BUTTERFLY MCQUEEN
Her roles were largely stereotypical, yet her charm and goofiness made her memorable. Here’s a look at her work beyond Gone With the Wind.

DESIGN IN FILM: THE MODERN HOUSEAn eight-minute video montage of modern homes—real and fake—as seen on the silver screen.

KEYE LUKE
An examination of the lengthy career of the Chinese-American character actor, from Charlie Chan to Woody Allen.

70MMThirty visually stunning films that illustrate the grandeur of large-format filmmaking.

CHILL WILLS
Our look at the Texas actor’s 43-year film career, including an ill-advised Oscar campaign. 

MARGARET HAMILTON
A look at the professional life of an actress who proved to be much more than just the Wicked Witch of the West.

NEBRASKANSA look at some of the memorable talentsfrom Astaire to Zanuck—to come from the Cornhusker State.

BEHIND THE SCENES
Twenty-five cool photos reveal what goes on outside of movie camera range.

SILENT SURVIVORS
Our list of at least a dozen silent film performers that are happily still with us.

12 GREAT MOVIE SONGSElvis, The Beatles and The Supremes join our list of favorite movie themes of the 1960s.

WILHELM SCREAMWe trace the history of one of the most famous and beloved sound effects in movies.

LOST HORIZONA dud receives its due as we explore the elements that made this 1973 musical so preposterously memorable.

GREAT CLOSING LINES
One hundred films whose final words of dialogue make indelible lasting impressions.

25 GREAT SILENT MOVIE POSTERSOur selection of artwork from the early days of motion pictures that expertly illustrate the tone and tale of the films they represent.

RAVES AND RASPBERRIES We select some choice bits from reviews by the late Roger Ebert.

ERROL FLYNN GETS WHACKEDThe actor recalls an unforgettable moment with Bette Davis on the set of The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex.

CINEMATIC RIDESTen films where carnival attractions add to the plot and give their protagonists a cheap thrill.

REEFER TRILOGY
Three overwrought cautionary tales from the 1930s examine the perils of smoking marijuana in polite society.

20 DIRECTORS / 20 FILMSSome of the world’s best moviemakers from Hollywood’s Golden Era provide a behind-the-scenes look at their creations.

LOS ANGELES IN THE 1920SVintage clips offer a look at famous boulevards, studios, theaters, eateries and more.

BILLY WILDEROur favorite lines of dialogue from the Oscar-winning writer/director.

WOODY ALLENChoice lines of dialogue, from Take the Money and Run to Midnight in Paris.

KATHARINE HEPBURNTen authoritative moments when Kate's movie character speaks her mind.

UFA MOVIE POSTERSA look at the early one sheets from the longest standing film studio in Germany.

THE LANGUAGE OF NOIRWe celebrate tough talk from the best of Hollywood’s gritty crime dramas.

HELICOPTER OVER HOLLYWOOD

Aerial shots of Hollywood in 1958 includes Griffith Observatory, Grauman’s Chinese Theater and major studios.

AMERICAWe celebrate one of the most exuberant dance numbers committed to film, a thrilling showcase for freakishly talented folks with music in their bones.

HOLLYWOOD POSTCARDSTen vintage postcards revealing the glories of Southern California's movie mecca.

MAJOR FILMS, MINOR GAFFESTwenty-five mistakes in some of the greatest movies ever made.

GEORGE GERSHWINTen classic songs as seen on the silver screen.

GREAT ENDINGSA memorable tussle in Death Valley caps Erich von Stroheim’s broken classic.

10 GREAT POSTERSOur look at striking works of art that just happen to sell movie tickets.

MUST READMGM: Hollywood's Greatest Backlot provides a fascinating look at a lost treasure.

IN THE COOL, COOL, COOL OF THE EVENINGJane Wyman and Bing Crosby charm with the Oscar-winning song from Here Comes the Groom (1951).

PLUNDER ROADFilm noir at its best—and most economical. No backstory, a lean look and just 72 minutes long.

W.C. FIELDSTen of his most memorable character names.

OUTER SPACE HORROR
Aliens and mutants take center stage in twenty-five spectacular movie posters from the 1950s.

INGMAR BERGMAN
Our list of ten must-see films—ten artful depictions of the human condition—by one of the world’s most influential directors.

10 DIRECTORS / 10 FILMS 
Accomplished directors from the past 50 years talk about their triumphs and challenges in bringing a story to the big screen.

JACK CARSON
We single out five films that display the talent and range of the Warner Bros. character actor.

AL HIRSCHFELDWe select our ten favorite movie posters by the famed caricaturist.

BILLIE BURKE
Five films that best represent the fluttery voiced character actress’s charms.

DIAMOND SETTINGSWe take a look at five of our favorite baseball movies of the ‘40s and ‘50s.

BESTSELLERS

A dozen books that became publishing phenomena and, at times, well-made and popular films.


SCREEN TESTSAudition footage from Monroe, Dean, Brando and others.

MOVIE MOMENTS THAT MAKE LIFE WORTH LIVINGOur collection of ten little moments of breathtaking beauty, expert craftsmanship and happy accidents that rank as our favorites.

