Lights! Camera! Arkansas!
IN THE LATE 19TH CENTURY, the invention of moving pictures fascinated audiences all over the world. Movies soon became entwined with American popular culture. Arkansans have been involved with the movie industry since the early days. Arkansas’s cast of notables includes actors, writers, directors, cameramen, stuntmen, movie innovators, musicians and producers. The state’s scenery has played an equally prominent role in many films too. Take a look at some of these Arkansas notables and their contributions to stage, screen and television.
Early Days of Film
Arkansas’s first Hollywood star was Little Rock native Broncho Billy Anderson, born as Gilbert Maxwell Aronson in 1880. He made his debut in Edwin S. Porter’s pioneering 1903 western, The Great Train Robbery, playing three different parts: a train robber, a passenger and the dancing tenderfoot. He earned 50 cents an hour. They filmed the movie in two days and had an estimated budget of $150! After seeing the crowd’s reaction at a showing of the film at Hammerstein’s Vaudeville House, an excited Anderson said, “That’s it. It’s going to be the picture business for me.”
Anderson made his name as Hollywood’s first cowboy hero, playing a character called “Broncho Billy.” The first of these movies, Broncho Billy and the Baby, debuted in 1908. Anderson played an outlaw who risks his freedom to save a child and is in turn redeemed by the child’s church-going parents. Anderson made more than 150 “Broncho Billy” films.
Anderson established his own movie company in 1907, partnering with George K. Spoor to create the Essanay Company, based in Chicago. They moved to California in 1912, looking for better weather and locations. Movie stars like Charlie Chaplin, Gloria Swanson, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy all worked for Anderson at one point during their careers. During his career, Anderson directed more than 400 films and starred in more than 300 of those.
In 1957, Anderson received an Academy Award for his pioneering contributions to the motion picture industry. His development of the western film genre, and technological advances like the “long shot,” the “medium shot,” the “close up,” and the “reestablishment scene,” have become standard techniques still used in modern films. Anderson died in 1971.
Another early movie innovator was Pine Bluff native Freeman Harrison Owens, born in 1890. Owens left high school to operate the projector at his local movie theater. He later toured the globe as a cameraman. He made many movies that played as “newsreels” before the actual feature film began. He also worked for Broncho Billy Anderson. Owens was one of the first cameramen to film the 1910 “Chicago Stock Yards Fire” and the “Charleston, South Carolina Hurricane and Flood” in 1911. During his lifetime, Owens created the A.C. Nielson Rating System, a method of synchronizing sound with film, and a plastic lens for Kodak that is still used in disposable cameras today. He is credited with inventing more than 11,000 objects during his life and holding 200 patents. In 1972, Owens returned to his home town of Pine Bluff. He died in 1979.
Arkansas Actors and the Golden Age of Hollywood
Arkansas supplied many actors during the Golden Age of Hollywood. Dick Powell was one of the first. Born in Mountain View in 1904, he was first cast in musicals. He graduated from the “boy hero” role in musicals to playing detectives in movies from the “Film Noir” genre. He went on to direct and produce for film and television. Powell died of cancer in 1963 and was considered “another casualty of the 1956 film The Conqueror filmed near a nuclear test site in Utah. Many of the people involved with the film, including Powell, who directed The Conqueror, eventually died of cancer, either caused by, or exacerbated by, working on it. Others [from this project affected by cancer] included actors John Wayne, Susan Hayward, Ted de Corsia, and Agnes Moorehead.” [“Dick Powell,” Internet Movie Database.]
One of the biggest Arkansas stars from the 1940s was Alan Ladd, who was born in 1913 in Hot Springs. Ladd had a small role as a newspaper reporter extra in Citizen Kane (1941), but rose to stardom after playing the villain inThis Gun for Hire (1942), a film based on a Graham Greene novel. He developed a tough guy persona that he perfected in who-done-its, war movies, and westerns. Shane, in 1953, was his biggest hit; the film grossed more than 8 million dollars at the box office, was nominated for five Academy Awards, and was awarded one for cinematography. Many more hits followed, including Two Years Before the Mast and The Blue Dahlia in 1946. His last role was in The Carpetbaggers (1964), which was released after his death.
