Cinema

Entry Category: Cinema

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 …

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 …

Hallelujah

Hallelujah (1929), one of the earliest Hollywood feature films shot on location in Arkansas, was innovative in several ways. It was the first talking picture made by popular director King Vidor and one of the first Hollywood pictures with an exclusively African-American cast. It also introduced an early form of sound dubbing. Vidor had wanted to make a movie with an all-black cast for many years, but studio chiefs at Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) rejected the idea until Vidor suggested making a musical. Even then, Vidor had to defer his usual $100,000 directing salary against any of the film’s profits. Hallelujah tells the story of a young sharecropper-turned-preacher who must fight the temptations of a beautiful city girl. The musical …

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 …

Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute (HSDFI)

The internationally recognized Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute (HSDFI) sponsors the annual ten-day Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, which takes place each October in Hot Springs (Garland County). It also maintains a year-round schedule of film-related activities. Since its inception in 1992, the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival has become renowned as a prestigious venue for showing documentary films and attracting celebrities, filmmakers, and audiences from around the world. It bills itself as the oldest nonfiction film festival in North America. HSDFI has been awarded grant funding by organizations including the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Deltic Timber, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. It also receives sponsorships from local businesses. The festival …

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, …

Hunting of the President, The

The Hunting of the President: The Ten-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton by Joe Conason and Gene Lyons was published in 2000. The book formed the basis for a documentary film titled The Hunting of the President first shown on January 23, 2004, at the Sundance Film Festival. The ninety-minute film, narrated by Morgan Freeman, was directed by Nickolas Perry and Harry Thomason. The book examines the motives behind the investigation into what has been termed the “Whitewater Scandal,” as well as the news organizations and advocacy groups that tried to mire President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton (along with several of their associates) in scandal. Initial book sales were brisk, and the book was extensively …

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings [Book and Movie]

Detailing her childhood in Stamps (Lafayette County), as well as in St. Louis, and San Francisco, Maya Angelou’s autobiographical novel I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was first published in 1970 by Random House and nominated for a National Book Award. It was the first of a series of eight autobiographical novels that cemented her place as one of the great voices of African-American literature. The title of the book comes from the poem “Sympathy” by Paul Laurence Dunbar, which describes perseverance in the face of oppression. The book chronicles the racism Maya, a young incarnation of Angelou, encountered in the segregated town of Stamps and other places she lived, along with the sexual abuse she faced at the …

I’m from Arkansas

With a screenplay by Marcy Klauber and Joseph Carole (based on a story by Klauber), director Lew Landers attempted to blend romance, rustic Ozark comedy, and country music into the 1944 film I’m from Arkansas. Unfortunately, some of the Arkansas characters are portrayed as ignorant hillbillies, and the numerous musical numbers tend to muddle the story line. The plot centers upon Esmeralda, a sow, who has excited the tiny town of Pitchfork, Arkansas, by giving birth to yet another massive litter of piglets. The news quickly spreads and draws a number of visitors to the town for myriad reasons. Bob Hamlin (Bruce Bennett), a citizen of Pitchfork who has become a country music star on the radio, takes his orchestra—including …

It’s Alive!

Larry Buchanan was a producer and director of very low-budget films, with titles such as Zontar, the Thing from Venus (1966) and Mars Needs Women (1967). In his autobiography, Buchanan cheerfully called himself a “schlockmeister.” In the late 1960s, Buchanan formed Azalea Pictures to make cheap films for American Independent Television, the TV arm of American Independent Pictures (AIP), which specialized in low-budget B movies (though not as cheap as Buchanan’s) made by Roger Corman and others. Buchanan recalled that his instructions from AIP were: “We want cheap color pictures, we want half-assed names in them, we want them 80 minutes long and we want them tomorrow.” By “half-assed names,” AIP meant actors whose names would be familiar to audiences …

Kettles in the Ozarks, The

The Kettles in the Ozarks (1956), directed by Charles Lamont, was the ninth in a series of ten comedies made by Universal International Pictures. The characters of Ma and Pa Kettle were introduced in supporting roles in The Egg and I (1947), starring Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray. Marjorie Main, as Ma Kettle, was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for The Egg and I, and the first feature starring the Kettles, Ma and Pa Kettle, followed in 1949. The Kettle series began after the years 1937–1945, which Anthony Harkins in his book Hillbilly identifies as the period of “the hillbilly stereotype at high tide.” During that time, Judy Canova and the Weaver Brothers and Elviry made films …

