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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.
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 1926 book-to-movie adaptation of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s popular (and divisive) novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was the first film that brought Hollywood to Arkansas. Universal Studios produced the film (the third most expensive production in the silent movie era). Though it was mostly filmed in Mississippi and Louisiana, there was a portion of it shot at the Port of Helena. The scene was shot aboard a steamboat, the Kate Adams, and featured about 200 Helena locals as extras.
Three short years later (1929), renowned silent film director King Vidor decided to make his debut in talking pictures with the film, Hallelujah. Centered on the life of an African-American sharecropper-turned-preacher, the film was partially shot near the banks of the Mississippi River and in the swamps near West Memphis.
A little over a decade later (1939), the Old Mill in North Little Rock was briefly featured in the opening credits of none other than Gone with the Wind, a film which has earned its place as one of the most popular movies in cinematic history.
Andy Griffith made his film debut in the 1956 production, A Face in the Crowd. The movie, which chronicled the life of fictional Arkansas hobo-turned-TV-star Lonesome Rhodes, filmed for two weeks in the town of Piggott. Upon completion of the film, the crew paid for the local public pool to be completed.
In the late 1960s, Governor Winthrop Rockefeller decided to actively promote Arkansas to filmmakers as a great shooting location. Because of his campaigning, Arkansas experienced a boom in movie-making in the 1970s.
Shelly Winters and a young Robert De Niro starred in the psychological gangster film, Bloody Mama. Directed and produced by Roger Corman (who is known for launching the careers of many Hollywood heavy-hitters, including Martin Scorsese), this movie was filmed in and around both Mountain Home and Little Rock.
This 1971 cult classic starred singer-songwriter James Taylor and Dennis Wilson (of the Beach Boys). Several scenes were shot on Arkansas highways. One scene features a ferry ride across the Arkansas River on the Toad Suck Ferry, which was closed down mere days later when the Toad Suck Bridge opened.
In the 1980s and 1990s, there was a shift to television and docudramas, though there were still some movies filmed across the state, many by actors/writers who had ties to Arkansas, such as Mary Steenburgen, John Grisham and Billy Bob Thornton. The 2000s have seen an upswing in motion picture production.
Image via Free Movie Posters
This big budget film chronicles the life of Arkansas native and famed country singer, Johnny Cash. The film even showcases the Cash’s actual boyhood home in Dyess.
Another big budget film, starring A-listers Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst, Elizabethtown (2005) was partially filmed in Eureka Springs and Hot Springs.
There have been many others such as Biloxi Blues, Sling Blade, A Soldier’s Story, Great Balls of Fire, The Legend of Boggy Creek, The Firm, Stone Cold and Mud.
There are so many locations across the Natural State for making cinematic masterpieces. See you on the big screen Arkansas!
Cover photo from the rotating exhibit Lights! Camera! Arkansas! at the Old State House Museum.
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