Oklahoma exhibit spotlights state's roll in moviemaking

Oklahoma History Center's movies exhibit showcases 73 movies made in Oklahoma and other film history.
BY MAX NICHOLS Modified: October 1, 2012 at 11:04 am •  Published: October 1, 2012
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Two years later, Tulsa was the site of “Blood Cult,” a low-budget revolutionary film made for less than $30,000 and the first feature movie to go directly to home video.

“Among the smaller communities, Guthrie has been Oklahoma's most popular location,” said Jill Simpson. “It has been described as resembling a studio back lot because of movies filmed there, including ‘Rain Man' (1988), ‘My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys' (1991) and ‘Twister' (1996), to name a few.”

Wooley also pointed to significant movies filmed in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge area of southwestern Oklahoma. The first was “The Daughter of Dawn,” filmed in 1920 by Norbert Myles and the first full-length movie to feature an all American Indian cast. Pivotal roles were played by members of the Kiowa and Comanche tribes, including White and Wanda Parker, son and daughter of Comanche chief Quanah Parker.

The Oklahoma Historical Society acquired five reels of the unedited film in 2007. The film was preserved by the National Film Preservation Foundation, and the OHS subsequently commissioned a score to be written by Comanche composer David Yeagley. During the spring of 2012, the faculty and students from Oklahoma City University's Wanda L. Bass School of Music recorded Yeagley's score. The movie is being prepared to hit the film festival circuit in 2013. Interest in the film has come from all over the world.

During the 1940s, “Prince of Peace” was shot outside of Lawton as an enhanced filming of the Lawton passion play, which had been held in the Wichitas since 1926. The movie was played in churches and other venues, but eventually the filmmakers added Hollywood footage, created a wraparound melodrama and called it “The Lawton Story.”

Other movies shot at least partially in the Wichitas included “Around the World in 80 Days” and “Charge of the Model T's” (1979).

Visitors to the “Oklahoma @ the Movies” exhibit at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City can find Oklahoma sites where more than 70 movies were filmed, opening special “doors to history” of Oklahoma.

Max Nichols writes a monthly column for the Oklahoma Historical Society.

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