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 …

Lee, Lorelei

The fictional character of Lorelei Lee, who calls herself the “little girl from Little Rock,” was created by writer Anita Loos (1889–1981). Lorelei first appeared as a character in short stories, followed by the bestselling novel Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, several successful Broadway shows, and a hit movie. The Lorelei Lee character is closely identified with her fictitious home of Little Rock (Pulaski County) in the state of Arkansas. After emerging in a series of short sketches published in Harper’s Bazaar during the early 1920s, what became known as the “Lorelei” stories were so popular that they tripled the magazine’s circulation. After Loos was encouraged by friends in the publishing business to adapt the stories into a book, her bestselling comedic …

Legend of Boggy Creek, The

The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972) was the first in a series of three Boggy Creek films loosely based on a legendary monster of southwest Arkansas. It was directed by Charles Pierce of Texarkana (Miller County) and written by Earl E. Smith. The film, shot as a faux documentary-style drama, centers on the real town of Fouke (Miller County). Since the 1940s, many sightings of a creature known as the “Fouke Monster” have been reported. The film presents an interesting portrait of Southern swamp culture in the 1970s by juxtaposing interviews with local citizens, ranging from a police officer to hunters, talking about their experiences with the creature with dramatic recreations of some of these purported encounters. According to witnesses, …

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 …

Lum and Abner

From 1931 to 1955, the Lum and Abner radio show brought the town of Pine Ridge (Montgomery County), into the homes of millions of listeners across the country. During World War II, Armed Forces Radio took Lum and Abner around the world. Chester “Chet” Lauck and Findley Norris “Tuffy” Goff, two young comedians from Mena (Polk County), created the characters when they were invited to appear on a statewide flood relief broadcast over KTHS radio in Hot Springs (Garland County) on April 26, 1931. Seconds before being introduced, they created the names Lum Edwards (pronounced “Eddards”) for Lauck and Abner Peabody for Goff. The two old codgers (Lauck and Goff were actually in their late twenties) ran the Jot ‘Em …

Man Outside

Directed and co-written by Mark Stouffer, brother of Arkansas-born documentary filmmaker Marty Stouffer, Man Outside (1987) is a modestly budgeted independent romance-thriller made and set in rural Arkansas. In an effective opening sequence, Arkansas-born lawyer Jack (played by Robert Logan) speeds his expensive sports car recklessly across Mississippi and Arkansas, finally crashing and abandoning the vehicle in the Ozarks woods. Remorseful that his wife had died in a house fire while he was out drinking, Jack becomes a hermit—with enough funds to afford a house much nicer on the inside than the outside. He is friendly only with a few subsistence farmers, although college professor Grace (Kathleen Quinlan) makes some progress befriending the recluse. After a local boy disappears, Jack …

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 …

Miles, Ann

Ann (Annie) Miles is a former actress, stuntwoman, Playboy bunny, Broadway hairstylist, and model from Malvern (Hot Spring County). Miles began her career as a stuntwoman riding the famous diving horses on Atlantic City’s Steel Pier. Among other stunts on television and film, she performed the “spiderwalk” in director William Friedkin’s 1973 film The Exorcist, a scene that was cut from the film’s original release and for which she was initially uncredited. Miles worked as a hair and wig stylist on and off Broadway in Manhattan, where she spent the bulk of her career. Ann Miles was born in Malvern in 1940. Her father, Hubert Eastham, later became executive vice president at Pine Bluff National Bank. Miles had a talent …

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 Dolemite II: The Human Tornado. Rudy Ray Moore was born on March 17, 1937, in Fort Smith (Sebastian County). The oldest of seven children, he often sang in church and developed a taste for performance. He moved to Cleveland, Ohio, at the age of fifteen and sang and danced at local clubs. In 1950, Moore joined the armed forces. He often …

Movies

aka: Film
aka: Motion Pictures
Even though most American motion picture production has focused on the East Coast or West Coast, Arkansas has made important contributions to cinematic history. Several successful movie stars and directors were born in Arkansas, and the state has hosted the production of several important motion pictures. Since the 1960s, Arkansas’s state government has participated in the promotion of motion picture production, and in the 1990s, Arkansas began hosting film festivals that have captured worldwide attention. The connection between Arkansas and the motion picture business begins with the earliest of American movies. Most scholars consider Edwin S. Porter’s The Great Train Robbery (1903) the first step in developing a Hollywood style of filmmaking. Featured in three roles in that short movie …

