Actors and Filmmakers

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Entries - Entry Category: Actors and Filmmakers

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 …

Stickney, Phyllis Yvonne

Phyllis Yvonne Stickney is an actress, comedian, poet, playwright, producer, and motivational speaker best known for her television and film roles in the late 1980s and 1990s. Noted in the twenty-fifth anniversary issue of Essence magazine as one of 200 African-American women who have changed the world, she was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 1998. Phyllis Stickney was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Belle and Felix Stickney Jr. She has publicly been vague about her age, and no available sources offer the year of her birth. Her father was an executive with the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), and the family moved frequently. She has two siblings, one of whom, Timothy, is also an …

Takei, George Hosato

George Hosato Takei gained international fame as Lieutenant Sulu in the original Star Trek television series and six movies. When he was a boy, he and his family were held in the War Relocation Authority Camp in Rohwer (Desha County). George Takei was born on April 20, 1937, in Los Angeles, California. His father, Takekuma Norman Takei, immigrated to the United States from Japan at age thirteen, graduated from Hills Business College in San Francisco, and owned a cleaning shop in the Wilshire corridor of Los Angeles. His mother, Fumiko Emily Nakamura Takei, was a native U.S. citizen who was educated in Japan. In 1942, after the outbreak of World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, …

Thomason, Harry Z.

Harry Z. Thomason is a film and television producer best known for the television series Designing Women and for his friendship with Bill Clinton. Thomason made the casting of people of Southern heritage more popular, replacing the ignorant hillbilly type with a more wry, witty, sophisticated Southerner. Thomason was born in 1940 in Hampton (Calhoun County). After moving to Little Rock (Pulaski County), he became a high-school speech teacher and football coach. Beginning with Encounter with the Unknown (1973), he wrote, produced, and/or directed the movies The Great Lester Boggs (1974), So Sad about Gloria (1975), The Day It Came to Earth (1979), and Revenge of Bigfoot (1979). He then moved to television, where he produced the television movies A Shining Season …

Thornton, Billy Bob

Billy Bob Thornton is an actor, director, screenwriter, and musician who began his film career in the late 1980s and has since starred in a number of popular and critically acclaimed films. He received an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Sling Blade (1996). Billy Bob Thornton was born on August 4, 1955, in Hot Springs (Garland County), the oldest son of high school basketball coach Billy Ray Thornton and Virginia Faulkner, a psychic. At seven months of age, he set the Clark County record for heaviest infant, at thirty pounds. He has two younger brothers, Jimmy Don and John David. Residing with over a dozen relatives in a shack with no electricity or plumbing, the Thorntons subsisted on …

Wakely, James Clarence (Jimmy)

Jimmy Wakely, an American country and western singer and actor from the 1930s through the 1950s, made several recordings and appeared in B-western movies with most major studios as a “singing cowboy.” Wakely was one of the last singing cowboys after World War II and also appeared on radio and television; he even had his own series of comic books. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1680 Vine Street. Jimmy Wakely was born James Clarence Wakeley on February 16, 1914, in Mineola (Howard County) to Major Anderson Wakeley, a farmer, and Caroline (or Carolin) “Cali” Burgess Wakeley. As a teenager, he changed “James” to “Jimmy” and dropped the second “e” in his last name, making …

Yarbrough, Arthur Jean Wilker

Jean Yarbrough was a film and television director and producer who worked on numerous low-budget films, or “B-movies,” mostly for Hollywood’s so-called “Poverty Row” studios beginning in the 1930s. In the 1950s, he transitioned successfully to television, directing many episodes of several popular TV series, including The Addams Family, Death Valley Days, Gunsmoke, The Life of Riley, McHale’s Navy, and Petticoat Junction. Known more for his efficiency than his artistry, he may be best remembered for his directorial work with the Abbott and Costello comedy team on feature films as well as their 1952–1954 television series. Arthur Jean Wilker Yarbrough was born on August 22, 1900, in Marianna (Lee County). He was the only child of William T. Yarbrough and …