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3 War-Themed Movies Filmed at Fort Chaffee


The Arkansas Film Commission reports nearly 80 movies filmed in Arkansas at impromptu film sets across the state. Often, you can leave an urban center and be in a completely different setting within moments.

Fort Chaffee in Western Arkansas is the perfect setting for wartime movies. With the earliest buildings constructed in the 1940s, it is the ideal setting for stories about World War II and other topics like military training, housing refugees, prisoner of war camps, and the relocation of Hurricane Katrina victims.

With all the new developments, imagining a day of drill or a weekend “at ease” for World War II American Soldiers is hard. Still, the setting naturally adapts to hosting a movie crew, Hollywood stars, and vehicles and equipment to set the backdrop to transport viewers to 1944 on an active military base. Three significant movies and several other films find a home and a connection to Fort Chaffee in Barling, Arkansas, just south of Fort Smith.

Significant Hollywood Movies Filmed at Fort Chaffee

A Soldier’s Story

  • Year the movie was filmed: 1984
  • Main actors: Howard E. Rollins Jr., Adolph Caesar, Art Evans, David Alan Grier, David Harris, Dennis Lipscomb, Larry Riley, Robert Townsend, Denzel Washington, William Allen Young, Patti LaBelle
  • Type of movie: Crime Drama
  • Setting of the film: Tynin, Louisiana
  • Other spots in Arkansas used for the film: Fort Smith, Clarendon, Lamar Porter Baseball Field in Little Rock
  • Synopsis: An African-American army officer investigates the murder of a black soldier. He digs to find the facts among all the murky stories shared among locals. The investigation navigates deceit and racial tensions in the still-segregated South.
  • Box office facts: The film’s budget was $6M and grossed over $21M worldwide.
  • Notes and extras about the film:
    • Denzel Washington insisted on wearing glasses for his character, and the director agreed.
    • Director Norman Jewison’s film “Heat of the Night” also addressed the concept of black racism and won five Oscars, including Best Picture.
    • Guitarist Larry Riley and singer Patti LaBelle wrote and performed their own songs.
    • Because of the film’s low budget, no spaces were constructed for filming. All buildings were existing structures, with filming often occurring in tight spaces.
    • The movie mimics “A Soldier’s Play,” which won the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
    • Governor Bill Clinton strongly supported the film because it was entirely filmed in Arkansas and secured the Arkansas Army National Guard for the parade and background artists.
    • The film made the list for the Ten Best Films of the Year in 1984 and received three Oscar nominations and several Golden Globe recognitions, among other NAACP awards.

Biloxi Blues

  • Year the movie was filmed: 1988
  • Main actors: Matthew Broderick, Christopher Walken, Matt Mulhern, Corey Parker, Markus Flanagan, Casey Siemaszko, Penelope Ann Miller, Park Overall
  • Type of Movie: Comedy
  • Setting of the Film: Gulfport, Mississippi
  • Other spots in Arkansas used for the film: Downtown Van Buren, Fort Smith, Arkansas River bridge, Frog Bayou
  • Synopsis: A group of young recruits from Mississippi arrive for basic training. The film follows the rag-tag bunch and their demanding drill sergeant through their 1943 training in preparation for a battle in the Pacific. While life in training is not like it was in New York, the men grow and change.
  • Box office facts: The film’s budget was $17M and grossed over $51M worldwide.
  • Notes and extras about the film:
    • The film is based on a Broadway play under the same name. Several of the movie actors also played roles in the stage production.
    • The original play won three Tony Awards in 1985.
    • This film depicts the second of Neil Simon’s semi-autobiographical trilogy. The other two also follow alliterative titles – “Brighton Beach Memories” and “Broadway Bound.”
    • The movie was intentionally shown with a Super 35 format to give it a more comedic look with a subtle appearance instead of a grim and graphic wartime movie.

The Tuskegee Airmen

  • Year the movie was filmed: 1995
  • Main actors: Laurence Fishburne, Christopher McDonald, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Andre Braugher, Vivica A. Fox, Daniel Kelly, John Lithgow, Courtney B. Vance, Cuba Gooding Jr., Mekhi Phifer
  • Type of Movie: Historical Drama
  • Setting of the Film: Tuskegee, Alabama
  • Other spots in Arkansas used for the film: Fort Smith Frisco Station
  • Synopsis: An experimental group of army pilots fills the first African American training class out of the Tuskegee training base. The group faces prejudice from their white officers and opposition in the belief of their abilities. The distinctive characteristics and bravery mark the actual behavior of this historical group who never lost a bomber to enemy action.
  • Box office facts: The film’s budget was $8.5 million.
  • Notes and extras about the film:
    • The made-for-TV movie won three Emmys as an HBO miniseries.
    • Captain Robert W. Williams wrote the original manuscript. Williams was a pilot from the U.S. Army Air Corps’ “332nd Fighter Group,” the all-African American combat unit trained at Moton Field in Tuskegee, Alabama. He partnered with T.S. Cook to develop a screenplay with attention to historical accuracy.
    • While most characters are fictitious versions of real pilots Williams served with, Benjamin “B.O.” Davis was a real man depicted perfectly in the film.
    • The movie used T-6 Texans, P-51 Mustangs and P-51 fighter aircraft for many aerial sequences.
    • The cafe used early in the film is the same as in “Fried Green Tomatoes.”
    • The film was translated for 19 different countries.

Other movies filmed at Fort Chaffee:

To learn more about filmmaking in Arkansas, visit the Arkansas Film Commission website.

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Keisha (Pittman) McKinney lives in Northwest Arkansas with her chicken man and break-dancing son. Keisha is passionate about connecting people and building community, seeking solutions to the everyday big and small things, and encouraging others through the mundane, hard, and typical that life often brings. She put her communications background to work as a former Non-profit Executive Director, college recruiter and fundraiser, small business trainer, and Digital Media Director at a large church in Northwest Arkansas. Now, she is using those experiences through McKinney Media Solutions and her blog @bigpittstop, which includes daily adventures, cooking escapades, #bigsisterchats, the social justice cases on her heart, and all that she is learning as a #boymom! Keisha loves to feed birds, read the stack on her nightstand, do dollar store crafts, cook recipes from her Pinterest boards, and chase everyday adventures on her Arkansas bucket list.

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2 responses to “3 War-Themed Movies Filmed at Fort Chaffee”

  1. […] When one thinks of the American film industry, it is likely that Hollywood comes to mind. However, Arkansas has played its role in cinematic history. In fact, the Natural State has been featured in several films, both well-known and obscure. Here are 8 of the movies filmed in Arkansas. […]

  2. Elaine /Earl White says:

    Was married in Chapel Number 2..Camp Chafee..1951

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