TV’s Annie Oakley – Little Rock native Gail Davis born on October 5, 1925

Gail Davis is best known as TV’s Annie Oakley.  She was born Betty Jeanne Grayson on October 5, 1925. Her mother was a homemaker and her father, W. B. Grayson, was a physician in McGehee (Desha County), which did not have a hospital, so her birth took place in Little Rock (Pulaski County).

When her father became the state health officer, the family moved from McGehee to Little Rock, where Grayson attended Little Rock High School. Grayson rode horses and was a tomboy growing up. Grayson also held various beauty titles in high school and college, and she sang and danced in local shows from the time she was eight.

While studying dramatics at the University of Texas in Austin, she married Robert Davis in 1945, with whom she had a daughter, Terrie (the couple divorced in 1952). After World War II, they moved to Hollywood, where she worked as a hatcheck girl until being discovered by an agent who obtained an MGM screen test for her. She was signed to a contract, with her first appearance in 1947’s The Romance of Rosy Ridge, starring Van Johnson.

She worked steadily in movies, including fourteen films with Gene Autry in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He was impressed with her, changed her name to Gail Davis, and cast her as the star of the Annie Oakley TV show, which he produced. The show ran for eighty-one episodes from 1954 through 1956.

After her TV series ended, she appeared as Annie Oakley in the 1959 film Alias Jesse James starring Bob Hope. In that film, she appears in an uncredited role along with such other stars, also uncredited, as Gary Cooper, Bing Crosby, Roy Rogers, James Garner (as Bret Maverick), and Fess Parker (as Davy Crockett).

Her television appearances include guest roles on The Lone Ranger, The Gene Autry Show, The Cisco Kid, and Death Valley Days, as well as a 1961 episode of the Andy Griffith Show (Episode 37, “The Perfect Female”), her final appearance as a performer and in which she demonstrated her trademark sharpshooting.

Gail toured with Gene Autry’s Wild West show and made appearances as herself on TV programs such as Wide, Wide World: “The Western” (1958) with fellow Arkansan Ben Piazza. For her work in television, she was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, located at 6385 Hollywood Boulevard, and in 2004, she was inducted posthumously into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame.

Gail Davis died of cancer in Los Angeles on March 15, 1997, and is buried in Hollywood’s Forest Lawn cemetery.  In 2007, she was posthumously inducted into the Arkansas Entertainer’s Hall of Fame.  In 2016, a room was named in her memory at the newly renovated Robinson Center.

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Rock the Oscars 2019: Broncho Billy Anderson

At the 1958 Oscars, Gilbert M. “Broncho Billy” Anderson received an Honorary Oscar as a motion picture pioneer.  The citation praised  his contributions to the development of motion pictures as entertainment.

Born in Little Rock in March 1880, he was the son of Esther and Henry Aronson. Both were originally from New York.  Her parents were German-Jewish immigrants and his parents were Russian-Jewish immigrants.

After working as a photographer’s assistant and model, Anderson eventually found his way to vaudeville as a performer and writer.  In 1903, he appeared in the early seminal film The Great Train Robbery in several roles.  He created the western persona of Broncho Billy in front of the cameras.  Behind the scenes, he was a studio owner and director.  Over his career, he directed over 400 films.  By the early 1920s, he retired as an actor and director and devoted himself to owning a Broadway theatre and producing stage shows.

He made occasional film appearances beginning in the 1940s.  In 1958, he appeared in a documentary about Westerns for the TV show “Wide, Wide World.”  Also featured in that special were Little Rock actors Ben Piazza and Gail Davis.  His final screen appearance was in 1965’s The Bounty Killer.  He died in 1971 at the age of 90. He had been married to his wife for sixty years at the time of his death.

Little Rock Look Back: Gail Davis

Gail Davis is best known as TV’s Annie Oakley.  She was born Betty Jeanne Grayson on October 5, 1925. Her mother was a homemaker and her father, W. B. Grayson, was a physician in McGehee (Desha County), which did not have a hospital, so her birth took place in Little Rock (Pulaski County).

