Cinema

Entries - Entry Category: Cinema

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 …

Arkansas Judge

Arkansas Judge (1941) is the sixth in a series of eleven comedies made by Republic Pictures from 1938 to 1943 featuring the Weaver Brothers and Elviry (consisting of Missourians Leon, Frank, and June Weaver), a popular “rube” vaudeville and radio act. The Weaver series also included Down in “Arkansaw” (1938), the first film in the series. In his book Hillbilly, Anthony Harkins noted that the years 1937–1945 saw “the hillbilly stereotype at high tide” in popular culture, with the Weavers and Judy Canova making pictures at Republic, Arkansan Bob Burns appearing in films for Paramount (including The Arkansas Traveler, 1938), and the Lum & Abner show on the radio. Arkansas Judge was the only movie in the series set in …

Arkansas Swing, The

Following success in radio and recording in the 1930s, the Hoosier Hotshots, a swing and jazz quartet that also performed humorous novelty songs, appeared in twenty-one Hollywood films from 1939 to 1957. The membership of the group varied but always included brothers Ken and Paul Trietsch, and usually Gil Taylor and Charles Ward; they were the four Hotshots featured in Columbia’s film The Arkansas Swing (1948), a sixty-two-minute musical comedy directed by Ray Nazarro. The Hotshots, along with singers Stuart Hart and Dorothy Porter, perform eight country, swing, blues, and novelty songs in the movie. The black-and-white film opens with an assurance by the narrator that “there is nothing in America more American than the state or county fair” and …

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 …

Biloxi Blues

Biloxi Blues is a 1988 movie made entirely in Arkansas. Shooting locations included Van Buren (Crawford County), Fort Smith (Sebastian County), Barling (Sebastian County), and Fort Chaffee. The film, written by humorist Neil Simon, is semi-autobiographical with elements of both comedy and drama. It was directed by Academy Award winner Mike Nichols, and it starred Matthew Broderick along with Academy Award winner Christopher Walken. In 1985, Simon had written a semi-autobiographical play of the same title. Biloxi Blues was the second in what is known as the “Eugene trilogy,” with the first being Brighton Beach Memoirs and the third being Broadway Bound. He adapted Biloxi Blues for the screen, maintaining the characters and plot elements of the play. Broderick, who …

Bloody Mama

In 1969, Roger Corman, who had found success directing and producing low-budget exploitation films for American International Pictures, chose as his next project a fictionalized account of the exploits of the infamous Ma Barker and her gang. After a scouting trip to Arkansas, Corman decided to shoot the film in the Ozark Mountains and around the Little Rock (Pulaski County) area. Corman described the experience as one of the “smoothest and most successful” shoots of his career. For the part of the notorious Ma Barker, Corman had only one actress in mind—Oscar-winner Shelley Winters. After agreeing to the role, Winters helped Corman cast the film. She showed him a video of Robert De Niro performing in a low-budget Brian De Palma film, …

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 …

Bootleggers

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 …

Boxcar Bertha

Boxcar Bertha (1972) was the second exploitation film shot in Arkansas by B-movie director Roger Corman. The first was Bloody Mama (1970), and both were set in the 1930s. Corman chose Arkansas because many rural areas in the state could still pass for the Depression-era South. Interiors and street scenes for Bertha were shot around Camden (Ouachita County). Train sequences and other exteriors were shot on the Possum Trot Line of the Reader Railroad in Nevada and Ouachita counties. Rather than direct the film himself, Corman served as producer and hired a relatively unknown young director, Martin Scorsese, who had impressed Corman with his first feature film, Who’s That Knocking on My Door (1967), also titled I Call First. Corman gave Scorsese …

Boy Erased

Garrard Conley’s 2016 memoir Boy Erased recounts his experiences at the Memphis, Tennessee, “ex-gay” therapy program Love in Action, to which his parents sent him in 2004 upon learning that he was gay. A movie adaptation of the book was released in November 2018. Conley, who was born in Memphis and grew up in northern Arkansas—first in Cherokee Village (Sharp and Fulton counties), then in Mountain Home (Baxter County)—is the son of Hershel Conley and Martha Caudill Conley. His father served as a Missionary Baptist pastor in Mountain Home. Conley was a Lyon College freshman when another student outed him as gay. In response, his parents sent him to Love in Action. His memoir is a painful reflection on his …

