Actors and Filmmakers

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Entries - Entry Category: Actors and Filmmakers

Adams, Joey Lauren

Joey Lauren Adams, a North Little Rock (Pulaski County) native, is an actress, writer, and director. Adams has appeared in a number of movies, mostly independent films, and TV shows. Her most recent appearances include the films Love, Fear and Rabbits (2006) and The Break-Up (2006), as well as a guest star spot on the TV show Veronica Mars (2005). Adams made her directorial debut in Come Early Morning (2006). Joey Lauren Adams was born on January 9, 1968, in North Little Rock. Adams moved to California in the late 1980s at the age of nineteen, first to attend college in San Diego and then to become an actress in Hollywood. Adams said of her decision to move to Los …

Adams, Julie

aka: Betty May Adams
Betty May “Julie” Adams was an actress who made more than fifty films and appeared in numerous television series. She was raised in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and attended Little Rock Junior College, now the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UA Little Rock). She may be best remembered for her role in the 3-D thriller and cult classic Creature from the Black Lagoon. She also had a recurring role on the popular TV series Murder, She Wrote. Betty May Adams was born on October 17, 1926, in Waterloo, Iowa, but grew up in Little Rock, where she began acting in elementary school. After attending Little Rock Junior College, she left in 1946, after being crowned Miss Little Rock, to live …

Anderson, “Broncho Billy”

aka: Gilbert Maxwell Aronson
“Broncho Billy” Anderson was the stage name of Gilbert Maxwell Aronson, America’s first cowboy movie star. Anderson pioneered the genre that eventually produced stars such as John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Roy Rogers, Buck Jones, and Tom Mix. Anderson also worked behind the camera as a director and producer and developed production techniques still in use today. He was awarded a special Oscar by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1958. Max Aronson was born in 1880 in Little Rock (Pulaski County). His mother, Esther Ash Aronson, was from a Russian Jewish family, and his father, traveling salesman Henry Aronson, was from a German Jewish family. The Aronsons had seven children. Most of the children were born in …

Andrews, Lloyd

aka: Arkansas Slim
aka: Slim Andrews
Lloyd “Arkansas Slim” Andrews was best known for film roles as a sidekick to western stars in the 1940s through the early 1950s and, after that, as a host of children’s television programs. Before his move to Hollywood, he had been a comedian and musician in tent shows traveling throughout the mid-South. In his later years, he was a featured guest at film festivals. He was a member of the Screen Actors Guild and a lifetime member of Musicians Local 47 of Hollywood. Lloyd Andrews, also known as “Arkansas Slim” and “Slim Andrews,” was born on December 8, 1906, the seventh son of Norma Blau and George Willis Andrews, who had a farm on Spavinaw Creek in rural Benton County …

Batson, Luenell

aka: Luenell
aka: Luenell Campbell
Luenell, who goes by only her first name professionally, is a comedian and a film and television actress known for her appearances in such movies as Borat: Cultural Learning of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006) and Hotel Transylvania (2012). She was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2015. Luenell was born Luenell Batson on March 12, 1959, in Tollette (Howard County), a historically black community. Her father was murdered while her mother was pregnant with her. As her mother already had seven other children, she was adopted by family members out of state, becoming Luenell Campbell and moving to California. She attended school in the community of Castro Valley in the San Francisco …

Blount, Lisa Suzanne

Lisa Blount was an actress who appeared in numerous films and television shows, most notably as Lynette Pomeroy in An Officer and a Gentleman (1982), for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe Award. Along with her husband, actor Ray McKinnon, she received an Academy Award for the 2002 short film The Accountant. Lisa Suzanne Blount was born on July 1, 1957, in Fayetteville (Washington County) to Glen Roscoe Blount and Louise Martin Blount, natives of Floral (Independence County); she had one brother, Greg. The family moved to Jacksonville (Pulaski County). Blount graduated from Jacksonville High School in 1975 and attended the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville, beginning classes there when she was sixteen; she left UA before …

