Rock the Oscars: Charles Durning

In 1980, future two time Oscar nominee Charles Durning came to Little Rock to film the TV movie Crisis at Central High.  In the movie he played Jess Matthews, who was principal at Central High during the desegregation of the school.  Girls Vice Principal Elizabeth Huckaby had written a book about her experiences during that time which was published earlier in 1980.

The film, which aired on TV on February 4, 1981, also starred Joanne Woodward and Henderson Forsythe.  Several local actors also appeared in the movie.  While much of the interior scenes were shot in Dallas, there were exterior scenes shot at the Central High.  Other Little Rock locations were also used.

Durning was born on February 28, 1923.  Following World War II, he worked in a variety of professions, including as a ballroom dance instructor.  In the 1960s, he started appearing on TV, which led to his breakout role in the Oscar winning film The Sting.  Throughout the 1970s, he started appearing in supporting roles in major films.  After filming Crisis at Central High he received back-to-back Oscar nominations in the Supporting Actor category for Mel Brooks’ To Be or Not to Be and for The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

In the 1990s, he made visits to Arkansas in conjunction with his role in the TV series “Evening Shade.”  Durning died in 2012.

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Rock the Oscars: Joanne Woodward

In 1980, Oscar winner Joanne Woodward came to Little Rock to film the TV movie Crisis at Central High.  In the movie she played Elizabeth Huckaby, who was vice principal for girls at Central High during the desegregation of the school.  Huckaby had written a book about her experiences which was published earlier in 1980.

The film, which aired on TV on February 4, 1981, also starred Charles Durning and Henderson Forsythe.  Several local actors also appeared in the movie.  While much of the interior scenes were shot in Dallas, there were exterior scenes shot at the Central High.  Other Little Rock locations were also used.

Woodward was born on February 27, 1930.  In the early 1950s, she split her time between theatre and TV, both based in New York City.  In only her third year of making motion pictures, she won the Best Actress Oscar for her role(s) in The Three Faces of Eve.  As she continued to make movies, she received three other Best Actress nominations over the decades.

In the past two decades, she has focused more on directing and producing theatre, with some voice work for films.  Her last motion picture onscreen role was in 1993’s Philadelphia, where she played Tom Hanks’ mother.

 

Tonight END OF THE LINE at Old State House “2nd Friday Cinema”

End of the lineJanuary’s installment of Second Friday Cinema features End of the Line, a 1987 movie directed by Arkansan Jay Russell and featuring Arkansans Mary Steenburgen and Levon Helm. The film is about two rail workers from Little Rock who hop aboard a train to Chicago in a last ditch effort to save their jobs and way of life.

Joining in the cast are Wilford Brimley, Barbara Barrie, Bob Balaban, Henderson Forsythe, Holly Hunter and Bruce McGill.  Perhaps, most importantly, Kevin Bacon is one of the stars making this a key component of “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” games everywhere.

The movie was filmed in Central Arkansas.  The Culture Vulture very clearly remembers working overnight to construct balloon arches for a scene to be filmed at the Missouri Pacific rail yards the next day. The Culture Vulture later donned his 1970s era band uniform (with fake satin tunic, dark pants, dark shoes and fuzzy black cowboy hat) and stood in the August heat for several hours while a “simple” scene was shot and re-shot countless times.

Ben Fry, general manager of KLRE/KUAR and coordinator of the film minor at UALR, will introduce the film and lead a discussion after the screening.

The screening starts tonight at 5pm at the Old State House Museum, an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.

 

Tales from the South tomorrow night: Tin Roof Project featuring Ann Talman

The first week of each month, Tales from the South features one person sharing their life story. They call it Tin Roof Project.  November features actress Ann Talman.  Born in West Virginia, she has had a film and stage career since the 1980s.

Talman has costarred with Elizabeth Taylor, Jerry Stiller, Ben Stiller, Maureen Stapleton, Nathan Lane, Kate Burton, Elisabeth Shue, Frances Conroy, John Mahoney, Stockard Channing, Swoosie Kurtz, Henderson Forsythe, Rue McClanahan, Cynthia Nixon, Jennifer Tilley, Jennifer Coolidge, Kristen Johnston and Amy Ryan — just to name a few.

Music is by the Salty Dogs and blues guitarist Mark Simpson

Tales From the South” is a radio show created and produced by Paula Martin Morell, who is also the show’s host. The show is taped live on Tuesday. The night is a cross between a house concert and a reading/show, with incredible food and great company. Tickets must be purchased before the show, as shows are usually standing-room only.

“Tales from the South” is a showcase of writers reading their own true stories. While the show itself is unrehearsed, the literary memoirs have been worked on for weeks leading up to the readings. Stories range from funny to touching, from everyday occurrences to life-altering tragedies.

The program takes place at Starving Artist Café.  Dinner is served from 5pm to 6:30pm, the show starts at 7pm.  Admission is $5, not including dinner.

You MUST purchase your ticket before the show

Previous episodes of “Tales from the South” air on KUAR Public Radio on Thursdays at 7pm.