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 …

Brubaker

Released in 1980, Brubaker is loosely based on the 1969 nonfiction book Accomplices to the Crime: The Arkansas Prison Scandal by Joe Hyams and Thomas O. Murton. Murton was hired as a prison warden in the late 1960s to modernize two prison farms: the Tucker State Prison Farm and the Cummins State Prison Farm. The controversial book and movie brought national attention to issues such as prisoner abuse, inhumane conditions in prisons, and the need for modernization. The movie follows Henry Brubaker, a new warden who has been hired to modernize and reform Wakefield Prison. Brubaker pretends to be a prisoner and mixes with the general population until he discovers widespread corruption and reveals himself in disgust. Though faced with …

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, …

Chrystal

Chrystal is a film written and directed by longtime Arkansas resident Ray McKinnon. The movie stars McKinnon’s wife, Fayetteville (Washington County) native Lisa Blount, who played the title character alongside Hot Springs (Garland County) native Billy Bob Thornton, who played her husband. The movie was shot in and around Eureka Springs (Carroll County) in 2003 and is set in a small, unnamed community in the Ozark Mountains. It was the second project of Ginny Mule Productions, a company co-owned by McKinnon, Blount, and Walton Goggins, who also acted in the movie. The three had received an Academy Award for best live action short in 2001 for their first project, the film The Accountant. Chrystal centers upon the reunion of Joe (played …

Clinton Chronicles, The

The Clinton Chronicles: An Investigation into the Alleged Criminal Activities of Bill Clinton is a 1994 video produced by Patrick Matrisciana that accuses former president Bill Clinton of crimes in Arkansas. The video, which has been called a propaganda piece, put forward a conspiracy theory, the “Clinton Body Count,” regarding individuals whom Clinton was alleged to have had killed. The Clinton Chronicles was produced by a group called Citizens for Honest Government of Westminster, California. Partially funded by Arkansan Larry Nichols, its parent organization was Creative Ministries, Inc. According to the New York Times, Nichols had been hired in the 1980s by Governor Clinton as marketing director for the Arkansas Development Finance Authority (ADFA). In 1988, Nichols was fired by …

Come Early Morning

Released in 2006, Come Early Morning is a movie written and directed by Joey Lauren Adams, best known for her acting roles in Dazed and Confused (1993) and Chasing Amy (1997). It was filmed primarily in Adams’s hometown of North Little Rock (Pulaski County), with several scenes shot in her grandmother’s house. The movie stars Ashley Judd as a working-class woman who spends her weekends getting drunk in bars before going to a motel for one-night-stands, after which she quickly leaves “come early morning.” In the New York Times, reviewer Stephen Holden said that Adams, in her filmmaking debut, “knows how these people speak and has a finely tuned awareness of their relationship to an environment where beer flows like …

Come Next Spring

Come Next Spring was a 1956 dramatic feature film produced and distributed by Republic Pictures Corporation. The film is about the reconciliation of a rural, Prohibition-era Arkansas family split apart by alcohol abuse. Both the original story and screenplay were written by Montgomery Pittman, whose family connections, and possibly childhood experiences, in Independence County, Arkansas, are referenced obliquely throughout the film. The film premiered at the Center Theater in downtown Little Rock (Pulaski County) on February 1, 1956. The premiere included a personal appearance by one of the film’s stars, Steve Cochran. Released nationally in the United States the following month and internationally afterward, the film played in U.S. theaters well into 1957 and, in subsequent years, was broadcast many …

Command and Control

Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety is a 2013 book by investigative journalist Eric Schlossser that explores the history of the United States’ nuclear weapons, efforts to control them, and accidents involving them, focusing particularly on the September 1980 Titan II Missile explosion in Arkansas. The book was the basis for a 2016 documentary film directed by Robert Kenner. Author Eric Schlosser previously wrote the New York Times bestsellers Fast Food Nation (2001) and Reefer Madness (2003). The 632-page Command and Control, published by Penguin Press, explored the United States’ development of nuclear weapons and national policy regarding them from their origins in World War II into the twenty-first century. It also documented …

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 …

Daddy and Them

Daddy and Them is a comedy-drama written and directed by Billy Bob Thornton that stars Thornton and Laura Dern as Claude and Ruby Montgomery, a passionate but antagonistic married couple from Arkansas. Insecurity about measuring up to one another’s past romantic relationships stands as their biggest point of contention, which is further complicated by Claude’s past relationship with Ruby’s older sister, Rose, before he married Ruby. Claude travels with Ruby, Rose, and his mother-in-law Jewel to support his extended family when his Uncle Hazel is arrested for attempted murder. The plot largely centers around the chronic dysfunction of the Montgomery family. In the DVD commentary, Thornton remarked that “one of the things about this movie, one of the things I …