Bonner, Frank

aka: Frank Woodrow Boers Jr.
Best known for his role of sales manager Herb Tarlek on the television sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati, which began in 1978, Frank Bonner is an actor and television director. He has also appeared in such popular shows as Saved by the Bell: The New Class, Just the Ten of Us, Murder, She Wrote, and Night Court. Frank Bonner was born Frank Woodrow Boers Jr. on February 28, 1942, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Frank Woodrow Boers, a saxophone player, and Grace Dobbins Boers, who had a singing career in the 1930s and 1940s. He has a sister, a brother, and a step-brother. He grew up Catholic, attending St. Edward’s and Our Lady of Good Counsel schools, before his family moved …

Bridges, James

James Bridges was an Arkansan who became a movie producer, director, and screenwriter. He was known for some of the biggest hit films of the 1970s and 1980s, such as The China Syndrome and Urban Cowboy. He also filmed one of his movies, 9/30/55, in Conway (Faulkner County). James Bridges was born on February 3, 1936, in Paris (Logan County) in western Arkansas. From 1954 to 1956, he attended Arkansas State Teachers College (now the University of Central Arkansas) in Conway, where he was drum major with the marching band and was involved with the performing arts. While in school, Bridges heard about the death of screen legend James Dean on September 30, 1955, an event that later influenced Bridges’s …

Brooks, John Doyle

John Doyle Brooks was a stuntman and actor whose career included appearances in some of the most renowned television shows of the 1950s and 1960s, including The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin and Naked City, as well as several movies and commercials. Doyle Brooks was born on December 10, 1923, in Bethesda (Independence County) to John Henry Brooks and Deliah Ann Queary Brooks. Brooks developed an interest in show business at an early age, especially in the cowboy/western genre. On his parents’ farm in Bethesda, he learned to ride, rope, break horses, and shoot, becoming an expert marksman and sharpshooter. In 1942, he married Bernice Sheffield of Batesville (Independence County), who shared his interest in the entertainment industry. Together, they …

Bumpass, Rodger

Rodger Bumpass is an actor and voice performer who was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and attended Arkansas State University (ASU) in Jonesboro (Craighead County). Along with numerous television and film roles, he has achieved fame as the voice of the character Squidward in the popular SpongeBob SquarePants film and TV series. Rodger Bumpass was born on November 20, 1951, in Little Rock to Carroll C. Bumpass and Virginia Cathey Bumpass, owners of Bumpass Cleaners and Dyers in Little Rock. He had two siblings, Leonard and Cathey (the latter of whom died at birth), and attended Little Rock Central High School, where he obtained his first experience in theater, primarily in the area of comedy. In high school, he …

Burns, Bob

aka: Robin Burn
Bob Burns was a well-known national radio and film personality during the 1930s and 1940s. He was known by a variety of titles that referenced his hillbilly origins, such as “The Arkansas Traveler” and “The Arkansas Philosopher.” Burns was a musician and an actor who wove tales of life in the Arkansas hills with his musical performances. He earned his nickname, “Bazooka,” from an instrument he invented and named as a young man in a plumbing shop in Van Buren (Crawford County). The instrument, which was a simple device made of spare gas fittings and a whiskey funnel, eventually lent its name to the World War II anti-tank weapon due to its similar looks and Burns’s popularity among the troops who …

Campbell, Glen

aka: Glen Travis Campbell
Glen Travis Campbell was a commercially successful and critically acclaimed entertainer whose career lasted more than fifty years. As a guitarist, Campbell appeared on recordings by a diverse range of artists, including Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. As a singer and solo artist, Campbell sold millions of recordings and earned many awards. He also starred in films and hosted his own television programs. Glen Campbell was born on April 22, 1936, in the Billstown community, near Delight (Pike County). He was one of twelve children born to the farming family of Carrie Dell Stone Campbell and John Wesley Campbell. Many of his relatives were musicians, and young Campbell soon developed an interest in singing and playing. He received his first …

Castle, Irene

Irene Castle was a famous ballroom dancer in the 1910s to the 1930s who appeared in several silent movies and many Broadway shows. She lived in Arkansas for a time and worked for animal rights. In her autobiography, she wrote that she would like to be remembered more for her work to prevent animal cruelty than for her dance career. Irene Foote was born on April 17, 1893, in New Rochelle, New York, to Hubert Foote, a doctor, and Annie Elroy Thomas; she had one older sister. Foote attended several boarding schools as a child. She met Vernon Castle, a British citizen who was part of a comedy show, in 1910. He got her a dance audition with Lew Fields, …

