50 Years ago – World Premiere of TRUE GRIT takes place in Little Rock at Cinema 150

Glen Campbell speaks with Larry McAdams of KATV at the opening of TRUE GRIT.

On June 12, 1969, the world premiere of the film TRUE GRIT took place at the Cinema 150.

Actor/singer (and Arkansas native) Glen Campbell was in attendance at the event, but another Arkansan connected to the movie – author Charles Portis, did not attend.

Portis’ objection was that the film was being used as a fundraiser for the Democratic Party of Arkansas, and he was a supporter of Governor Winthrop Rockefeller, a Republican. Portis described himself as a Rockefeller Democrat.  The next night, in Hot Springs, Portis hosted what was billed as the “Author’s Premiere.”

While Portis may have been absent (and there is no way that GOP stalwart John Wayne would have considered coming to the premiere), the Cinema 150 was sold-out.  Press accounts noted that attendees ranged from Senator J. William Fulbright and Rep. Bill Alexander to former office holders Orval Faubus and Bruce Bennett (who presumably took a break that evening from trying to prove who was the more ardent segregationist).

Quite a few in attendance also had their eye on 1970’s Democratic primaries including Attorney General Joe Purcell and Secretary of State Kelly Bryant.  No mention was made in the media if Charleston, Arkansas, attorney Dale Bumpers was in attendance.

The film was cheered by those in attendance, although some did comment about the presence of snow-capped mountains in the film that was set in Arkansas and Oklahoma. But that was a minor quibble. (The film was shot in Colorado.)

Following the premiere, the party continued under a big circus tent, set up that evening in the parking lot of the shopping center at the southwest corner of Asher and University (now the home to Murry’s Dinner Playhouse).

The Pryor Center for Arkansas Studies has compiled a video clip from the opening.  It can be viewed here.

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Rock the Oscars 2019: TRUE GRIT (both versions)

In 1969, Arkansan Charles Portis’ novel True Grit was made into a movie starring John Wayne and Arkansan Glen Campbell.  Kim Darby, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, Jeff Corey and Strother Martin are also in the cast.

The movie was directed by Henry Hathaway, produced by Hal B. Wallis, and written by Marguerite Roberts.  Wilford Brimley and Jay Silverheels are uncredited actors in the movie.

Though set in Arkansas and Oklahoma, the movie was filmed in Colorado.  Elvis Presley was the first choice for the part Campbell would play. But when his manager demanded top billing (over Wayne), he was bypassed and the part went to Campbell.

The movie was nominated for two Oscars: Wayne for Best Actor and composer Elmer Bernstein and lyricist Don Black for the song “True Grit.”  The latter had been sung by Campbell in the movie.

Wayne won the Oscar that night, his only win.  He would reprise the character of Rooster Cogburn in the eponymously named sequel in 1975. This film, in which he co-starred with Katharine Hepburn, was his penultimate film.

In 1970, Campbell teamed up with Kim Darby again in a film written by Roberts based on a Portis book. This time it was Norwood.  It also starred Joe Namath, Carol Lynley, Meredith MacRae, and Dom DeLuise.  It did not repeat the success of the earlier Portis based movie.

In 2010, the Coen Brothers released a new version of Charles Portis’ True Grit.  Co-written and co-directed by Ethan and Joel Coen, it starred Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper, Domhnall Gleeson and Elizabeth Marvel.  Unlike the original film, which was filmed in Colorado, this film was actually filmed partially in Arkansas, where  several scenes takes place.  Filming also took place in Texas.  Many Arkansas actors appeared in the film, but at the risk of omitting some, there will not be an attempt to name them.

The film received ten Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Directing, Leading Actor (Bridges), Supporting Actress (Steinfeld), Cinematography, Costume Design, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, and Art Direction.  Sadly, the film went home empty handed.

Little Rock Look Back: 1968 THE NUTCRACKER is largest production to date at Robinson

In December 1968, the final stretch of Interstate 40 between Little Rock and Memphis was completed. (Little did anyone know that milestone merely meant work would change from construction to non-stop reconstruction.)  Talks were underway about merging private Little Rock University with the University of Arkansas system.  On the TV on December 19, “The Little Drummer Boy” TV special was being shown for the first time.  Also, Arkansan Glen Campbell was one of the guest stars on Bob Hope’s Christmas TV special.

For those who did not sit at home watching TV, at Robinson Auditorium on December 19 and 20, 1968, the nascent Little Rock Civic Ballet (a forerunner to today’s Ballet Arkansas) presented its first production of THE NUTCRACKER. (There appears to be some debate as to whether this was the first complete production of this ballet in Little Rock.)

