Cinema

Entry Category: Cinema

Tom Sawyer, Detective

Tom Sawyer, Detective, a novella written by Mark Twain and published in 1896, was a parody of mystery stories, especially the Sherlock Holmes tales of Arthur Conan Doyle, which began to appear in 1887. Set in Arkansas, the novel was adapted into a movie in 1938. In the mid-1890s, Mark Twain, near bankruptcy after unwise investments, returned to his popular characters Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn to revive his fortunes. He wrote Tom Sawyer Abroad (1894), a parody of the travel adventures of Jules Verne, and began a novel to be titled Tom Sawyer among the Indians, which was never completed. Tom Sawyer, Detective (1896) had an unusual origin. While visiting Europe in late 1894, Twain had been told the …

Town That Dreaded Sundown, The

The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a 1976 horror film by producer/director Charles B. Pierce. Based very loosely on true incidents that took place just after World War II around Texarkana (Miller County), it was one of the first movies in the “slasher” genre. The film starred 1971 Academy Award winner Ben Johnson along with television stars Andrew Prine and Dawn Wells. The movie, considered a cult classic, made a huge profit over production costs. It was remade in 2014. To form the basis of his fifth film, Pierce chose what were called the “Texarkana Moonlight Murders,” which took place throughout 1946 primarily in Texarkana, Texas, though he represents them as occurring on the Arkansas side of the city. A …

True Grit

“Here is what happened.” With those simple words, Mattie Ross of Dardanelle (Yell County) begins her reminiscence of the time she avenged her father’s murder with the help of a one-eyed deputy marshal and a dandy Texas Ranger. Set in western Arkansas and the Indian Territory of the 1870s, the novel True Grit, written by Arkansan Charles Portis, mixes this unlikely trio of personalities in a bestselling Western adventure. Published in 1968, True Grit was adapted into a movie and released the following year. The movie garnered veteran actor John Wayne the first and only Oscar of his career for his portrayal of Deputy Marshal Rooster Cogburn. In 2010, a second film adaptation of the novel, written and directed by …

Wakely, James Clarence (Jimmy)

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

War Room, The

The War Room is a 1993 documentary in which filmmakers Chris Hegedus and D. A. Pennebaker produced an inside look at Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign for president of the United States. The filmmakers were granted access to the Clinton campaign center, dubbed by Hillary Clinton as the “war room.” It was filmed mostly in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and featured a number of well-known Little Rock locations. Pennebaker, a respected filmmaker, was especially known for 1967’s Don’t Look Back about Bob Dylan and 1968’s Monterey Pop about the legendary music festival. The War Room made stars of campaign strategists James Carville and George Stephanopoulos. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary, won a number of prizes …

White Lightning

Released in 1973, White Lightning is a film written by William Norton and directed by Joseph Sargent starring Burt Reynolds and Ned Beatty. It is set in fictional Bogan County, Arkansas, though it was shot in several locations throughout the central part of the state and includes many recognizable landmarks, particularly in Benton (Saline County). Taking its name from a colloquial term for moonshine whiskey, the film primarily deals with central character Gator McKlusky (Reynolds) and his attempt to infiltrate an illegal bootlegging operation. Upon hearing of his brother’s murder, McKlusky, who at the outset of the film is in prison for bootlegging, agrees to work as a “stool pigeon”—or cooperative informant—for the federal government in an attempt to bring …

White River Kid, The

Although The White River Kid is optimistically described by its distributors as “an outrageous comedy with a heart” and “a zany adventure with a plethora of oddball characters on the road in the Bible Belt,” actual reviews of this more or less universally panned film are less kind. Indeed, one reviewer described it as “a messy comedy infested with bad gags.” The White River Kid (video title White River) relies on negative stereotypes of Arkansans, portraying them as moronic rednecks or merely simple folk for much of its material. Based on the John Fergus Ryan novel The Little Brothers of St. Mortimer (1991), it was filmed on location in and around Hot Springs (Garland County) and other Arkansas locations during …

Wishbone Cutter

aka: The Shadow of Chikara
aka: The Curse of Demon Mountain
A low-budget western/horror movie made in Yellville (Marion County) and in the Buffalo River country of Marion County, Wishbone Cutter (1977) was written, produced, and directed by Earl E. Smith, previously screenwriter on two Arkansas horror films directed by Charles B. Pierce: The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972) and The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976). Wishbone Cutter, the only film Smith ever directed, was also known as The Curse of Demon Mountain and The Shadow of Chikara. The Internet Movie Database lists five additional English titles for the film’s theatrical, television, and video releases. The Arkansas setting is made clear by an opening title informing audiences that Arkansas is the only state to produce diamonds. Captain Wishbone Cutter (Joe Don …

Woman They Almost Lynched

An interesting film lurking behind an exploitative title, Republic Pictures’ 1953 western Woman They Almost Lynched is set in early 1865 in “Border City,” a fictitious Ozarks town bisected by the Arkansas-Missouri border. The town has been militantly neutral throughout the Civil War, under a “petticoat government” led by tyrannical mayor Delilah Courtney (Nina Varela). Made in California, the movie is a typical B-western (though better than most) with no real Arkansas atmosphere except one old man with a mandolin. The town and the rural scenery look like routine Hollywood western locales. None of the hillbilly stereotypes found in other Hollywood films set in Arkansas are present, and no one attempts a local accent. Border City is said to attract …

Yarbrough, Arthur Jean Wilker

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