Cotton, Carolina

aka: Helen Hagstrom
Helen Hagstrom is best known for her country and western swing music and yodeling, as well as her appearances in numerous television specials, radio programs, and films under the name of Carolina Cotton. Nicknamed “The Yodeling Blonde Bombshell,” Hagstrom was an entertainer and teacher throughout her life. Helen Hagstrom was born on October 20, 1925, in Cash (Craighead County), where her parents, Fred and Helen Hagstrom, and maternal grandparents had a farm, growing many crops, including cotton and peanuts. During the Great Depression, Hagstrom’s father moved his wife and two daughters to San Francisco, California. Hagstrom began performing in traveling stage shows with the O’Neille Sisters Kiddie Revue. Then, after regularly visiting KYA Radio to watch Dude Martin’s Roundup Gang …

Dexter, Maury

aka: Morris Gene Poindexter
Maury Dexter was a film and television director and producer perhaps best remembered for his work on low-budget horror films during the early 1960s, as well as his long professional association with television legend Michael Landon. Dexter’s career paralleled that of an elder Arkansas-born film maker, Jean Yarbrough of Marianna (Lee County). Both were known less for their artistry than for their efficiency, directing or producing numerous competent but unexceptional films for “Poverty Row” studios within the constraints of tight budgets and deadlines. Reflecting on his career, Dexter observed: “I’m first and foremost a filmmaker. Even when I first started out, my intent was to take a script, whatever that script was, and do the best I could under the …

Dial, Rick

Rick Dial was a character actor, musician, and businessman from Malvern (Hot Spring County). Dial acted in fourteen Hollywood films, first appearing alongside childhood friend and fellow actor Billy Bob Thornton in Sling Blade (1996). In addition to his acting, Dial was part-owner of a furniture store in Malvern and was “the Voice of the Malvern Leopards,” announcing high school football games. Richard Halley Dial was born on March 9, 1955, in Malvern to Bill J. Dial and DeNora VanDusen Dial; he was one of three children. He graduated from Malvern High School in 1973, where he earned All-Conference honors on the Malvern Leopards football team. Dial married Phyllis Voss on September 22, 1973; they had three children. After high …

Dillon, Melinda Rose

Melinda Rose Dillon is an American actress who has appeared in dozens of movies, plays, and television shows. She has been nominated for several major awards, including an Academy Award and a Tony Award; in addition, the Screen Actors Guild recognized her for her role in Magnolia (1999). Other memorable films include Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), A Christmas Story (1983), and Harry and the Hendersons (1987). She has also appeared on television in episodes of Bonanza and the TV movie A Painted House (2003). Melinda Dillon was born on October 13, 1939, in Hope (Hempstead County). Information about her early life is sparse, as Dillon remains an intensely private person. She studied acting with both Lee Strasberg …

Epperson, Tom

Tom Epperson is a producer, screenwriter, and novelist from Malvern (Hot Spring County). He is known for his collaborations with fellow Arkansan Billy Bob Thornton: One False Move (1992), A Family Thing (1996), The Gift (2000), Don’t Look Back (1996), Camouflage (2001), and Jayne Mansfield’s Car (2012). In addition to his credits as a writer of Hollywood films, Epperson authored the popular crime novels The Kind One (2008) and Sailor (2012). Tom Epperson was born on May 22, 1951, in Nashville (Howard County). A year later, the Eppersons moved to Malvern. His father, Wendell Epperson, was a lawyer and municipal judge, while his mother, Mabel, stayed home with their four children. In 1963, Epperson met Billy Bob Thornton when he …

Flippen, Jay C.

