New Exhibit To Feature Arkansans In The Movies

Jun 3, 2013

Little Rock native "Bronco Billy" Anderson dances amid gunfire in The Great Train Robbery.

A new exhibit focusing on the lives of Arkansas-born entertainers who went on to make a name for themselves in Hollywood will soon open at the Old State House Museum in downtown Little Rock.

Lights! Camera! Arkansas! will review the careers of movie stars and directors who all had their origin in the state. Jo Ellen Mack, the museum’s curator, says recent stars and filmmakers like Mary Steenburgen, Lisa Blount and Jeff Nichols will be featured, as will entertainers from the silent movie era.

She says the history of Arkansans in the movies dates all the way back to The Great Train Robbery of 1903, widely considered the first feature film as we know it today.

"An Arkansan by the name of Bronco Billy Anderson whose real name was Gilbert M. Anderson: he was born in Little Rock and spent some of his childhood in Pine Bluff. And he was actually in [that] very first movie. He had three minor roles and made like 50 cents a day," says Mack.

Mack also points to some major roles Arkansans had before talkies came to dominate the Hollywood scene in the 30's.

"One of the interseting things about [the silent movie]  gallery is there's quite a few women that were pretty big stars at the time. Now, [for] most people, if you said their name wouldn't recognize [these stars] because they were in the silent movies. But it was really interesting there were about five or six women that had a big impact."

Mack says the exhibit also showcases how Arkansas acted as the location for a few Hollywood productions like Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd and Roger Corman’s Bloody Mama.

The exhibit opens June 8th and admission is free.