Under the direction and choreography of D. Cater Cranford, this production featured 135 performers, a fifty piece orchestra under the direction of Vasilios Priakos, and the largest number of stagehands in Robinson Auditorium’s history.  The production cost $25,000 to mount.  That would be the equivalent of just over $181,000 in 2018.

A large portion of the money went to renting sets from Dallas for the production.  The costumes were designed and sewn by Cranford.  He also appeared as Drosselmeyer in the production.  His wife Lorraine, assisted with the choreography and also appeared on stage.

Though most of the dancers were local, the leading roles were danced by Bill Martin-Viscont, Nathalie Krassovak, Linda DiBona, Margo Dean and Carl Tressler.  Some of the dancers who had rehearsed for the production were unable to participate due to several cast members coming down with flu in the days immediately prior to the production.

The production sold out both public performances as well as the daytime matinee for school children.  The dress rehearsal on December 18 was opened up for children with disabilities to attend.

Though The Nutcracker has not been presented in Little Rock every year since 1968, the overwhelming response to this production set the stage for it to become a much-loved holiday tradition in the city.

 

Rock the Oscars, TRUE GRIT – Part 1

Fifty years ago, former Arkansas Gazette reporter Charles Portis wrote a novel entitled True Grit.  It is more than a work of literature, it is a work of art.  In April 2018, the Oxford American will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the publication of the novel with a series of events.

In 1969, the movie was made into a movie starring John Wayne and Arkansan Glen Campbell.  Kim Darby, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, Jeff Corey and Strother Martin are also in the cast.  The movie was directed by Henry Hathaway, produced by Hal B. Wallis, and written by Marguerite Roberts.  Wilford Brimley and Jay Silverheels are uncredited actors in the movie.

Though set in Arkansas and Oklahoma, the movie was filmed in Colorado.  Elvis Presley was the first choice for the part Campbell would play. But when his manager demanded top billing (over Wayne), he was bypassed and the part went to Campbell.

The movie was nominated for two Oscars: Wayne for Best Actor and composer Elmer Bernstein and lyricist Don Black for the song “True Grit.”  The latter had been sung by Campbell in the movie.

Wayne won the Oscar that night, his only win.  He would reprise the character of Rooster Cogburn in the eponymously named sequel in 1975. This film, in which he co-starred with Katharine Hepburn, was his penultimate film.

In 1970, Campbell teamed up with Kim Darby again in a film written by Roberts based on a Portis book. This time it was Norwood.  It also starred Joe Namath, Carol Lynley, Meredith MacRae, and Dom DeLuise.  It did not repeat the success of the earlier Portis based movie.

And the Arkansan Grammy Winners Were

grammy-2014Last night was pretty good for Arkansas-related Grammy winners.

The documentary Glen Campbell, I’ll Be Me spawned winners in two different categories.  The Band Perry is won for Best Country Duo/Group Performance for their take on Campbell’s hit “Gentle on My Mind” from the film’s soundtrack.  Campbell himself won his first Grammy since 1968 for co-writing (with Julian Raymond) the song “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” in the Best Country Song category.  The song is also nominated for the Oscars later this month.

Former Arkansan Smokie Norful won his second career Grammy.  He was lauded last night for “No Greater Love” in the Best Gospel Performance/Song category.

Though not an Arkansan, Roseanne Cash comes from Arkansas stock and has been an active supporter of efforts to establish a museum in Dyess, Arkansas in honor of her father Johnny Cash. She is went three for three Grammy Awards last night.  Cash is making room on her mantelpiece for trophies for: Best American Roots Performance (“A Feather’s Not a Bird”), Best American Roots Song (“A Feather’s Not a Bird”), and Best Americana Album (The River & The Thread).

Arkansas at the Grammys – A Little Rock, a little country, a little soul, etc.

One of Johnny Cash's Grammy Awards

One of Johnny Cash’s Grammy Awards

The 57th annual Grammy Awards are tonight.  There are several nominees with Arkansas connections.

The documentary Glen Campbell, I’ll Be Me spawned nominations in three different categories.  The Band Perry is nominated for Best Country Duo/Group Performance for their take on Campbell’s hit “Gentle on My Mind” from the film’s soundtrack.  Campbell himself is nominated for co-writing the song “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” in the Best Country Song category.  The song is also nominated in the Best Song Written for Visual Media category.