Jay C. Flippen was a versatile entertainer whose career spanned more than six decades and multiple show business genres, from minstrelsy to motion pictures. Flippen became an iconic Hollywood character actor during the 1950s and 1960s. Long before that, he had established himself as a popular stage and radio performer whom Milton Berle eulogized as “one of the greatest standup comedians I ever saw.” J. C. Flippen was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on March 6, 1899. He may have been named for his father, whose name was either Jay Charles or John Constantine. However, Flippen reminisced that his parents could not decide on a name and took to calling him by the initials “J. C.” His mother was Emma …

Fuqua, Lela Rochon

Lela Rochon Fuqua, whose professional name is Lela Rochon, has appeared in nearly fifty movies and television shows, starring alongside some of Hollywood’s elite actors, including Angela Bassett, Halle Berry, Gene Hackman, Whitney Houston, Timothy Hutton, Eddie Murphy, and Tupac Shakur. She is a member of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. She was born Lela Rochon Staples in Torrance, California, on April 17, 1964, to Samuel Staples and Zelma Staples of Camden (Ouachita County). Her parents, both alumni of Lincoln High School, attended Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical, and Normal College, now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB). Her father graduated from Arkansas AM&N and went on to own and operate Aladdin Enterprises, a graphic-arts business in California, from …

Gerard, Gil

Actor/producer Gil Gerard is best known for his role of Buck Rogers in the 1979 movie Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and the spin-off television series that followed. He was raised in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and attended Arkansas State Teachers College (now the University of Central Arkansas in Conway in Faulkner County), where he pursued a career in chemistry. Gil Gerard was born on January 23, 1943, in Little Rock, the youngest of three sons. He gave up a promising business career as an industrial chemist to pursue his dream of acting, leaving at the age of twenty-six for New York, where he attended the American Music and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) for two semesters. To make ends meet …

Ghostley, Alice Margaret

Alice Ghostley was a film, stage, and television actress who was often described as looking “sweetly befuddled.” She most often played comedic roles, though she won Broadway’s Tony Award as best featured actress for her serious portrayal in the 1964 drama The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window. Ghostley’s distinctive face and quavering voice became known to millions for her comedic performance as a good witch/housekeeper in the television sitcom Bewitched in the 1960s and 1970s. From 1986 to 1993, she won new fans for her performance as eccentric family friend Bernice Clifton in the television series Designing Women, created by Arkansan Harry Thomason and his wife, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason. Alice Margaret Ghostley was born in Eve, Missouri, on August 14, 1923, …

Gillis, Ann

aka: Alma Mabel Conner
Ann Gillis was a child actress and ingénue in thirty-nine Hollywood movies from 1934 to 1947. She played small parts in two perennially famous films—Walt Disney’s Bambi (1942) and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Ann Gillis was born Alma Mabel Conner in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on February 12, 1927, to Mabel Brandon Conner. She later recalled: “My mother was one of those ladies who kept getting married. I guess one might say she was a femme fatale.” Mabel Conner left two husbands, including Alma’s father. The family often consisted only of Mabel, Alma, and Alma’s brother Brandon. Alma’s first show business experiences were in school plays in New Rochelle, New York, and her mother was eager to …

Green, David Gordon

Director, writer, and producer David Gordon Green is a native Arkansan whose films have received many awards. Film critic Roger Ebert described him as “a director of tones, emotions, and moments of truth,” while New York Times film critic A. O. Scott has compared Green’s work with the writings of William Faulkner. Green’s films are generally coming-of-age tales set in small, rural Southern towns. Although born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on April 9, 1975, David Gordon Green was raised in Richardson, Texas, just outside of Dallas. He grew up as the son of medical school dean Gordon Green and Lamaze instructor Jeanne Green. At an early age, Green developed an admiration for nontraditional films such as Walkabout, Never Cry …

Greer, Stuart

Stuart Greer is a popular character actor from El Dorado (Union County) with more than forty film and television credits to his name. His career began in 1994; in 2016, he suffered a stroke at the age of fifty-six. His first role was in a single episode of the British miniseries Crocodile Shoes; in 2016, he played the character Roman in AMC’s hit horror series The Walking Dead. Greer’s notable movies include I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), The Reaping (2007) with Hillary Swank, Homefront (2013) with Jason Statham, and American Ultra (2015). Stuart Greer was born on December 2, 1959, in El Dorado, and he lived there until he was eight years old. Greer graduated from Benton …

