Need more entertainment during the quarantine to flatten the curve of the coronavirus? Here are some Arkansas related books, movies, television shows and documentaries to enjoy. They not only entertain, but also provide a glimpse of Arkansas landscapes, culture and history that people can visit in the future, according to a news release from Arkansas Tourism.
END OF THE LINE — End of the Line is about two railroad workers (Kevin Bacon and Wilform Brimley) who live in Little Rock and learn they are about to lose their jobs. In an effort to save themselves from being laid off they drive a train from Clifford, Arkansas to Chicago to present their case to the board. Filming locations in The Natural State include Lonoke, Benton, Pine Bluff, Little Rock and Scott.
MUD — One of the more recent movies made in Arkansas was directed by Little Rock’s own amateur filmmaker, Jeff Nichols. Mud was filmed in parts of Dumas and Stuttgart and has quite a bit of star power under its belt with Matthew McConaughey in the lead role as the titular character and Reese Witherspoon as his co-star.
WALK THE LINE — When filming Walk the Line, the story of one of Arkansas’s most famous sons Johnny Cash, producers including Cash’s only son John Carter Cash wanted to use locations in The Man in Black’s home state. The Cash home in Dyess was used and has since been fully restored and opened as Historic Dyess Colony: Johnny Cash Boyhood Home. Cherry Street in historic downtown Helena was also used, and several of the sites easily spotted in the movie, including the Malco Theatre and the Phillips County Courthouse side entrance steps (where photographers waited on the recently-arrested Cash).
FACE IN THE CROWD — Andy Griffith stars in his debut film role with scenes filmed at the Matilda and Karl Pfeiffer Museum in Piggott, Arkansas. Screenwriter Bob Schulberg wrote the screenplay based on his short story “Your Arkansas Traveler.”
GREAT BALLS OF FIRE — Great Balls of Fire tells the autobiography of 50s rock musician Jerry Lee Lewis with film scenes shot in Marion and West Memphis, Arkansas. Dennis Quaid stars as Jerry Lee Lewis and according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, “the scenes featuring singing at a church were shot in the Blessings Through Faith Temple Congregation Church off U.S. 70 in West Memphis.”
THELMA & LOUISE — The iconic 90s film Thelma and Louise was a journey from Arkansas to Arizona but none of it was filmed in the state. Most of the Arkansas parts were filmed in Gorman, California, north of Los Angeles to match the green and wet landscapes of The Natural State. Give it a watch knowing it’s supposed to be Arkansas but it’s actually not.
A PAINTED HOUSE — This movie is based on the John Grisham novel of the same name and is one of the few set locations you can visit. The Painted House Movie Set is located in Lepanto, Arkansas, the farmhouse used in the movie and modeled after Grisham’s boyhood home.
TRUE GRIT — A native of El Dorado, Charles Portis is perhaps best known for his bestselling 1968 novel “True Grit,” a portrayal of Arkansas culture and the Wild West in the late 1870s. People can read and watch this one.
The story involves Rooster Cogburn being hired by Mattie Ross, a 14-year-old girl from Dardanelle, to track down her father’s killer and return him to Fort Smith to be hanged by Judge Isaac Parker. Cogburn is the famous fictional Deputy U.S. Marshal made popular by John Wayne in the movie of the same name some 50 years ago. He won his only Oscar for the role. Other cast members included Arkansas’s own Glen Campbell, Robert Duvall and Dennis Hopper. In 2010, a new film adaptation directed by Oscar-winning filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen was released nationwide, starring Jeff Bridges as Cogburn, plus cast members Matt Damon and Josh Brolin.
When life gets back to normal, people should consider a drive along the True Grit Trail. There’s signage along the AR 22 route between Dardanelle and Fort Smith.
TRUE DETECTIVE — The critically acclaimed HBO crime drama True Detective is macabre at its heart. In its third season, the show depicts the lives of two detectives following a trail of missing children across Arkansas’s small towns and backroads.
The landscape it’s filmed in becomes a beautiful character in the story, despite the heavy subject. It’s easy to see why the show’s creator and director, Nic Pizzolato, wanted it filmed in Northwest Arkansas. He is a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, and knows this territory well.
From the beauty of the Ozark Mountains to the entertainment district of a college town, these locales are road trip worthy when the world is ready for that again.
CALICO JOE — Mixing fact and fiction, “Calico Joe” is John Grisham’s first baseball novel. It’s about a nearly fatal pitch and its implications 30 years later on both the batter and the pitcher. The batter is Joe Castle, known as “Calico Joe,” because he is from Calico Rock, Arkansas. His hometown plays a role in the story since it’s where he ends up after his baseball career is over.
“Waiting for you when the pandemic has passed is this still small town that can give you a feel for Calico Joe’s life. Here you can walk a quaint main street, visit a ghost town, and fish the White River,” according to the release.
A SOLDIER’S STORY — Shot completely in Arkansas, including scenes filmed in Clarendon, Little Rock and at Fort Chaffee, “A Soldier’s Story” was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture. It co-starred a young Denzel Washington. The movie is about Capt. Richard Davenport, who is sent to Louisiana to investigate the murder of a black Army master sergeant in 1944.
In the future, people should visit Fort Chaffee’s historic district, which showcases a unique piece of Fort Smith’s rich history by offering a walkable showcase of America’s military history that begins with WWII. Located within the 7,000-acre Chaffee Crossing development, the historic district is integrated within a budding, modern urban community that offers residential spaces, restaurants, recreational and entertainment venues, retail shops, and more.
Some of the historic district’s key features include: Chaffee Barbershop Museum, where Elvis Presley received his famous first G.I. haircut; Fort Chaffee Barracks Museum; Museum of Chaffee History; Vietnam Veterans Museum; River Valley Nature Center; Maness School House; Enchanted Chapel; Enchanted Doll Museum.
ELIZABETHTOWN — This movie has a lot of star power - Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst, Susan Sarandon, Alec Baldwin and Jessica Biel, along with writer/director Cameron Crowe. The story follows an aspiring young shoe designer who is down on his luck.
A portion of it was shot in Eureka Springs, including a brief glimpse of the Christ of the Ozarks statue. Eureka Springs is a cool art town with lots of Victorian architecture, great restaurants and bars, and hiking and mountain bike trails.
INDIANS, OUTLAWS, MARSHALS AND THE HANGIN’ JUDGE — Larry Foley’s latest documentary, “Indians, Outlaws, Marshals and the Hangin’ Judge,” tells the story of the wild and violent frontier days in and around Fort Smith, Arkansas, and Indian Territory, when Judge Isaac C. Parker sentenced more than 100 men to die on the gallows.
People can visit all the sites mentioned in the documentary with a future trip to Fort Smith. Hot Springs, Fayetteville and a trip to iconic Buffalo National River are detailed in other documentaries: “The First Boys of Spring,” “The Buffalo Flows,” and “Up Among the Hills-the Story of Fayetteville.”
— Donald Harrington is an Arkansas author with books based in his home state, including “The Pitcher Shower” and “South of Little Rock.”
— Author Phillip W. Steele of Springdale specialized in folklore of the Ozarks region, history of the Cherokee Nation, outlaws and lawmen of the Ozarks region, Hanging Judge Parker’s Fort Smith court, Civil War in the Ozarks, the Mountain Meadows Massacre, the James-Younger Gang, and other Western subjects.
Arkansas Tourism, a division of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, strives to expand the economic impact of travel and tourism in the state and enhance the quality of life for all Arkansans. The division manages 14 Arkansas Welcome Centers and employs more than 60 staff members across The Natural State.
For more Arkansas book and movie ideas go to Arkansas.com.