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.

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2019 Grants announced by National Endowment for the Arts

Three Little Rock organizations were announced today as recipients of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.  They are: Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Music Society of Little Rock, and the Oxford American magazine.

Each year, more than 4,500 communities large and small throughout the United States benefit from National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grants to nonprofits. For the NEA’s first of two major grant announcements of fiscal year 2019, more than $25 million in grants across all artistic disciplines will be awarded to nonprofit organizations in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. These grants are for specific projects and range from performances and exhibitions, to healing arts and arts education programs, to festivals and artist residencies.

Arkansas Symphony Orchestra Society, Inc.
$10,000
Challenge America
To support concert performances and related outreach activities.

Chamber Music Society of Little Rock
$10,000
Challenge America
To support a series of chamber music performances and related educational programming.

Oxford American Literary Project
$20,000
Art Works — Literature
To support payments to writers for The Oxford American magazine.

In addition, three other Arkansas organizations and one Arkansas artist received funds. TheatreSquared of Fayetteville, received $30,000 for the Arkansas New Play Festival, the King Biscuit Blues Festival of Helena received $25,000, the Ozark Foothills Film Fest received $10,000, and Geffrey Davis of Fayetteville received $25,000 for a Creative Writing fellowship.

Rock the Oscars 2019: Mary Steenburgen

It is Oscar month, so it is fitting to highlight at Arkansas’ own Academy Award winning actress, Mary Steenburgen on her birthday.  She was born on February 8, 1953, in Newport, Arkansas.  After moving to North Little Rock as a schoolgirl, she had her first starring role as Emily in the 1971 Northeast High School production of Our Town, which was the new school’s first play.

Her big break in the movies came when Oscar winner Jack Nicholson picked her to star opposite of him in Goin’ South.  This was followed by Time after Time before she appeared in Melvin and Howard.  For that film, she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.  It also marked the first of three times she starred with Jason Robards (the other two being Parenthood and Philadelphia).  Over the years, her films have run the gamut from period piece (Ragtime, Cross Creek) to sophisticated comedy (Romantic Comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy) to fantasy (Back to the Future III) to holiday comedy (Elf).  She has been hard to pigeonhole into a specific “type” of actor because she has played so many different types of roles.

Throughout her career, Mary Steenburgen has been a champion of the arts in Central Arkansas.  In 1986, she starred in and was executive producer of End of the Line, filmed in Central Arkansas, directed and co-written by Arkansan Jay Russell, and also starring Kevin Bacon, Wilfred Brimley, Levon Helm, Barbara Barrie and Holly Hunter.  More recently, Steenburgen has also been an active supporter of the Oxford American magazine as well as South on Main restaurant and performance venue.

She has been an active supporter and a board member of the Arkansas Cinema Society.  During the 2018 FILMLAND she appeared in panel discussions on comedy and on her TV show “The Last Man on Earth.”

The Oxford American Jazz Series presents Sarah Elizabeth Charles & SCOPE tonight

Sarah Elizabeth Charles & SCOPE [Jazz Series]The Oxford American welcomes Sarah Elizabeth Charles & SCOPE to Little Rock! This is the second show in their 2018-19 Jazz Series. Doors open at 6:00 PM at South on Main, with dinner and drinks available for purchase at that time. The series is made possible in part by presenting sponsor UCA College of Fine Arts & Communication.

Additional season partners include Stella Boyle Smith Trust, Chris & Jo Harkins, J. Mark & Christy Davis, EVO Business Environments, Downtown Little Rock Partnership, Stacy Hamilton of Pulaski Heights Realty, Margaret Ferguson Pope, Arkansas Arts Council, Department of Arkansas Heritage, Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, Capital Hotel, Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Rosen Music Company, and Steinway Piano Gallery of Little Rock.

Tickets are $35 (General Admission), $42 (Reserved), and $44 (Premium Reserved). Please take a look at this very important ticketing and seating information before purchasing your tickets (view reserved seating chart). Full season ticket pricing and options are also available in a consolidated format, here.