When her father became the state health officer, the family moved from McGehee to Little Rock, where Grayson attended Little Rock High School. Grayson rode horses and was a tomboy growing up. Grayson also held various beauty titles in high school and college, and she sang and danced in local shows from the time she was eight.

While studying dramatics at the University of Texas in Austin, she married Robert Davis in 1945, with whom she had a daughter, Terrie (the couple divorced in 1952). After World War II, they moved to Hollywood, where she worked as a hatcheck girl until being discovered by an agent who obtained an MGM screen test for her. She was signed to a contract, with her first appearance in 1947’s The Romance of Rosy Ridge, starring Van Johnson.

She worked steadily in movies, including fourteen films with Gene Autry in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He was impressed with her, changed her name to Gail Davis, and cast her as the star of the Annie Oakley TV show, which he produced. The show ran for eighty-one episodes from 1954 through 1956.

After her TV series ended, she appeared as Annie Oakley in the 1959 film Alias Jesse James starring Bob Hope. In that film, she appears in an uncredited role along with such other stars, also uncredited, as Gary Cooper, Bing Crosby, Roy Rogers, James Garner (as Bret Maverick), and Fess Parker (as Davy Crockett).

Her television appearances include guest roles on The Lone Ranger, The Gene Autry Show, The Cisco Kid, and Death Valley Days, as well as a 1961 episode of the Andy Griffith Show (Episode 37, “The Perfect Female”), her final appearance as a performer and in which she demonstrated her trademark sharpshooting.

Gail toured with Gene Autry’s Wild West show and made appearances as herself on TV programs such as Wide, Wide World: “The Western” (1958) with fellow Arkansan Ben Piazza. For her work in television, she was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, located at 6385 Hollywood Boulevard, and in 2004, she was inducted posthumously into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame.

Gail Davis died of cancer in Los Angeles on March 15, 1997, and is buried in Hollywood’s Forest Lawn cemetery.  In 2007, she was posthumously inducted into the Arkansas Entertainer’s Hall of Fame.  In 2016, a room was named in her memory at the newly renovated Robinson Center.

Rock the Oscars: Broncho Billy Anderson

At the 1958 Oscars, GilbertM. “Broncho Billy” Anderson received an Honorary Oscar as a motion picture pioneer.  The citation praised  his contributions to the development of motion pictures as entertainment.

Born in Little Rock in March 1880, he was the son of Esther and Henry Aronson. Both were originally from New York.  Her parents were German-Jewish immigrants and his parents were Russian-Jewish immigrants.

After working as a photographer’s assistant and model, Anderson eventually found his way to vaudeville as a performer and writer.  In 1903, he appeared in the early seminal film The Great Train Robbery in several roles.  He created the western persona of Broncho Billy in front of the cameras.  Behind the scenes, he was a studio owner and director.  Over his career, he directed over 400 films.  By the early 1920s, he retired as an actor and director and devoted himself to owning a Broadway theatre and producing stage shows.

He made occasional film appearances beginning in the 1940s.  In 1958, he appeared in a documentary about Westerns for the TV show “Wide, Wide World.”  Also featured in that special were Little Rock actors Ben Piazza and Gail Davis.  His final screen appearance was in 1965’s The Bounty Killer.  He died in 1971 at the age of 90. He had been married to his wife for sixty years at the time of his death.

 

Central to Creativity – Gail Davis

gail_davisGail Davis is best known as TV’s Annie Oakley.  She was born Betty Jeanne Grayson on October 5, 1925. Her mother was a homemaker and her father, W. B. Grayson, was a physician in McGehee (Desha County), which did not have a hospital, so her birth took place in Little Rock (Pulaski County).

When her father became the state health officer, the family moved from McGehee to Little Rock, where Grayson attended Little Rock High School. Grayson rode horses and was a tomboy growing up. Grayson also held various beauty titles in high school and college, and she sang and danced in local shows from the time she was eight.