Day It Came to Earth, The

The Day It Came to Earth is a 1977 horror/science fiction feature film directed by Arkansan Harry Thomason. It was filmed in and around Little Rock (Pulaski County). Running at eighty-eight minutes and rated PG (for violence), the movie features a number of local Arkansas actors, such as Little Rock advertising executive Robert (Bob) Ginnaven (1937–2008) in addition to comedian George Gobel near the end of his career and actress Rita Wilson at the beginning of hers. The story, written by Paul Fisk, begins with a glowing meteorite falling into a secluded pond. Gangsters have dumped the body of one of their victims into the pond. The water takes on rejuvenating powers from the meteorite, causing the dead body to …

Devil’s Knot

Mara Leveritt’s 2002 book Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three focuses on the facts of the 1993 murder of three eight-year-old boys in West Memphis (Crittenden County) and the controversial court case that followed. One of the teenagers of the so-called West Memphis Three convicted in the case was sentenced to death, while two others were condemned to life in jail without parole; the three were freed in 2011. The murders remained unsolved. The book depicts a bleak picture of small-town Arkansas in the 1990s, providing background for how, in the author’s view, this case assumed a level of hysteria that in many ways equaled the Salem Witch Trials. The book provoked a larger discussion about …

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 …

Die Goldsucher von Arkansas

aka: Massacre at Marble City
aka: Conquerors of Arkansas
Die Goldsucher von Arkansas (literally, The Gold Seekers of Arkansas), produced in the Federal Republic of Germany in 1964, is based loosely on Friedrich Gerstäcker’s novel Die Regulatoren in Arkansas, which is set in Arkansas. Fitting into the genre of the spaghetti western, the film was released in Germany, Italy, France, the United Kingdom, Spain (under two separate titles), Sweden, Finland, and the United States. The title in the United States was Massacre in Marble City, while in the United Kingdom, it was released as Conquerors of Arkansas. Directors were Paul Martin in Germany and Alberto Cardone in Italy. Although both the novel and movie take place in Arkansas, considerable license was taken in adapting the novel, and in the …

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 …

Down in “Arkansaw”

B-movie studio Republic Pictures shot hillbilly situation comedy Down in “Arkansaw” (1938) in California. The only Arkansan in the film was Pinky Tomlin, who was born in Eros (Marion County) but raised in Oklahoma. The film was the first in a series of eleven comedies made by Republic from 1938 to 1943 featuring the Weaver Brothers and Elviry (consisting of Missourians Leon, Frank, and June Weaver), a popular “rube” vaudeville and radio act. The Weaver series also included Arkansas Judge (1941). In his book Hillbilly, Anthony Harkins noted that the years 1937–1945 saw “the hillbilly stereotype at high tide” in popular culture, with the Weavers and Judy Canova making pictures at Republic, Arkansan Bob Burns appearing in films for Paramount …

Encounter with the Unknown

Encounter with the Unknown is a low-budget 1973 feature film directed by Harry Thomason of Hampton (Calhoun County). It was shot at various locations in or near Little Rock (Pulaski County) using a number of local actors and crew. The ninety-minute film was rated PG and released by Centronics International. It was produced by Joe Glass and written by Glass, Jack Anderson, and Hillman Taylor. Encounter with the Unknown was the first film created by Thomason, who would later become known for projects including the 2004 documentary The Hunting of the President along with four Arkansas-based movies: The Great Lester Boggs (1974), So Sad About Gloria (1975), The Day It Came to Earth (1977), and Revenge of Bigfoot (1979). He …

End of the Line

End of the Line is a film set in the fictional town of Clifford, Arkansas, that deals with working-class issues of the loss of job security, worker entitlement, and the powerlessness of average people when up against faceless corporations. The film stars Wilford Brimley and Arkansas native Levon Helm and features in supporting roles Holly Hunter, Kevin Bacon, Clint Howard, and Arkansas native Mary Steenburgen (who was also the executive producer). End of the Line was the first film directed by Arkansas native Jay Russell, who went on to direct many well-known films, including Tuck Everlasting, Ladder 49, and My Dog Skip. Russell also co-wrote the script with John Wohlbruck. Much of the movie was filmed in or near Little …