Harper, Tess

aka: Tessie Jean Washam
A Golden Globe and Academy Award nominee, Tess Harper has become a consummate actress known for portraying Southern women of grace and dignity. She is best known for roles in Tender Mercies and Silkwood. Tess Harper was born Tessie Jean Washam on August 15, 1950, in Mammoth Spring (Fulton County). She attended Arkansas State University–Beebe (ASU–Beebe), where she performed in several plays, as well as Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University) in Springfield, where she graduated with a degree in education. She married Ken Harper in 1971; the couple divorced in 1976. In the late 1960s, Harper began acting in theater productions and made appearances in theme parks, dinner theater, children’s theater, and commercials. Her first feature film …

Hartman, Ena

Ena Hartman is an unsung trailblazer of Hollywood whose smaller roles in 1960s media productions helped create a path for African Americans in film and television. African-American actresses working in the 1970s benefited from the trail Hartman helped blaze. Ena Hartman was born on April 1, 1935, in Moscow (Jefferson County). The daughter of sharecroppers, she was raised by her grandparents. At age thirteen, she moved to Buffalo, New York, to live with her mother. She dropped out of high school to open a restaurant, handling the duties of cook and waitress as she tried to earn money to go to New York City to become a model. She was discovered by a photographer in the lobby of a modeling …

Helm, Levon

aka: Mark Lavon Helm
Mark Lavon (Levon) Helm was best known as the drummer and singer for the Canadian rock group the Band. Following the demise of the Band, he continued to have a successful career leading his own band, as well as acting in numerous motion pictures. Levon Helm was born on May 26, 1940, outside Elaine (Phillips County) to Nell and Diamond Helm. He had two sisters and one brother. He grew up in Marvell (Phillips County) working on the family cotton farm but was always encouraged to play and sing music at home and in church. Helm knew that he wanted to become a musician at age six, after seeing bluegrass musician Bill Monroe perform. He began playing guitar at age eight …

Hunnicutt, Arthur Lee

Personifying the rustic but savvy characterizations of his home state, Arthur Hunnicutt became one of the most sought-after character actors in Hollywood, being nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actor in 1952’s The Big Sky. Arthur Hunnicutt was born on February 17, 1910, in Gravelly (Yell County) and attended school in the area. He attended Arkansas State Teachers College in Conway (Faulkner County), now the University of Central Arkansas (UCA). The Depression forced him to drop out of college when he ran out of funds. Even so, Hunnicutt was already perfecting the ability to project his Arkansas drawl and persona into a character he played in many plays and movies. He began his motion picture career in 1942, …

Ladd, Alan

aka: Alan Walbridge Ladd Jr.
Alan Walbridge Ladd Jr., a native of Hot Springs (Garland County), was a movie actor who rose from poverty and starred in forty-seven films, mostly in the 1940s and 1950s. He often portrayed a solitary hero with a conscience and is best known for his title role in the classic western Shane (1953). He is the father of actress Alana Ladd, actor/producer David Ladd, and producer Alan Ladd Jr., former president of 20th Century Fox and currently president of The Ladd Company. Alan Ladd was born on September 3, 1913, to the American-born Alan Ladd Sr., a freelance accountant who traveled frequently, and the petite Selina Rowley Ladd (stage name Ina Raleigh), who was born in County Durham, England, in …

Lambert, Mary Martha

Mary Lambert is a motion picture director who has been at the helm of landmark music videos, television programs, and feature films—the latter mainly in the horror genre (including Pet Sematary, based on the Stephen King novel). Along with directing music videos for Debbie Harry, Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, Mick Jagger, Alison Krauss, Annie Lennox, Mötley Crüe, Sting, and the Go-Go’s, Lambert directed many well-known videos for her friend Madonna, including “Like a Virgin,” “Material Girl,” and the controversial “Like a Prayer,” which was seen by millions in a commercial during the 1989 Super Bowl. Mary Martha Lambert was born in Helena (Phillips County) on October 13, 1951, to Martha Kelly Lambert and Jordan Bennett Lambert, who farmed cotton and …

