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Oklahoma Memories

Oklahoma at the Movies

2012-05-12

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"Another Oklahoma boy. Yeah. I had never met Jimmy before. We got along famously, though. Same background."

That is Oklahoma actor G. D. Spradlin talking about his friend and fellow Oklahoma actor James Garner.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

Louis B. Mayer, one of the "M"s in MGM, used to brag that MGM had more stars under contract than there were stars in the heavens. The same might be said of Oklahoma. Since the beginning of the motion picture industry, Oklahoma has perhaps had as many or more people involved in all facets of the motion picture industry than any other state per capita...actors, actresses, directors, producers, screenwriters, cinematographers, film editors, the lists goes on.

How about actors and actresses? Joan Crawford was born in Texas, but as a youngster the family moved to Lawton where her stepfather ran a movie theater. Here she describes her movie Mildred Pierce.

"Tonight's picture, Mildred Pierce, is one that caused quite a stir when it was first shown. It also caused quite a stir in my own emotions as an actress. I'm happy to say that for this role I was lucky enough to win an Oscar. Mildred Pierce, filmed in 1945, is the story of a devoted mother driven by ambition and a desire to give her daughters the luxuries she herself had missed in her youth."

Lon Chaney, Jr. was born in Oklahoma City; his father became one of the first "movie monsters" in silent movies. Lon Chaney, Jr. explains why his father was so good at pantomime.

"My dad learned his ABCs in pantomime. Now don't get excited, the reason for that is that he was born of deaf-mute parents."

William Boyd was born in Ohio but grew up in Tulsa and became one of the silver screen's great western heroes, Hopalong Cassidy.

" -theme song- Here he comes, here he comes, there's the trumpets, there's the drums, here he comes, Hopalong Cassidy, here he comes. 'Hoppy, I'm kinda worried.' 'Alright, let it out, what have you done now?' 'Oh it's not me, it's California I'm worried about.' 'California? What's the matter with him?' 'Well, I don't like to carry tales, but he says he's going to do a little gamblin' and drinkin'.' -laughing- 'He's been saying that for years, but he's never done it.'"

Actress Vera Miles was born in Boise City in the panhandle. Though she was under contract with a number of studios, she costarred with some of Hollywood's leading men, in this scene from The FBI Story with Jimmy Stewart.

"Now we've talked about his before, Chip."
"You mean my job?"
"I love you very much, Chip, but I wouldn't marry you tomorrow or any other day as long as you work for that Bureau."
"Now, Lucy, you're not being very fair about this."
"I don't think you're being very fair to yourself. You spent years getting a degree, working in the day and going to school at night, and then you get stuck in some dinky little rut. I'm not against government work, Chip, but do something important."
"Well, honey, I'm awful sorry, they just wouldn't let me start as a senator."
"Now that's not what I mean, and you know it. I'm not looking for a lot of money or a big mansion. I just hate to see you sliding along, year after year, with nothing to show for it except a payroll number and maybe a pat on the back from some political appointee. You're too good for that, Chip."
"Well, I guess that's pretty clear, isn't it?"
"I hope so."

The Oklahoma History Center opens its newest exhibit, Oklahoma at the Movies, this week exploring this fascinating part of Oklahoma history. The Oklahoma History Center is located on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memoriesis a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.