Two Arkansas women also made names for themselves in the 1950s. Julie Adams, who grew up in Little Rock, appeared in many films and TV shows, but is most vividly remembered as a bathing beauty menaced by an aquatic monster in Creature from the Black Lagoon, an early 3-D feature film from
1954. Born Betty May Adams in 1926, her first part was a small role in Paramount’s Red Hot and Blue
(1949). She is most famous for her role as the heroine in The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Over the years, she was cast in leading roles in many significant films, notably Bright Victory (1951), Bend in the River with Jimmy Stewart and Rock Hudson (1952), The Mississippi Gambler with Tyrone Power (1953), The Private War of Major Benson with Charlton Heston (1955), and Slaughter on Tenth Avenue with Walter Matthau (1957). She worked with a number of other stars, including Arthur Kennedy, Elvis Presley, John Wayne, Glen Ford, and Van Heflin. She once said that “Going to work with Jimmy Stewart every day, [w]as my idea of heaven.” [www.julieadams.biz/bio/bio.html]
Betty Jeanne Grayson, also known as Gail Davis, was born in Little Rock in 1925 but grew up in McGehee. “I went under contract to MGM around 1946. They told me ‘we can’t have a Betty Davis, because of Bette Davis, and we can’t have a Betty Grayson because of Kathryn Grayson’. Then a guy in the casting department said ‘how about Gail Davis?’ So that’s where it came from.” – Gail Davis
Her first credited role was in The Far Frontier (1948) with American singer and actor Roy Rogers. She worked steadily thereafter, appearing in nearly three dozen films, mostly westerns, including fourteen with Gene Autry, another famous American western actor and singer. Davis is most well known for her role as the sharpshooting Annie Oakley; this TV show ran from 1954-1956. She was the first female to have her own western series. Davis died of cancer in 1997.
Melinda Dillon was born in Hope, Arkansas, in 1939. She will be eternally remembered for her role as the mom inThe Christmas Story (1983), with Peter Billingsley and Darren McGavin. She earned an Oscar nomination in a supporting role as the mother of a child abducted by aliens in Steven Spielberg’s science fiction film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, in 1977. Dillon received critical acclaim and another Oscar nomination for her role in Sidney Pollack’s Absence of Malice (1981).
“I went from no films to the lead in a film opposite the biggest movie star of that era. It was a shocking experience.” – Mary Steenburgen on being cast opposite Jack Nicholson in the movie, Goin’ South.
Mary Nell Steenburgen was born in 1953 in Newport, graduated from high school in North Little Rock, and attended Hendrix College in Conway before leaving for New York at nineteen to study at the Neighborhood Playhouse and pursue an acting career. Her break came in 1978 when Jack Nicolson cast her in Goin’ South; her performance earned her a Golden Globe nomination. Two years later, she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in Melvin and Howard. Other notable film roles include Cross Creek (1983), What’s Eating Gilbert Grapewith Jonny Depp (1993), Nixon (1995), Elf with Will Ferrell and James Caan (2003), and Dirty Girl (2010).
In addition to her busy movie career, Steenburgen has an active stage career, starring in stage plays on both sides of the Atlantic. She appeared at London’s Old Vic Theatre in Philip Barrie’s Holiday and made her Broadway debut in 1993 in the title role in George Bernard Shaw’s Candida. Steenburgen has appeared regularly on television, most notably in About Sarah in 1998. She won a Screen Actors Guild Best Actress nomination for the miniseries. Some of her recent TV credits include Curb Your
Enthusiasm, 30 Rock and Wilfred. She directed End of the Line (1987), a film shot in Arkansas, as a tribute to the railroad and her freight-train conductor father. She recently starred in Last Vegas (2013) with Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas and Morgan Freeman.
Billy Bob Thornton, actor, writer, director, musician, was born in 1957 in Hot Springs, Arkansas, but grew up in Malvern. He wrote, starred in and directed Sling Blade (1996), which received international acclaim and won an Oscar for Best Screenplay. Since then, he has appeared in more than 40 movies, including Tombstone (1993) with Kurt Russell and Sam Elliott; Armageddon (1998) with Bruce Willis; Primary Colors (1998), which is based on Arkansan Bill Clinton’s U.S. Presidential Campaign; Monster’s Ball (2001) with Halle Berry; Bad Santa (2003);Chrystal (2004), an Arkansas film with Arkansas actress Lisa Blount; The Alamo (2004); and Parkland (2013), which follows the chaotic events that took place in Dallas following the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy.