Lauck, Chet

aka: Chester Harris Lauck
Chester Harris (Chet) Lauck and his partner, Norris “Tuffy” Goff, created Lum and Abner, a radio program based on life in Pine Ridge (Montgomery County) that was popular nationwide from 1931 to 1955. Lauck portrayed Lum Edwards (pronounced “Eddards”), Grandpappy Spears, and Cedric Wehunt, with Goff doing the voices of the other characters. Chet Lauck was born on October 10, 1902, in Alleene (Little River County) to W. J. and Cora Lauck. The family moved to Mena (Polk County) in 1911. The Lauck and Goff families were prominent in local events in Mena, and as children, the two boys began a lifelong friendship. Lauck was expected to continue his father’s business interests, banking and lumber, but was more interested in …

Luckinbill, Laurence

aka: Laurence George Luckinbill
Laurence George Luckinbill’s acting career extends through theater, television, and motion pictures. His career has ranged from soap operas to a Tony-nominated role in the play The Shadow Box (1977) and a co-starring role as Sybok in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989). Laurence Luckinbill was born in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) on November 21, 1934, to Laurence Benedict Luckinbill, a salesman for Oklahoma Tire and Supply Co., and Agnes Luckinbill. He graduated from St. Anne’s High School in Fort Smith and then attended Fort Smith Junior College (now the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith) before going to the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), graduating in 1955 with a degree in theater. After this, he …

McKrell, Jim

Jim McKrell is a broadcast personality whose career spanned many decades and included work in radio, television, and film. From his work in commercials for both local and national television to hosting game shows and appearing in TV shows and films, he compiled a wide-ranging set of credits for work both behind and in front of the camera. Jim “Mac” McKrell was born James MacKrell Jr. on October 12, 1937, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to James “Mac” MacKrell Sr. and Bess Irene Townsend MacKrell. He later changed the spelling of his last name. His father was a prominent local radio personality before getting involved in politics. He graduated from Covington High School in Covington, Louisiana, in 1955 and returned …

Moore, Rudy Ray

African-American comedian, singer, film actor, and film producer Rudy Ray Moore was known as “king of the party records” because of the popularity of his comedy albums. He released many comedy albums in the 1960s and 1970s and was best known for the character Dolemite, which he developed in his standup routine and portrayed in two films, Dolemite and The Human Tornado. Rudy Ray Moore was born on March 17, 1927, in Fort Smith (Sebastian County). The oldest of seven children, he often sang in church and developed a taste for performance. After his mother married, he lived briefly in nearby Paris (Logan County) before moving back to Fort Smith. He moved to Cleveland, Ohio, at the age of fifteen …

Needham, Harold Brett “Hal”

Hal Needham was an American stuntman, stunt coordinator, writer, and director who performed stunts in scores of films and television shows. The director of hit movies like Smokey and the Bandit, Smokey and the Bandit II, Stroker Ace, Cannonball Run, Cannonball Run II, and Hooper, Needham was considered a pioneer in the stunt industry, having introduced techniques and safety equipment still in use today. Harold Brett “Hal” Needham was born on March 6, 1931, in Memphis, Tennessee, the third of three children of Howard and Edith Needham. Needham’s father left the family soon after he was born. Eventually, Needham’s mother married a sharecropper named Corbett, who moved the family to Arkansas when Needham was four. She and Corbett had two …

Nichols, Jeffrey Ryan (Jeff)

Jeffrey Ryan Nichols directed and wrote the screenplays for the critically acclaimed movies Shotgun Stories (2007), Take Shelter (2011), Mud (2013), and Loving (2016). Jeff Nichols was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on December 7, 1978. He grew up in Little Rock, graduating from Central High School. He studied filmmaking at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where he befriended fellow Little Rock–born director and frequent collaborator David Gordon Green. He graduated in May 2001. Following his father’s advice to write about Arkansas, Nichols began contemplating his youth in the land between Little Rock and England (Lonoke County), a landscape he says he romanticizes from childhood visits to his grandparents. Yet in writing and filming, Nichols …