Sarah Elizabeth Charles is a rising vocalist/composer based in New York City. She has worked and studied with artists such as George Cables, Geri Allen, Nicholas Payton, Sheila Jordan, Jimmy Owens, and Carmen Lundy and released her debut record, Red in September of 2012 with her band SCOPE. As the active vocalist in a number of bands (including SCOPE, AJOYO, Manner Effect, Transient Beings, Enoch Smith Jr., and Benjamin Rando), Charles has performed at many venues throughout her career. These have included The White House, Carnegie Hall, the first annual Culture Summit in Abu Dhabi, The Kennedy Center, the Bern International Jazz Festival in Switzerland, the Port-au-Prince International Jazz Festival, the Sicca Jazz Festival in Tunisia, the Blue Note in New York City, Gillette Stadium as a National Anthem singer for the New England Patriots, the Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival, the Burlington Jazz Festival, the Apollo Music Café, Le Poisson Rouge, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, the Rose Theatre with Jazz at Lincoln Center, and many more.

In addition to her performances, Charles is also an active educator. She works as a teaching artist with Carnegie Hall’s Sing Sing Correctional Facility, Lullaby, and Future Music Project Youth workshops, has a private lessons studio in New York City, and is developing an early childhood music education program with Rise2Shine, a non-profit organization based in Fond Parisien, Haiti.

Charles’s musical output has been described as a “genre of one” (DownBeat Magazine), “soulfully articulate,” (New York Times) and “an unmatched sound” (Jay Z’s Life+Times). Her critically acclaimed sophomore project, Inner Dialogue, released in 2015 on Truth Revolution Records, features her band along with co-producer/special guest Christian Scott. Her third album, Free of Form, was released in the fall of 2017 on Ropeadope/Stretch Music, and featured SCOPE as well as Scott as co-producer and special guest. One can only look to the future for more unique and boundary-pushing music from this one-of-a-kind artist.

LR Culture Vulture turns 7

The Little Rock Culture Vulture debuted on Saturday, October 1, 2011, to kick off Arts & Humanities Month.

The first feature was on the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, which was kicking off its 2011-2012 season that evening.  The program consisted of Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 in A, Op. 90, Rossini’s, Overture to The Italian Girl in Algiers, Puccini’s Chrysanthemums and Respighi’s Pines of Rome.  In addition to the orchestra musicians, there was an organ on stage for this concert.

Since then, there have been 10,107 persons/places/things “tagged” in the blog.  This is the 3,773rd entry. (The symmetry to the number is purely coincidental–or is it?)  It has been viewed over 288,600 times, and over 400 readers have made comments.  It is apparently also a reference on Wikipedia.

The most popular pieces have been about Little Rock history and about people in Little Rock.

$644,600 from NEA is going to the Arkansas Arts Council

In pursuit of its commitment to advance the creative capacity of people and communities across the nation, the National Endowment for the Arts announces its second round of funding for FY 2018.

This funding round includes annual partnerships with state, jurisdictional, and regional arts agencies as well as the categories of Art Works, Creativity Connects, Our Town, and Research: Art Works.

One of the grantees was the Arkansas Arts Council which will receive $644,600.  This will support arts programs, services, and activities associated with carrying out the Arkansas Arts Council’s NEA-approved strategic plan.  The Arts Council is an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.

There were a total number of six (6) grants to entities in Arkansas.  These grants are worth $814,600.  As noted yesterday in a post, one of the grantees was the Arkansas Arts Center.

Earlier this year, the NEA announced its first round of grants which included $10,00 for the Arkansas Repertory Theatre to support production of The Call; $12,500 to the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra to support the Canvas Festival, which combined visual arts and the performance of live symphonic music; $10,000 to the Chamber Music Society of Little Rock to support a series of chamber music performances and related educational programming; and $25,000 to the Oxford American to support the publication and promotion of the magazine.

Dr. Jane Chu, who is the Chairman of the NEA, has announced she will be stepping down on June 4, 2018, at the conclusion of her four year term.  A graduate of Arkadelphia High School and Ouachita Baptist University, she has visited Little Rock during her tenure at the helm of the NEA.

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.