Lisa Blount (1957-2010) was an actress, writer and producer who was born in Fayetteville, Arkansas, but grew up in Jacksonville. She made her debut in James Bridges’ film, September 30, 1955. Blount is most well-known for her role as Lynette Pomeroy in An Officer and A Gentleman. She earned critical acclaim for her role as a scarred and traumatized woman in Chrystal (2004), which she co-produced with her husband Ray McKinnon and filmed in Arkansas. Blount earned an Academy Award in 2001 for Best Live Action Short Film for The Accountant with McKinnon and actor Walter Goggins, who both starred in the film.
Ray McKinnon, although born in Georgia, spent 12 years in Little Rock with his wife, Arkansan Lisa Blount. An actor, writer, director and producer, McKinnon has worked on a variety of projects for TV and film over the years. His TV projects include stints on Designing Women, NYPD Blues, Deadwood (2004), Sons of Anarchy (2007), and Rectify (2013), an original project developed for the Sundance Channel. His acting credits include Apollo 13(1995), O Brother, Where Art Thou? with George Clooney (2000), Joey Lauren Adam’s Come Early Morning(2006), as Coach Carter in The Blind Side with Sandra Bullock (2009), and Jeff Nichols’ Mud (2012). He has written for, produced and directed the following projects: The Accountant (2001), Chrystal (2004), and Rectify.
“So I can go home and call my mom and tell her I’m going to be in a movie?” Writer, director and actress Joey Lauren Adams, remarking on the experience of being cast in her first movie, Dazed and Confused with Matthew McConaughey and Jason London (1993).
Born in North Little Rock in 1968, she has appeared in more than 30 films, including Chasing Amy (1997), Big Daddy (1999), and The Break-Up (2006). She is well-known for her distinctive voice. Adams once said of her voice, “It’s not a normal voice. It doesn’t fit into people’s preconceptions about what a woman’s voice should sound like. My mom doesn’t think I have an unusual voice, though. I’m sure it’s helped me get some roles. ButChasing Amy (1997), I almost didn’t get. There was concern the voice would grate on some people—which some critics said it did.” (“Joey Lauren Adams,” IMDB)
Her directorial debut, Come Early Morning (2006), was shot in Arkansas. The film starred Ashley Judd, Jeffrey Donovan, Diane Ladd, and Ray McKinnon and was selected for the 2006 Sundance Film Festival.
Wes Bentley was born in Jonesboro in 1978 but was raised in North Little Rock. His breakout role was in the Academy-Award winning film American Beauty in 1999, co-starring Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening. He had a lead role with Heath Ledger in The Four Feathers in 2002. Bentley played Gamemaster Seneca Crane in The Hunger Games (2012). Recently, he starred in Lovelace (2013) with Amanda Seyfried and Pioneer (2013) with Stephen Lang.
George Hosato Takei was born in Los Angeles, California in 1937. However, Takei lived in Southern Arkansas at the age of 4, when his family was incarcerated at an internment camp at Rohwer during World War II, as a result of Executive Order 9066. He learned to recite “The Pledge of Allegiance” while surrounded by guard towers and barbed-wire fences.
Takei is an actor, writer, director and activist. He is most famous for his portrayal of Lt. Hikaru Sulu in the Star Trek TV series, movies, cartoon series and video games.
Actor, writer and producer Graham Gordy is another rising star in Arkansas’s film community. Gordy worked for comedian and former Saturday Night Live star Mike Myers for five years and collaborated on writing for Shrek 2(2004); Shrek The Third (2007); and The Love Guru (2008). He wrote War Eagle, Arkansas (2007), a story about a boy coming of age in an Ozark town. He wrote and starred in the Spanola Pepper Sauce Company. He has also written for and starred in Rectify, the first original series produced by Arkansan Ray McKinnon for the Sundance Channel.