Owens, Freeman Harrison

Freeman Harrison Owens was a pioneer cinematographer and inventor of cinematic technology, including the A. C. Nielsen Rating System, a plastic lens for Kodak, and the method of adding synchronized sound to film. He is credited with 11,812 inventions and held 200 patents during his lifetime. Freeman Owens was born on July 20, 1890, in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). He was the only child of Charles H. Owens and Christabel Harrison Owens and grandson of Arkansas Supreme Court judge William M. Harrison. Owens attended Sixth and Beech Street Elementary School, but he dropped out during his senior year at Pine Bluff High School. He went to work for a movie theater when he was twelve years old. He cleaned the …

Perryman, Lloyd Wilson

Lloyd Wilson Perryman was a member of the country and western group Sons of the Pioneers for more than four decades, appearing in dozens of movies and selling millions of records. An accomplished guitarist and singer, Perryman was a fixture in Hollywood from the mid-1930s until his death. Lloyd Perryman was born in Ruth (Fulton County) on January 29, 1917, to Samuel and Sally Perryman. He had eight older brothers and sisters. His family also lived in Zion (Izard County), where they farmed and owned a general store, prior to moving to California in 1928 when Perryman was eleven years old. There, Perryman learned to play the guitar and became involved with music while in high school. His first radio …

Phillips, Kate

aka: Mary Katherine (Kay) Linaker
Mary Katherine (Kay) Linaker (a.k.a. Kate Phillips) was a veteran stage and screen actress who went on to become a writer of television and movie screenplays. She achieved her greatest notoriety as a writer on the 1958 horror/science fiction classic, The Blob. Kay Linaker was born on July 19, 1913, in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). Her father owned C. A. Linaker and Company and was a wholesaler for Armour Food Company. Linaker’s father died when she was eleven. When she was twelve, she entered the Hillside School in Norwalk, Connecticut, a boarding school from which she graduated at sixteen. She had already expressed an interest in theater and planned to attend Wellesley College, but the exercise treatments for the polio …

Piazza, Ben Daniel

Ben Daniel Piazza was an actor, director, author, and playwright who was compared to the young Marlon Brando in his youth but achieved acclaim for character roles in his later years, often portraying an edgy, tightly controlled suburbanite or a repressive parent in films such as The Blues Brothers. He began acting in 1952 during his college days at Princeton University and worked steadily in theater, film, and television until his death in 1991. Ben Piazza was born on July 30, 1933, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Charles Piazza, a shoe repairman, and Elfreida Piazza, a homemaker. He was one of nine children, having two sisters and six brothers. He graduated from Little Rock High School (later Central High …

Pierce, Charles Bryant

Charles Bryant Pierce was an independent filmmaker from Arkansas whose movies have become cult classics. Films that he wrote, directed, and/or produced include The Legend of Boggy Creek, Bootleggers, and The Town that Dreaded Sundown, which were not only made in Arkansas with local actors but also drew their inspiration from Arkansas themes. He is believed to be the source of one of the most famous lines in American film history: “Go ahead, make my day.” Charles B. Pierce was born in Hammond, Indiana, on June 16, 1938, the son of Mack McKenny Pierce and Mayven Bryant Pierce. When he was a few months old, the family moved to Hampton (Calhoun County) in the south-central part of Arkansas. Living in …

Pittman, Montgomery

Montgomery Pittman was a television writer, director, and actor noted for writing the movie Come Next Spring set in a fictional version of Cushman (Independence County) in the 1920s. Other credits include writing and directing episodes of The Twilight Zone, Maverick, and 77 Sunset Strip. According to his California death certificate, Social Security records, and other official documents, Montgomery Cherlez Pittman was born in Louisiana on March 1, 1917; however, his World War II draft card gives his date of birth as March 1, 1920, and place of birth as specifically New Orleans. His parents’ names are often given as John Griffin Pittman and Mary Belle Thompson, but he is not listed as a member of their household in the …

Powell, Dick

aka: Richard Ewing Powell
Richard Ewing Powell was a musician, actor, and director. An ambitious man always pursuing new avenues for his creativity, Powell experimented with different media (radio, film, and television) at a time when not many did. The films of which he was a part ranged from 1930s comical musicals to 1940s films noir. Dick Powell was born in Mountain View (Stone County) on November 14, 1904, the second of three sons of Sallie Thompson and Ewing Powell. His father was a machinery salesman sometimes credited with introducing the gasoline engine to north Arkansas. Powell’s mother encouraged her three sons’ interest in music. His most important early musical influence was George R. “Dick” Case, a Mountain View merchant for whom he was …

