Cinema

Entry Category: Cinema

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 …

Marjoun and the Flying Headscarf

Directed and written by Lebanese American Susan Youssef, Marjoun and the Flying Headscarf (2019) is a feature film made and set in and around Little Rock (Pulaski County), including at Central High School and rural Pulaski County. Filming also took place at Magnolia Grove Monastery, a Buddhist community in Batesville, Mississippi. Youssef had previously made one feature film and several shorts, including a 2006 short of the same title, Marjoun and the Flying Headscarf, which told a similar story with a different cast.   The feature’s young heroine, Marjoun, is played by Veracity Butcher, who is of mixed Moroccan and Cajun heritage. In Little Rock in 2006, the Lebanese American teenager faces many problems. She is angry that her father has been unjustly imprisoned by U.S. authorities for innocent cash transfers to relatives in Lebanon. At school, her little sister Jinane is bullied, and Marjoun is harassed for her style of dress, snapping at …

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 was an 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 also worked as a hair and wig stylist on and off Broadway in Manhattan, where she spent the bulk of her career. Lorena Ann Miles was born in Malvern on February 10, 1940. Her father, Hubert Eastham, later became executive vice president at Pine Bluff National Bank. Miles …

Minari

Filmed in Oklahoma but set in Arkansas, the 2020 movie Minari tells the story of a Korean family who moved from California to the rural Ozarks due to the father’s hopes of establishing himself as a farmer of Korean vegetables. The movie, based upon the family experiences of writer/director Lee Isaac Chung, himself an Arkansas native, received near universal praise from critics and was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The movie opens with the Yi family—father Jacob (Steven Yeun), mother Monica (Yeri Han), daughter Anne (Noel Kate Cho), and son David (Alan S. Kim)—moving into a mobile home situated on a patch of farmland in northwestern Arkansas. The exact location is not specified, but it is mentioned …

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 …

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 …

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 …

Primary Colors

Loosely based on Governor Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential bid, Joe Klein’s controversial novel Primary Colors was published anonymously in 1996. A film based on the novel was released in 1998. The controversy stemmed from the resemblance of many characters to real-life counterparts, leading many to believe that the novel must have been written by a political insider. The novel follows the presidential campaign of Governor Jack Stanton, an overweight womanizer with a gift for politics, and is narrated by Henry Burton, an idealistic young black man who quickly rises within the ranks of Stanton’s staff. Themes of the book include adultery, sexual promiscuity, idealism, politics, and the role of the media in the political process and celebrity, culminating with Burton …

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 …

Robinson, Fatima

Fatima Robinson was described in the New York Times as “one of the most sought-after hip-hop and popular music choreographers in the world” and was once named by Entertainment Weekly as one of the 100 most creative people in the world of entertainment. Her dance choreography has been featured in numerous music videos, movies, and television shows. She was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2004. Fatima Robinson was born on August 29, 1971, in Little Rock (Pulaski County). At four years of age, she left Arkansas with her mother, Kadijah Furqan, and two younger sisters, moving to Los Angeles, California. She graduated from high school at age sixteen and started to work in her mother’s hair …

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 …

Rosalie Goes Shopping

Rosalie Goes Shopping (1989) is an eccentric, comical critique of American consumerism. In its quirky fashion, the film reflects the growing multinational, digitized nature of debtor economics and underscores the reality that consumerism is not limited to those living in large cities. Filmed almost entirely in Arkansas, this German-produced film is centered in Stuttgart (Arkansas County)—a town founded, not coincidentally, by German settlers. The film was directed by German director Percy Adlon, who with wife Eleonore Adlon wrote and produced it. Marianne Sägebrecht plays the title character, Rosalie Greenspace, a plump Bavarian with a serious addiction to buying things. Her goofily demented Arkansan husband, Ray “Liebling” Greenspace, is played by Brad Davis (in his final film role). Rosalie had met …

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 …

September 30, 1955

Following the success of the film The Paper Chase in 1973, writer and director James Bridges, who was born in Paris (Logan County), turned his attention to a more personal project. Bridges wrote a script based on his college experiences in Arkansas and convinced the studio to allow him to shoot the movie in his home state. September 30, 1955 is about a college student, played by Richard Thomas, who is devastated by the death of his idol, actor James Dean. At the time of Dean’s death, Bridges was a student at Arkansas State Teachers College, now the University of Central Arkansas (UCA), in Conway (Faulkner County). According to his college friend Tom Bonner, a former weatherman at KARK-TV in …

Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre

Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre (2016) is a television movie, distributed by SyFy, that is set in Arkansas, though it was filmed in Florida. It capitalizes on the popularity of sharks as villains in such productions as Jaws and its sequels (1975–1987), Shark Week documentaries on the Discovery Channel (1988–), and the zany Sharknado films on the SyFy (formerly SciFi) Channel (2013–). Director Jim Wynorski is a prolific veteran of both SyFy fodder (such as 2010’s Dinocroc vs. Supergator) and mild exploitation movies (Sexy Wives Sindrome, 2011), and Sharkansas combines the conventions of both cinematic types. The SyFy Channel’s original films are parodies of old creature features, but they use cheap computer-generated-image (CGI) special effects rather than the more professional effects …