Jeff Nichols was born in 1978 in Little Rock. After working on two documentaries (portraits of Mississippi writer Larry Brown and Texas musician Townes Van Zandt), he wrote and directed Shotgun Stories (2007), a gritty, Arkansas flavored revenge tragedy that film critic Roger Ebert gave four stars. His next project was Take Shelter(2011), with Nichols again doubling as writer and director, and starring Michael Shannon (who also appeared inShotgun Stories) as a family man troubled by apocalyptic dreams. Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, it picked up festival awards in Cannes, Deauville, and Zurich and received four stars from Ebert. Mud, the third film in Nichols’ homage to Arkansas, was released in April 2013. Set on the Mississippi River and filmed in several south Arkansas locations, the movie starred Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Michael Shannon and Ray McKinnon. Nichols’ third film also provided a movie career for young Arkansan Jacob Lofland, who played Neckbone. Lofland’s next project is Little Accidents, which follows the disappearance of a young boy in an American coal town, and draws together three local residents from very different walks of life, who struggle to navigate the web of secrets surrounding the boy’s death, unaware of how connected they truly are.
From Music to Film…Arkansas Has It All
Over the years, several well-known Arkansas musicians have crossed over to the big screen. A short list of these performers includes William Warfield, Louis Jordan, Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell and Levon Helm. Louis Jordan became famous as a musician, but managed to parlay that success into musical movies. Born in Brinkley in 1908, Jordan landed roles in films via his fame as a musician and bandleader. With his group the Tympany Five, he had a long list of hits, including “Saturday Night Fish Fry,” “Caldonia,” “Choo Choo Ch’Boogie” and “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens.” Jordan played himself in several films and was known for using casts made up of African Americans. Jordan had cameos in movies like Follow the Boys (1944) and Swing Parade of 1946 (1946). He was loved by World War II American GIs and recorded many wartime “V-discs.” Jordan died in 1975. He was inducted into the Arkansas
Entertainers Hall of Fame in 1998 and the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2005.
Helena-born baritone William Caesar Warfield was born in 1920. He graduated from the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester, and launched his long career as a bass-baritone concert vocalist with a New York City debut at Town Hall in 1950. His breakthrough role followed in 1951 in a Technicolor remake of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II’s Show Boat when he sang “Old Man River” in the role of Joe.
If Warfield was born in the 1970s, he might have become a major operatic star. He observed in his memoir, My Music & My Life (1991), “Opera wasn’t ready for me, or any black male.” Despite this, he had an impressive career. Warfield undertook six tours for the U.S. State Department, which took him to six continents with performances of Porgy and Bess and a German version of Show Boat. In 1959 he recorded Handel’s Messiahwith Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra; his narration of Aaron Copland’s A Lincoln Portrait won him a Grammy in 1984. He taught voice first at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and then later at Northwestern University. Warfield died in 2002 after suffering injuries from a fall.
Levon Helm was born in 1940 in Elaine, Arkansas, but grew up in nearby Helena with a family that loved music. He was a famous musician and actor, best known for his work as a drummer and a vocalist with musical group “The Band.”
In later years, Helm composed soundtracks and starred in movies and documentaries. His movie credits vary widely, including The Last Waltz, a documentary about The Band’s final concert, directed by Martin Scorsese. Helm had a successful acting career, appearing in Coal Miner’s Daughter in 1980 in the role of Loretta Lynn’s father; Fire Down Below with Steven Seagal in 1997; and Shooter with Mark Walhberg in 2007. Levon Helm died of cancer in 2012.
Glen Campbell was born in Billstown, Arkansas (near Delight in Pike County), in 1936. He was a country music singer, television host, and actor. Campbell left Arkansas as a teenager to pursue a career in music. He is best known as an actor for his role in the 1969 movie True Grit and as the host of the TV variety show, The Glen Campbell Good Time Hour (1969-1971). True Grit co-star John Wayne reportedly handpicked Campbell for the role. Wayne won his only Oscar for his role as Rooster Cogburn in that movie, while Campbell earned a Golden Globe nomination for most promising newcomer.
As a singer, Campbell released over 70 albums and sold over 45 million records. In 1967 he won four Grammy Awards. His most notable hits are “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “Gentle on My Mind” and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix.” Campbell was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005. After being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2011, Campbell embarked on a “Goodbye Tour” in 2012, which included a performance at the 2012 Grammy Awards. He received a lifetime achievement award from the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame in 2013.