Mud

Mud is the third film written and directed by Little Rock (Pulaski County) native Jeff Nichols. The film was shot over an eight-week period in parts of Dumas (Desha County), DeWitt (Arkansas County), Lake Village (Chicot County), Crockett’s Bluff (Arkansas County), and Stuttgart (Arkansas County) in the fall of 2011. The film used more than 400 locals as extras. Other Arkansan actors in the film include Jacob Lofland of Yell County in the role of Neckbone and El Dorado (Union County) native Stuart Greer, a noted character actor, as a bounty hunter called Miller. The film made its premiere at the famous Cannes Film Festival in France on May 26, 2012, and was shown at the Sundance Film Festival before …

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 …

One False Move

One False Move is a 1992 thriller co-written by Arkansan Billy Bob Thornton, who was born in Hot Springs (Garland County). Running for one hour and forty-five minutes, the R-rated film stars Thornton, his future wife Cynda Williams, and Bill Paxton, known for roles in the hit films Apollo 13, Twister, and Titanic. The director of One False Move was Carl Franklin, who went on to direct Denzel Washington in 1995’s Devil in a Blue Dress. The screenplay was written by Thornton and Tom Epperson, a native of Malvern (Hot Spring County). One False Move was a low-budget independent film that became popular through word of mouth as well as critical raves from film critic Roger Ebert and his reviewing …

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 …

Ozark Foothills FilmFest

The Ozark Foothills FilmFest takes place in Batesville (Independence County) and was established in 2001 by Bob and Judy Pest. The Pests had previously operated the City Movie Center in Kansas City, Missouri, for seven years. The festival soon became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to excellence and accessibility in the media arts. The festival supports and encourages Arkansas filmmakers and strives to serve the people of north-central Arkansas. The first festival in 2002 had Arkansas native and musical icon Levon Helm as the headliner; more than 300 people attended a concert he gave. At the historic Melba Theater, festival goers also watched several films in which he appeared. Helm spoke to the audience and encouraged them to help the festival succeed, which …

Ozark Sharks

aka: Summer Shark Attack
Ozark Sharks (2016) is one of two SyFy Channel TV films about sharks set in Arkansas, both part of a series of low-budget, over-the-top shark movies. Directed by Missy Talley, Ozark Sharks (alternatively titled Ozark Shark or Summer Shark Attack) followed the previous Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre (2015). Talley’s film has attractive scenery (filmed in the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, area) and mild humor about predictable characters, including brainless, selfie-obsessed teenagers; a weapons-crazed survivalist Ozarker who dislikes tourists (Thomas Francis Murphy, seemingly having the most fun of anyone in the cast); an irresponsible hippie; and a nerdy bookworm who becomes a fanatical shark killer. The plot of Ozark Sharks is relatively thin. Sharks have swum up from the sea to Arkansas …

Painted House, A

A Painted House is a book which takes place in Arkansas and was written by bestselling author John Grisham. It was based on his childhood in Arkansas, and when the book was made into a television movie, it was filmed in Arkansas. Born in Jonesboro (Craighead County) on February 8, 1955, and raised in northeast Arkansas near Black Oak (Craighead County), Grisham created an evocative portrait of the time and place of his childhood in A Painted House. Set in 1952 Arkansas, it is a departure from his usual legal thriller style, with Grisham writing, “There is not a single lawyer, dead or alive, in this story. Nor are there judges, trials, courtrooms, conspiracies or nagging social issues.” In 2000, …

Pass the Ammo

A satire of greedy televangelists, Pass the Ammo (1988) was made in Eureka Springs (Carroll County). It opens with a helicopter shot of the giant Christ of the Ozarks statue. This is followed by a television sermon by the Reverend Ray Porter (Tim Curry), who asks, “Why be afraid of nuclear war? Welcome it! For it is part of God’s prophecy.” The congregation in Porter’s megachurch and his TV audience listen raptly and, when he gets to his key point (“Today’s goal—$1 million for Jesus!”), they burst into an enthusiastic rendition of “Give Me That Old-Time Religion.” As contributions pour in from thousands of low-income donors, Porter sings ecstatically, “Lay your money down for Jesus! You owe your life to …

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 …

Pine Bluff Film Festival

The Pine Bluff Film Festival was inaugurated in 1994 by local residents who wanted to honor the legacy of the silent film era and help revitalize downtown Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). Since that time, the annual event screened silent classics (often accompanied by a symphony orchestra), hosted world-famous guest stars, expanded to two theaters, implemented a silent film competition, and encouraged film and theater restoration. It was hosted each year by two world-renowned cultural experts from New York who were with the festival since its inception. The festival was recognized internationally as one of the oldest silent film festivals in the United States and the only one that regularly presented silent films with full orchestral accompaniment. The festival originated with …

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 …