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Linda Carol Staal, 69, of Moore played the kidnapped girl. PHOTO PROVIDEDThe script goes like this: The curly-top daughter of the town's wealthiest man is kidnapped and held for ransom by two thugs. The town's children join forces, find the missing girl and run over her kidnappers like a stampede of pigmy goats to capture a $1,000 reward. If the storyline doesn't stir memories, it's because the black-and-white film was shown only about a half-dozen times in a Shawnee theater. If it seems vaguely familiar, there's a good chance you were in a Barker production. Film historians have evidence Barker remade "The Kidnappers Foil” in at least 100 cities and towns across the Midwest from the 1930s until the early 1970s, said Bill Moore, film archivist with the Oklahoma Historical Society. While Shawnee's film is the only one to surface in this state, Moore said there are Oklahomans who say Barker made the same film in Ada, Guthrie and Oklahoma City. It was likely made elsewhere, too, Moore said. Shawnee's version of "The Kidnappers Foil” was discovered in an old cabinet during the renovation of a projection room at the Hornbeck Theatre. The 20-minute feature was shown in 1946 at the long-gone Bison Theatre. Its local cast got top billing over real Hollywood stars Pat O'Brien and Ruth Warwick in "Perilous Holiday.” Theater owner Ronny Jones turned the feature over to the Oklahoma Historical Society's film preservation department, where it was restored through a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation. The restored version was shown in public for the first time at the Hornbeck Theatre's 60th anniversary in May. More recently, it was the center of attention at a 55th class reunion of Shawnee High School students. "It was a joy to see myself as a child again,” said Staal, 69, of Moore. "To hear me talking in a little girl's voice was just neat.”
Itinerant filmmaker had kids seeing stars
SHAWNEE — Sixty years ago, Linda Carol Staal performed on the big screen. The 8-year-old was a big star in her hometown, if only for a week.Staal was one of about 100 children from the Shawnee area who achieved local stardom in the Melton Barker production of "The Kidnappers Foil.”
Linda Carol Staal, 69, of Moore played the kidnapped girl. PHOTO PROVIDED
Traveling filmmaker"The Kidnappers Foil” movies aren't cinematic masterpieces, but the films are not without historical importance. They are explicit of a business model used by itinerant filmmakers of Barker's generation. Like his counterparts, Barker appeared to have traveled major roads and interstates, stopping in towns and cities with theaters, said Caroline Frick, a Houston film archivist who lectures at the University of Texas.
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