Arkansas Writers and Directors
One of Arkansas’s biggest hits is True Grit, a book written by El Dorado’s own Charles McColl Portis. Portis was born in 1933. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Korean War. Following his discharge in 1955, he went to the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville) and earned a degree in journalism. Portis worked as a reporter for theNew York Herald Tribune, the Commercial Appeal in Memphis and the Arkansas Gazette.
The first version of True Grit, starring John Wayne, Glen Campbell (an Arkansas musician) and Kim Darby, was made in 1969. Filmmakers Ethan and Joel Coen remade the movie in 2010 to much critical acclaim; this version included Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin. The Coen Brother’s version was nominated for 10 Academy Awards.
Set in Fort Smith and Dardanelle, the story of True Grit features a young woman searching for her father’s murderer with help from a drunken U.S. Marshall and a Texas Ranger. The book inspired two feature films and a made-for-TV movie. Neither of the films was actually shot in Arkansas.
Some of his other books include Norwood (1966), which was made into a movie starring Glen Campbell, and Dog of the South (1979). Portis is still said to be embarrassed by the success of his greatest work, True Grit.
James Bridges was born in Paris, Arkansas, in 1936. He attended Arkansas State Teacher’s College before moving to California and taking bit parts in TV shows like Dragnet and Matinee Theater. He wrote television scripts for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, earning an Edgar Award from the Mystery Guild of America for one episode. Bridges wrote and directed The Paper Chase (1973), a popular movie about a group of Harvard Law School students.
Bridges’ 1977 film titled September 30, 1955 was filmed on location in Conway, Arkansas. The movie focused on a group of teenagers dealing with the impact of James Dean’s death. Arkansas native Lisa Blount had a role in the film.
His most famous work is The China Syndrome (1979), a movie starring Michael Douglas, Jane Fonda and Jack Lemmon about a nuclear power plant accident. The movie was released less than two weeks after a real-life accident at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island Nuclear Plant and helped the film achieve huge popularity. The film earned Oscar nominations for Best Screenplay, Best Actress (Fonda) and Best Actor (Lemmon). Bridges went on to direct Urban Cowboy (1980) with actors John Travolta and
Scott Glen and Bright Lights, Big City (1988) with actor Michael J. Fox.
Bridges died of cancer in 1993.
Author Charlaine Harris was born in Mississippi in 1951, but lived in Magnolia, Arkansas for 20 years. She is the author of four horror/mystery series, including the popular Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire books, which follows the adventures of a telepathic barmaid in fictional Bon Temps, Louisiana. The Sookie Stackhouse series was picked up for HBO, but renamed True Blood for TV. The show debuted in 2008 and is currently in its sixth season.
Arkansas is also home to one of the first independent film directors in movie history. Charles Bryant Pierce was born in Indiana in 1938, but grew up in southwest Arkansas. He began making movies as a child. He lived next door to another Arkansas TV and film industry veteran—Harry Thomason—writer, director and producer of shows like Designing Women and Evening Shade.
Pierce directed several films in Arkansas. His first movie, The Legend of Boggy Creek, was shot partly in southwest Arkansas. It cost just over $150,000 to make and was a financial hit for the time (earning an estimated $25,000,000). It also influenced the filmmakers behind the cult classic horror movie, The Blair Witch Project(1999).
Pierce’s impact on the TV and film industry is impressive. His work ranged from writing to set dressing, directing and producing. His early movies were made in Arkansas and featured Arkansas themes and local residents. Pierce’s filmography includes Bootleggers (1974), The Town that Dreaded Sundown (1976), Boggy Creek II(1985), and the fourth movie in the Dirty Harry series, Sudden Impact (1983). Pierce is also credited with creating one of the most famous lines in cinematic history, spoken by Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry character: “Go ahead, make my day.” The line was based on something his father said when he was growing up: “When I come home tonight and the yard has not been mowed, you’re going to make my day.” [Nancy Hendricks. “Charles Pierce.” The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture.]
Pierce died in 2010.
John Grisham was born in Jonesboro in 1955. Although his family moved to Mississippi while he was still a child, he has strong ties to northeast Arkansas. Grisham worked as an attorney and a legislator in the Mississippi House of Representatives.
