, Pierce funded the production of more films, including Bootleggers and 1976’s The Town that Dreaded Sundown, both of which made money.
When Bootleggers was re-released as Deadeye Dewey and the Arkansas Kid and as Bootlegger’s Angel, the emphasis was moved away from action/adventure to comedy and romance with the respective taglines “It’s War in the Ozark Mountains” and “The Happiest Film Surprise of the Year!”
For additional information:
“Bootleggers.” Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0071237/ (accessed October 20, 2020).
“Charles Pierce Retrospective: ‘The Legend of Boggy Creek’ (1972), ‘Bootleggers’ (1974), ‘The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976).” Arkansas Times, May 15, 2008. Online at http://www.arktimes.com/arkansas/charles-pierce-retrospective/Content?oid=865249 (accessed October 20, 2020).
Garland County Historical Society
Last Updated: 10/20/2020