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 …

Face in the Crowd, A

A Face in the Crowd was a 1957 movie drama based on the short story, “Your Arkansas Traveler,” written by Budd Schulberg. It concerns a fictional Arkansas native, its opening scenes were set in northeast Arkansas, and it was filmed on location in Piggott (Clay County) using local residents as extras. The film marked the screen debut of Andy Griffith and Lee Remick, along with being Walter Matthau and Tony Franciosa’s first major roles. It is significant for its prophetic theme of the cult of celebrity, the power of television, and the merging of entertainment and politics. Writer Budd Wilson Schulberg (1914–) and director Elia Kazan (1909–2003) had previously worked together on the film, On the Waterfront (1954), based on …

Fighting Mad

B-movie mogul Roger Corman was responsible for three films made in Arkansas. After directing Bloody Mama (1970), he produced Boxcar Bertha (1972), which was directed by Martin Scorsese, and Fighting Mad (1976), which was written and directed by Jonathan Demme. After directing three movies for Corman, Demme went on to direct major films like Silence of the Lambs (1991) and Philadelphia (1993). In 1976, Peter Fonda, the star of Fighting Mad, was near the end of his brief period of stardom after his hit Easy Rider (1969). Supporting actor Scott Glenn was at the beginning of his starring career. Corman once said that his films should have “a little violence but not too much; a little sex but not too …

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 …

Forbush, Nellie

Nellie Forbush is a fictional character created by bestselling author James A. Michener (1907–1997). A native of Arkansas, the character of Nellie first appears in Michener’s book Tales of the South Pacific, which was published in 1947. Tales of the South Pacific, a series of nineteen interrelated stories based on Michener’s experiences in the U.S. Navy while stationed on the New Hebrides Islands in the Pacific during World War II, won the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Michener explained that he had wanted to write observations of what he called the “valiant people” he met there: “the French planters, the Australian coast watchers, the Navy nurses, the Tonkinese laborers, the ordinary sailors and soldiers who were doing the work, and …

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 …

God’s Not Dead 2

God’s Not Dead 2 is a 2016 Christian-themed movie starring Melissa Joan Hart and directed by Harold Cronk. Filmed in central Arkansas, the movie is a sequel to the 2014 film God’s Not Dead and centers upon Grace Wesley (played by Hart), a high school history teacher who encounters legal trouble for incorporating words from Christian scripture in a classroom lesson. During a lesson about civil rights figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, student Brooke Thawley (played by Hayley Orrantia), in her history class at the fictional Martin Luther King Jr. High School, asks teacher Wesley about the religious origins of King’s commitment to non-violence. Wesley’s answer incorporates a few lines of Christian scripture, specifically Jesus’s …

God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness

God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness (2018) marked the third installment in a popular franchise of Evangelical Christian–themed movies by production company Pure Flix. Like its predecessor, God’s Not Dead 2, it was filmed in central Arkansas and features several prominent landmarks. The movie was released nationally on March 30, 2018. Set in the fictional Hope Springs, Arkansas, God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness opens where the previous movie left off—with Pastor Dave Hill (played by David A. R. White, who also produces) in jail for refusing a subpoena for the text of his sermons. After he is bailed out by his co-pastor, Reverend Jude (Benjamin A. Onyango), he finds that his church, St. James, has become a …

Great Balls of Fire!

Great Balls of Fire! is a 1989 motion picture loosely based on pioneering rock and roll star Jerry Lee Lewis. Several scenes of Great Balls of Fire! were filmed on location in the Arkansas towns of Marion (Crittenden County) and West Memphis (Crittenden County), with other filming taking place in nearby Memphis, Tennessee. It starred Dennis Quaid as Lewis, Winona Ryder as the thirteen-year-old cousin whom he married, and Alec Baldwin as another cousin, televangelist Jimmy Swaggart. The 108-minute film was based on a book by Myra Brown Lewis and was directed by Jim McBride. It follows Jerry Lee Lewis’s early career in 1956 through 1959 as he rose to stardom. A pivotal plot point is his controversial marriage to …

Great Lester Boggs, The

aka: Hootch Country Boys [Movie]
aka: The Hard Heads [Movie]
aka: Redneck Country [Movie]
The Great Lester Boggs is a ninety-four-minute feature film directed by Arkansas filmmaker Harry Thomason and shot on location around central Arkansas, particularly Beebe (White County). It was released in late 1974 by Thomason’s company, Centronics International, and carried a rating of PG. The film was later re-released to various areas of the United States under different titles, including The Hard Heads, Hootch Country Boys, and Redneck County. One of its promotional taglines was “Learn about life the hard way.” The plot, by writers Don McLemore and Harry Thomason, concerns a young man named Malcolm Vandiver who embarks on a cross-country motorcycle journey. When, as almost all reviews note, his trip “boggs” down in the fictional Mountain Glen (in the …