While studying dramatics at the University of Texas in Austin, she married Robert Davis in 1945, with whom she had a daughter, Terrie (the couple divorced in 1952). After World War II, they moved to Hollywood, where she worked as a hatcheck girl until being discovered by an agent who obtained an MGM screen test for her. She was signed to a contract, with her first appearance in 1947’s The Romance of Rosy Ridge, starring Van Johnson.

She worked steadily in movies, including fourteen films with Gene Autry in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He was impressed with her, changed her name to Gail Davis, and cast her as the star of the Annie Oakley TV show, which he produced. The show ran for eighty-one episodes from 1954 through 1956.

After her TV series ended, she appeared as Annie Oakley in the 1959 film Alias Jesse James starring Bob Hope. In that film, she appears in an uncredited role along with such other stars, also uncredited, as Gary Cooper, Bing Crosby, Roy Rogers, James Garner (as Bret Maverick), and Fess Parker (as Davy Crockett).

Her television appearances include guest roles on The Lone Ranger, The Gene Autry Show, The Cisco Kid, and Death Valley Days, as well as a 1961 episode of the Andy Griffith Show (Episode 37, “The Perfect Female”), her final appearance as a performer and in which she demonstrated her trademark sharpshooting.

Gail toured with Gene Autry’s Wild West show and made appearances as herself on TV programs such as Wide, Wide World: “The Western” (1958) with fellow Arkansan Ben Piazza. For her work in television, she was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, located at 6385 Hollywood Boulevard, and in 2004, she was inducted posthumously into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame.

Gail Davis died of cancer in Los Angeles on March 15, 1997, and is buried in Hollywood’s Forest Lawn cemetery.  In 2007, she was posthumously inducted into the Arkansas Entertainer’s Hall of Fame.  In 2016, a room was named in her memory at the newly renovated Robinson Center.

RobinsoNovember: Gail Davis

gail_davisGail Davis is another of the former Little Rock artists honored at Robinson Center.  She was born Betty Jeanne Grayson on October 5, 1925. Her mother was a homemaker and her father, W. B. Grayson, was a physician in McGehee (Desha County), which did not have a hospital, so her birth took place in Little Rock (Pulaski County).

When her father became the state health officer, the family moved from McGehee to Little Rock, where Grayson attended Little Rock Senior High School. Grayson rode horses and was a tomboy growing up. Grayson also held various beauty titles in high school and college, and she sang and danced in local shows from the time she was eight.

While studying dramatics at the University of Texas in Austin, she married Robert Davis in 1945, with whom she had a daughter, Terrie (the couple divorced in 1952). After World War II, they moved to Hollywood, where she worked as a hatcheck girl until being discovered by an agent who obtained an MGM screen test for her. She was signed to a contract, with her first appearance in 1947’s The Romance of Rosy Ridge, starring Van Johnson.

She worked steadily in movies, including fourteen films with Gene Autry in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He was impressed with her, changed her name to Gail Davis, and cast her as the star of the Annie Oakley TV show, which he produced. The show ran for eighty-one episodes from 1954 through 1956.

At just over five feet tall and under 100 pounds, Davis was a charming heroine on Annie Oakley who wore pigtails and stopped criminals by outsmarting them or shooting the guns out of their hands. She rode horses and did many of her own stunts. She was the first woman to star in a TV western. Many young women later said they were influenced by watching Gail Davis as Annie Oakley, a female character in a traditionally male role. In the show, Gail took care of her younger brother, Tagg, in the fictional town of Diablo and solved crimes with handsome deputy sheriff Lofty Craig.

After her TV series ended, she appeared as Annie Oakley in the 1959 film Alias Jesse James starring Bob Hope. In that film, she appears in an uncredited role along with such other stars, also uncredited, as Gary Cooper, Bing Crosby, Roy Rogers, James Garner (as Bret Maverick), and Fess Parker (as Davy Crockett).