Purcell, Lee

Emmy Award–nominated actress, producer, writer, and director Lee Purcell has starred in numerous films, television shows, and stage productions. At the beginning of her career, she was mentored by legendary movie star Steve McQueen, who said he chose her from about 500 actresses because she “seemed to jump right out of the screen.” Lee Purcell was born Lee Jeune Williams at the Cherrypoint Marine Corps Air Station in North Carolina on June 15, 1947. Her father, Major Frank D. Williams Jr., was a highly decorated Marine Corps pilot who was killed while on active duty when she was a child. She was placed into the care of various relatives until her mother, Lee McKnight Williams, married again, this time to …

Rogers, Betty Blake

Betty Blake Rogers was the wife of Will Rogers, one of the most beloved entertainers of the twentieth century. In addition to her roles as wife and mother, she managed the family’s finances, a job made difficult by Will’s enormous success and generous nature. She was a partner in his career, encouraging him to start on the lecture circuit and helping him choose film scripts. Betty Blake was born on September 9, 1879, at Silver Springs, later called Monte Ne (Benton County), to James Wyeth Blake, a miller, and Amelia Crowder Blake. Her father died when she was young, and the family moved a few miles north to Rogers (Benton County). Betty was seventh in a family of nine, and …

Sammon, Winona

aka: Peggy Shannon
Winona Sammon was a stage and cinema actress in the 1920s through early 1940, using the stage name Peggy Shannon. There were high hopes for her career early on, but as it progressed, her roles became smaller and less prestigious. Winona Sammon was born on January 10, 1907, to Edward and Nannie Sammon in the upstairs living quarters over her father’s store on Barraque Street in downtown Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). She had a younger sister. In late 1923, she traveled to New York City with her mother to visit an aunt, who lived in the same building as Florenz Ziegfeld’s secretary, “Goldie” Glough. Sammon was invited for some publicity pictures with Ziegfeld, who, with famed choreographer Ned Wrayburn, chose …

Schoonover, Wear Kibler

Wear Kibler Schoonover won many academic and athletic awards while attending the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). While he was part of the All-American football team, he went to Hollywood to play a part in the film Maybe It’s Love. Schoonover later served in the U.S. Navy and worked for the government in the Legal Services Department of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Wear Schoonover was born on March 18, 1910, in Pocahontas (Randolph County) to attorney Eugene Gardiner Schoonover and Estelle Waddle Schoonover; he had two siblings who died in infancy and one brother. Schoonover graduated from Pocahontas High School and attended UA, accomplishing much in both academics and sports. Schoonover was the first UA athlete …

Staggs, Monica

Monica Staggs is an actress best known for her work as a stunt double in numerous films and television shows. Monica Ann Staggs was born on February 24, 1970, in Boulder, Colorado, to Nova Staggs and Thomas Staggs. She has one sister. Staggs spent most of her youth in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) and graduated from Sylvan Hills High School in 1988. She then did work in the drama and English departments at both the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, as well as attending the University of Central Arkansas in Conway (Faulkner County) for a time. Without completing a degree, in 1996, she took a job as a stand-in …

Steenburgen, Mary Nell

Mary Nell Steenburgen is one of Arkansas’s most celebrated actors. Noted for roles in cinema, television, and stage, she has portrayed a wide range of characters, from the president’s mother, Hannah Nixon, in Nixon (1995) to schoolteacher Clara Clayton in Back to the Future III (1990) and seductress Betty Carver in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993). She has won many awards, including an Academy Award for her portrayal of Lynda Dummar in Melvin and Howard (1980). Mary Steenburgen was born on February 8, 1953, in Newport (Jackson County) to Maurice Steenburgen, a freight train conductor, and Nellie Mae Wall Steenburgen, a school secretary. Her family—including a younger sister, Nancy Lynn—moved to North Little Rock (Pulaski County) when she was three …