Rock the Oscars 2019: Dick Powell

Oscars nominations are announced today.  In the days leading up to the ceremony, this blog will look at Arkansas to the Academy Awards.

First up is Dick Powell.  Though not born in Little Rock, he grew up here and graduated from Little Rock High School when it was on Scott Street (now the East Side Lofts).  He started earning money as a singer in Little Rock churches and masonic lodges before transitioning to nightspots which eventually led to him touring the country with dance bands.

When Hollywood beckoned, he first appeared in light musicals as a singer and dancer.  One of his first non-musical roles was in the  all-star A Midsummer Night’s Dream which earned four Oscar nominations and won two.  He starred opposite future Oscar winners Jimmy Cagney and Olivia de Havilland.  Eventually, he transitioned into film noir roles including playing Phillip Marlowe in 1945’s Murder, My Sweet.  

In 1948, Powell hosted the Oscars ceremony. Gentlemen’s Agreement won Best Picture and two other Oscars that year.  (He was not the first Arkansan to host the Oscars.  In 1938, Van Buren native Bob Burns hosted the ceremony.)  In 1959, he and his then-wife June Allyson were two of the presenters at the Oscars.  That ceremony came in at one hour and 40 minutes in length. It was under-time so the presenters and winners took to the stage floor with dancing as a way to fill time before NBC cut away and aired a documentary on target-shooting.

Powell was one of the stars of 1952’s The Bad and the Beautiful.  The film won five Oscars but was not nominated for Best Picture.  It holds the record for the most wins by a film not nominated for Best Picture.

Rock the Oscars: Dick Powell

The Oscars are on March 4.  In the days leading up to them, the Little Rock Culture Vulture will look at Little Rock connections to the Academy Awards over the 90 ceremonies.

First up is Dick Powell.  Though not born in Little Rock, he grew up here and graduated from Little Rock High School when it was on Scott Street (now the East Side Lofts).  He started earning money as a singer in Little Rock churches and masonic lodges before transitioning to nightspots which eventually led to him touring the country with dance bands.

When Hollywood beckoned, he first appeared in light musicals as a singer and dancer.  One of his first non-musical roles was in the  all-star A Midsummer Night’s Dream which earned four Oscar nominations and won two.  He starred opposite future Oscar winners Jimmy Cagney and Olivia de Havilland.  Eventually, he transitioned into film noir roles including playing Phillip Marlowe in 1945’s Murder, My Sweet.  

In 1948, Powell hosted the Oscars ceremony. Gentlemen’s Agreement won Best Picture and two other Oscars that year.  (He was not the first Arkansan to host the Oscars.  In 1938, Van Buren native Bob Burns hosted the ceremony.)  In 1959, he and his then-wife June Allyson were two of the presenters at the Oscars.  That ceremony came in at one hour and 40 minutes in length. It was under-time so the presenters and winners took to the stage floor with dancing as a way to fill time before NBC cut away and aired a documentary on target-shooting.

Powell was one of the stars of 1952’s The Bad and the Beautiful.  The film won five Oscars but was not nominated for Best Picture.  It holds the record for the most wins by a film not nominated for Best Picture.

Arkansas Heritage Month – LR Mayor Brickhouse and a Municipal Auditorium

Brickhouse AuditIn anticipation of the November 2016 reopening of Robinson Center Music Hall, this week’s Arkansas Heritage Month entries look at seven Little Rock Mayors who worked on proposals for a municipal auditorium between 1904 and 1940.

Former Alderman Ben D. Brickhouse took office as mayor in April 1919.  As an alderman, he had been party to the discussions and hand-wringing over the existing “temporary” auditorium, which was twelve years old at the time.  In June 1920, he and the City Council authorized City Engineer James Rice to have the building demolished.  (Rice’s grandson Jim Rice is an integral member of the team overseeing the restoration of Robinson Center Music Hall.)

On what seemed to be an annual basis, Brickhouse entertained options for a new municipal auditorium.  Sometimes it would be private groups, on at least one occasion, Mayor Brickhouse himself led the effort.  Funding and location always seemed to be stumbling blocks.  Arkansas law forbade the use of public dollars on an auditorium, so the money would have to be raised privately. Few private entities had the money for this type of project.  Another temporary auditorium had been proposed for City Park (now MacArthur Park), but aldermen balked at the expense for a temporary building.

During the Brickhouse administration, the Hotel Marion was the main site for conventions. The auditorium at the Little Rock High School (later East Side Junior High) was used frequently for performances.

Mayor Brickhouse worked behind the scenes to have the Arkansas General Assembly pass legislation to allow for the creation of an auditorium taxing district, much like a street improvement district. In May 1925 Little Rock voters would be given the chance to approve this.  But Brickhouse would not be mayor by the time that election came around.  He was defeated in his bid for a fourth term and left office in April 1925.

Ben D. Brickhouse did return to public service in 1938, when he was elected to the Arkansas General Assembly.  He was reelected in 1940 and died in June 1941.