Her television appearances include guest roles on The Lone Ranger, The Gene Autry Show, The Cisco Kid, and Death Valley Days, as well as a 1961 episode of the Andy Griffith Show (Episode 37, “The Perfect Female”), her final appearance as a performer and in which she demonstrated her trademark sharpshooting.

Gail toured with Gene Autry’s Wild West show and made appearances as herself on TV programs such as Wide, Wide World: “The Western” (1958) with fellow Arkansan Ben Piazza. For her work in television, she was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, located at 6385 Hollywood Boulevard, and in 2004, she was inducted posthumously into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame.

Gail Davis died of cancer in Los Angeles on March 15, 1997, and is buried in Hollywood’s Forest Lawn cemetery.  In 2007, she was posthumously inducted into the Arkansas Entertainer’s Hall of Fame.

Bikes and Movies at Old State House

OSH logoJanuary is a good time to go to the movies and to ride your bike (as well as other fitness regimens).  The Old State House Museum currently has two exhibits which highlight these two activities.

Different Spokes

Different Spokes looks at the history of bicycling and places cycling in Arkansas within a worldwide historical context. Visitors will be able to view galleries of artifacts, historical pictures and video to learn the history of bicycles.

“As cities and towns begin dedicated services and trails for cyclists, it’s important to note that the enthusiasm for bikes in Arkansas has roots that go back over 100 years,” said Old State House Museum Director Bill Gatewood. “The interest at the turn of the 20th century in bicycles was very similar to the one that we are seeing at the turn of the 21st century.”

While the exhibit mainly explores the technological advances of cycling in the past 130 years, Different Spokes also tells the story of competition, economics, and social life. The history of trail systems, cycling communities and history in Arkansas is explored in videos produced by the Old State House Museum. From an 1880 wooden bicycle built from white oak and agricultural implements to the world’s first carbon-fiber bicycles made by Brent Trimble of Berryville, Different Spokes contains artifacts that show this history from past to present. Gatewood says the Museum relied on contributions from the cycling community to present this story. The exhibit will remain on view to February 2016.

“I have not participated in any other exhibit that has had this kind of immediate response from the community,” Gatewood said. “The passion these people have for their pursuit is overwhelming, and I believe it will be reflected well in this exhibit.”

Lights! Camera! Arkansas!

Arkansas’s rich and varied history in film is the subject of Lights! Camera! Arkansas!, the newest exhibit at the Old State House Museum. The exhibit features the state’s ties to Hollywood, through both movies and television. Lights! Camera! Arkansas! highlights several well-known films with Arkansas connections and includes over 800 artifacts from the Old State House Museum’s permanent collection and objects loaned by other museums, film companies, actors, and writers. The comprehensive exhibit shows artifacts related to films shot on location in the state, actors born in Arkansas, and literary figures whose works were the basis for films shot in Arkansas.

 Lights! Camera! Arkansas! features a stellar list of Arkansas-born actors, authors, directors, and scripts. The exhibit  includes the work of Jeff Nichols, Mary Steenburgen, Harry Thomason, Julie Adams, Lisa Blount, Johnny Cash, Gail Davis, Levon Helm, Ben Piazza, James Bridges, and Joey Lauren Adams among many others.

Visitors will see five galleries of costumes, scripts, film footage, awards, photographs, theater posters, props, and more. Documentary videos add to their understanding and appreciation of Arkansas’s role in American film. Visitors will be able to watch the videos in a newly-constructed theater room.

The Old State House Museum commissioned original paintings of the state’s Hollywood-famous by House-of-Blues artists Patterson and Barnes. These fourteen portraits will portray Broncho Billy Anderson, Dick Powell, Alan Ladd, Gail Davis, Julie Adams, William Warfield, Louis Jordan, Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, Levon Helm, Mary Steenburgen, Billy Bob Thornton, Lisa Blount, and Jeff Nichols.