She Couldn’t Say No

aka: Beautiful But Dangerous
She Couldn’t Say No (1954), directed by Lloyd Bacon, is a small-town romantic comedy made by RKO Pictures in California and set in fictitious Progress, Arkansas. The story of why this little-regarded film was made and how it came to feature two major stars, Robert Mitchum and Jean Simmons, leads into the murky waters of Hollywood studio intrigue. In the early 1950s, tycoon Howard Hughes (not yet a recluse) controlled RKO. Simmons was a young British film star. Without warning, Hughes bought her contract and required her to work in films of his choosing. After making films with prestigious directors David Lean, Laurence Olivier, and Michael Powell, Simmons wanted no part of RKO’s commercial fluff. This once-famous feud reached a boiling …

Shelter

Shelter (1998) is a modestly budgeted action thriller made in Little Rock (Pulaski County) by director Scott Paulin. The film features no significant Arkansas landmarks. The movie centers upon hero Martin Roberts (John Allen Nelson), an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) whose corrupt superior Landis (Charles Durning) tries to have him killed. Martin flees and is protected by Dimitri (Peter Onorati), head of the Arkansas-based “Greek Mafia” that dominates illegal gunrunning throughout the American South from its headquarters in an Arkansas mansion. Landis joins forces with a rival gangster, Cantrell (Kurtwood Smith), to wipe out Dimitri’s gang. However, Martin gets into more trouble when he falls in love with Helena (Brenda Bakke and stand-in Monica …

Sling Blade

Filmed entirely in Benton (Saline County) by Arkansas native Billy Bob Thornton, Sling Blade was one of the most critically acclaimed movies of 1996 and earned Thornton—who wrote, directed, and starred in the movie—an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay as well as a nomination for Best Actor. Sling Blade opens on the day that Karl Childers (Thornton), a developmentally challenged man, is released from an asylum for the criminally insane, twenty-five years after murdering his mother and her lover with a sling blade—a scythe-like tool that Karl prefers to call a kaiser blade. Karl demonstrates a talent for fixing small engines and is able to find work as a repairman in his hometown of Millsburg. One day at a …

So Sad about Gloria

aka: Visions of Doom
aka: Visions of Evil
So Sad about Gloria is a ninety-minute horror/thriller movie that was filmed in central Arkansas and released in October 1975. Rated “PG” for Parental Guidance, it was directed by Arkansan Harry Thomason for Centronics International, a production company based in Little Rock (Pulaski County). So Sad about Gloria was also re-released under the titles Visions of Doom and Visions of Evil. The plot, credited to Marshall Riggan, centers around a young woman who moves back to the family home after being released from a mental hospital. She soon experiences frightening visions concerning a series of ax murders. There is an element of romance after she meets young writer Chris Kenner, who is lounging in a tree. His rationale: “I sit …

Soldier’s Story, A

A Soldier’s Story is a 1984 dramatic movie filmed entirely in Arkansas at four locations: Clarendon (Monroe County), Fort Chaffee, Fort Smith (Sebastian County), and the Lamar Porter Athletic Field in Little Rock (Pulaski County). After being turned down by several studios, it was produced on an extremely low budget and went on to win numerous awards, earning more than four times what it cost to produce. At a critical point in the filming when there was very little money to pay extras, Governor Bill Clinton helped the production by approving use of Arkansas Army National Guard personnel in full military dress for an essential scene. The movie starred a number of distinguished actors including Denzel Washington, Howard E. Rollins …

Souls Aflame

aka: Thou Shalt Not Kill
Written and directed by Raymond Wells, Souls Aflame (1928) was a late-silent-era film made either entirely or partly in Norfork (Baxter County). The movie is sometimes described as a Civil War film, but it dealt with a fictitious feud between the Buck and Lilly families during Reconstruction. Souls Aflame may have been the first movie filmed largely or entirely in Arkansas. It is now considered a lost film. One valuable secondary source with authoritative information on this movie is the American Film Institute Catalog of Feature Films Produced in the United States: Feature Films, 1921–1930. Entries in the catalog were based on copyright information and articles and reviews in contemporary periodicals. The entry on Souls Aflame reads, “Drama. Shortly after …

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 …

Stone Cold

An action film with a big budget but the soul of a B-movie, Stone Cold (1991) was a critical and commercial failure. It was made partly in Little Rock (Pulaski County) at the Arkansas State Capitol and is perhaps best remembered by Arkansans for its use of the state’s capitol building as the site of a ridiculous, overblown battle scene. The director of Stone Cold, Craig R. Baxley, was a veteran stunt coordinator. His movie was an attempt to cash in on the popularity of films featuring tough, violent cops, but Stone Cold was made when this type of action entertainment was going out of favor. For instance, Charles Bronson’s Death Wish series began in 1974, but its fourth entry …

Summer of My German Soldier

Bette Greene’s Summer of My German Soldier is a novel and a television movie set in eastern Arkansas during World War II. Both portray the Arkansas location, era, and characters realistically. Since the novel’s publication in 1973, it has remained a young-adult best-seller and is considered a classic of young-adult literature. In 1973, it was an American Library Association Notable Book, a National Book Award finalist, and one of The New York Times’s Outstanding Books of the Year; it also won the Golden Kite award. In 1979, the movie earned Emmy nominations for Outstanding Drama and Outstanding Writing. Esther Rolle won the Outstanding Supporting Actress Emmy for her portrayal of Ruth. Rolle praised Greene for her skillful, true-to-life characterization of …

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, …