He published his first book, A Time To Kill, in 1988, while still practicing law. His second book, The Firm, was released in 1990. Paramount Pictures bought the rights to the movie before the book was published. The success of The Firm catapulted Grisham to fame. Since then, he has written more than 30 books and nine of them were made into films. Grisham has a huge fan following throughout the world.
Harold Brett “Hal” Needham was born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1931. He spent many of his formative years in Arkansas, following his sharecropper stepfather and the rest of the family from place to place, including El Dorado, Georgetown, Pangburn and West Helena. He served in the military during the Korean War as a paratrooper. After the war, he moved to California, where a former paratrooper asked for his help staging a stunt for a TV show calledYou Asked For It. He agreed, successfully jumping from a moving plane onto the back of a horse, and was hooked.
Needham’s stunt career led to innovation in the stunt industry, as well as writing and directing gigs for a number of movies. Some of his creations are the air bag, the car turnover cannon, the nitrogen ratchet, and a camera car and crane; all of these tools helped make stunts safer and much more spectacular! His resume includes stunt work on more than 4,500 TV show episodes from shows like Have Gun, Will Travel, Charlie’s Angels, and the originalStar Trek; and more than 300 movies, including Stagecoach, McClintock! and How The West Was Won. Needham is the highest paid stuntman in history.
Some of his most famous work includes the writing, directing and stunt coordination of films like Smokey and The Bandit (I and II), and Cannonball Run, a movie about a cross-country race that is based on an illegal coast-to-coast race in which Needham actually participated!
Hal Needham died of cancer in 2013.
Location, Location, Location!
Hollywood came to Arkansas early on. Helena may have provided the state’s first shoot location when the Mississippi River sternwheeler Kate Adams docked there in Universal Pictures’ 1927 lavish film version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The film had a $2,000,000 budget, including more than $4,000 weekly rent for the steamboat!
Two years later, director King Vidor shot a pivotal scene of his groundbreaking musical Hallelujah at Ten Mile Bayou in Crittenden County. This first major studio feature starred an African American cast.
One of the most famous Arkansas cameos features North Little Rock’s Old Mill. Built in 1933 to resemble an abandoned water-powered grist mill, it appeared in the opening credits of Margaret Miller’s Civil War saga, Gone With the Wind (1939.)
One of the most significant films from the 1950s was filmed throughout the city of Piggott, Arkansas. A Face in the Crowd, starring Andy Griffith in his first film role, with local residents as extras, was based on Budd Schulberg’s short story, “Your Arkansas Traveler.” The story features a fictional Arkansas native, and is “significant for its prophetic theme of the cult of celebrity, the power of television, and the merging of entertainment and politics.” The movie depicts Andy Griffith’s character’s “rise and fall as a media personality in 1950s America as television replaces radio as the most powerful form of mass communication.” [Nancy Hendricks. “A Face in the Crowd.” Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture. October 2009]
Over the years, three different movies and two documentaries were shot in western Arkansas at
Fort Chaffee, including A Soldier’s Story with Denzel Washington (1984), Biloxi Blues with Matthew
Broderick (1988), and The Tuskegee Airmen with Laurence Fishburne (1995).
In 1958, Fort Chaffee was also the site of singer Elvis Presley’s famous haircut after he was inducted into the U.S. Army.
And The Oscar Goes To….
Five Academy Awards have been awarded to Arkansans over the years. They include Broncho Billy Anderson in 1958, who received an honorary Oscar by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his contribution to the development of motion pictures as a form of entertainment; Mary Steenburgen in 1980, who earned an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Melvin and Howard; Billy Bob Thornton in 1997 who was awarded an Oscar for Best Screenplay for Sling Blade; Lisa Blount and Ray McKinnon in 2001, who received an Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film for The Accountant; and Hal Needham in 2013, who earned an Honorary Oscar for a lifetime career in stunt work.
Nearly three years of planning, artifact-searching and researching went into the exhibit guest-curated by Dr. Robert Cochran. Cochran is the chair of American Studies and director of the Center for Arkansas and Regional Studies at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville. His published works include Singing in Zion: Music and Song in the Life of an Arkansas Family (1999); A Photographer of Note: Arkansas Artist Geleve Grice (2003); and Our Own Sweet Sounds: A Celebration of Popular Music in Arkansas (2005).