Former Arkansan Smokie Norful is nominated for two Grammy Awards tonight.  For his song “No Greater Love” he is nominated for Best Gospel Performance/Song. His album Forever Yours is nominated for Best Gospel Album.

John Waters, who will be headlining at the 2015 Arkansas Literary Festival, is nominated for Best Spoken Word Album for Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America.

Though not an Arkansan, Roseanne Cash comes from Arkansas stock and has been an active supporter of efforts to establish a museum in Dyess, Arkansas. She is nominated for three Grammy Awards: Best American Roots Performance (“A Feather’s Not a Bird”), Best American Roots Song (“A Feather’s Not a Bird”), and Best Americana Album (The River & The Thread).

The Grammy Hall of Fame contains several recordings with Arkansas connections.  The 1969 album The Band by The Band, which featured Levon Helm, was inducted in 1999.  Louis Jordan has several singles inducted: 1946’s “Ain’t Nobody Here but Us Chickens,” 1945’s “Caldonia Boogie,” 1946’s “Choo Choo Ch’Boogie,” and 1946’s “Let the Good Times Roll,” Charlie Rich’s 1973 single “Behind Closed Doors” was inducted as was Conway Twitty’s 1970 hit “Hello Darlin’.” Patsy Montana is included for her 1935 song “I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart.”  Al Green is included for 1971’s “Let’s Stay Together” and 1974’s “Take Me to the River.”

Glen Campbell and his family at the 2012 Grammy Awards

Glen Campbell and his family at the 2012 Grammy Awards

Glen Campbell has three recordings in the Grammy Hall of Fame: 1967’s “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” 1967’s “Gentle on My Mind,” and 1968’s “Wichita Lineman.”  Johnny Cash has four entries: the singles “Folsom Prison Blues” from 1956, “I Walk the Line” from 1956, and “Ring of Fire” from 1963. In addition his album “Johnny Cash at San Quentin” from 1969 was inducted.

The 1949 musical cast album from South Pacific featuring a heroine from Little Rock was inducted. Another Broadway-themed inductee is “Lullaby of Broadway” featuring former Little Rock resident Dick Powell from 1935.

Here are some past Grammy winners from Arkansas:

  • Bill Clinton, 2004 Best Spoken Word Album – My Life
  • Bill Clinton and others, 2003 Best Spoken Word Album for Children – Peter and the Wolf
  • Hillary Clinton, 1996 Best Spoken Word Album – It Takes a Village
  • Evanescence, 2003 Best New Artist, Best Hard Rock Performance (“Bring Me to Life”)
  • Al Green has 11 Grammy Awards spanning from 1981 to 2008. In 2002 he was given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
  • Johnny Cash won 13 Grammy Awards spanning from 1967 to 2007. In 1999 he was given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
  • Glen Campbell received 5 Grammy Awards in 1967 and 1968. In 2012, he was presented a Lifetime Achievement Award. That moment is captured in the documentary Glen Campbell, I’ll Be Me.
  • As part of The Band, Levon Helm received a 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award. As an individual artist he received Grammy Awards in 2007, 2009 and 2011.
  • Conway Twitty received a 1971 Grammy for Country Duo or Group for “After The Fire Is Gone” duet with Loretta Lynn.
  • Charlie Rich won the 1973 Grammy for Male Country Vocal Performance for “Behind Closed Doors.”
  • Smokie Norful won the 2004 Grammy for Contemporary Soul Gospel Album for Nothing Without You.
  • Maya Angelou won Grammy Awards in the Spoken Word Album for 1993’s On the Pulse of Morning, 1995’s Phenomenal Woman and 2002’s A Song Flung Up to Heaven.

Best Song Oscar nomination for Arkansan Glen Campbell

Glen_Campbell_I'll_Be_Me_PosterLost in the shuffle of Oscar nominations was the fact that Arkansan Glen Campbell received his first Oscar nomination. It was for co-writing the song “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from the documentary Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me.  Unfortunately, due to the ravages of Alzheimer’s this plaudit comes too late in his career for him to relish it.

In 2014, the documentary was screened at the CALS Ron Robinson Theater with members of Campbell’s family and the filmmakers present. It later opened the 2014 Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival before it was commercially released.

Though not featured in the film footage, Campbell’s last performance in Arkansas was at Robinson Center Music Hall to a sold out, lovingly appreciative and emotional audience.

Campbell’s previous closest brush with Oscar was as a co-star to John Wayne in the original True Grit, for which the Duke took home the trophy.