EDNA MAY OLIVER
A tribute to a character actress who’s made aunts and spinsters her specialty.

STARS ON STARS: 30 CANDID OPINIONSA collection of favorite quotes from movie folk discussing their peers.

CEDRIC GIBBONS
We take a good look at the work of MGM’s legendary art director.

JOHN QUALENFive of our favorite performances from the character actor’s lengthy career.

NOT STARRING DORIS DAY
We select three movie musicals we deeply wish the sunny singer/actress would have made.

MICKEY ROONEY’S BEST
Twelve examples of what made the late actor such an enduring movie star.

PUBLICITY PHOTOS
Ten artful, playful and downright silly shots from some of the most famous movies in existence.

JEFFREY HUNTERWe tip our hat to the underrated (and very pretty) actor best known for going toe-to-toe with John Wayne in The Searchers and hanging on the cross in Nicholas Ray’s King of Kings.

ELVIS PRESLEYFive essential films for the Elvis movie fan.

SPRING SPRING SPRING”
We take a closer look and listen at Johnny Mercer’s witty ditty about the coming of the season.

BILL GOLD’S MOVIE POSTERSOur salute to the legendary graphic artist, including 25 of his posters for some of the most famous movies ever made.

BEAUTIFUL MENFilm giants Cary Grant and his ilk will have to wait. Here we look at ten not-so-obvious choices—actors blessed with incredible good looks, if not legendary status.

BEAUTIFUL WOMENTen of the most physically stunning females to grace the silver screen.

FOOTBALLFive classic films where gridiron shenanigans drive the plot. 

THE 43 FACES OF JOHNNY DEPPWe review the wide variety of characters the actor has played, from early teenager roles to larger-than-life eccentrics.

FRED ASTAIREFive lively numbers from the peerless hoofer.

THE ROAD TO HELEN LAWSONJudy Garland, Susan Hayward and the bumpy road Valley of the Dolls producers experienced in casting an important role in a truly lousy film.

 AMERICAN LANDMARKS ON FILM From the Empire State Building to the Golden Gate Bridge, we take a look at ten famous sights that added drama to the movies.

THE GIRL HUNT BALLETWe revisit the stylish Fred Astaire dream ballet from The Band Wagon (1953).

IOWA FILMS & STARSTen contributions the Hawkeye State has made to motion picture history.

FOX THEATEROur fond look back at one of San Francisco’s grandest movie palaces.

AUTOBIOGRAPHIESTen great titles penned by industry legends.

THE BAND WAGONNanette Fabray recalls a glaring mistake in the 1953 classic musical.

TRIGGERWe celebrate the life and somewhat creepy afterlife of Roy Rogers's favorite mount.

CHARACTERS: AGNES GOOCHPeggy Cass's memorable turn as a plain Jane coaxed into living a little in Auntie Mame (1958).

DESIGNS ON FILMA handsome volume by author and designer Cathy Whitlock chronicles the history of Hollywood set design.

REBECCAFive screen tests for Hitchock’s 1940 classic, with comments by David O. Selznick.

CHARACTERS: BABY ROSALIEIn a daffy send-up of Shirley Temple, June Preisser plays an aging child star in MGM's let's-put-on-a-show musical, Babes in Arms (1939).

PRESTON STURGESSnippets of dialogue from six of the writer/director’s best films.

ANSELMO BALLESTEROur gallery of ten striking one sheets from the Italian poster artist.

GREAT MOVIESCelebrating the cool jazz short, Jammin’ the Blues (1944).

BETTY HUTTONTwelve films that exemplify the charms of this freakishly energetic performer.

JOSEPH L. MANKIEWICZSmart dialogue from the Oscar-winning screenwriter.

DESERT NOIROur report from this year’s Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Palm Springs.

RED DREAM FACTORYWe profile eight films from a unique Russian-German film studio of the twenties and thirties.

« American Movies, Foreign Posters | Main | Five Movies to Help You Cope with Olympics Withdrawal »
Friday
Aug172012

The Iowa Ten: Actors and Films with Connections to The Hawkeye State

We can be cold as our falling thermometers in December
If you ask about our weather in July
And we're so by-God stubborn
We could stand touchin' noses
For a week at a time
And never see eye-to-eye
But what the heck, you're welcome
Join us at the picnic
You can eat your fill of all the food you bring yourself
You really ought to give Iowa a try
― “Iowa Stubborn” from The Music Man

Though it may not have sired as many movie stars as, say, its neighboring state of Nebraska, Iowa has certainly been fertile ground for movies set and filmed within its borders. Here are ten contributions―stars and films―that Iowa has made to motion picture history.

John Wayne
Marion Morrison was born in Winterset in 1907 to Claude and Mary Morrison, who moved to the warmer climes of Southern California to ease Claude’s discomfort over a lung infection. After the failure of their Mojave Desert ranch, the family moved to Glendale, where the strapping young lad found success in sport and study. A football scholarship to USC followed and, in exchange for football tickets, actor Tom Mix got Morrison a job as a movie prop man. On the set, he met John Ford, changed his name to John Wayne and got dozens of bit parts under his belt before becoming a star in Stagecoach (1939). “When I started, I knew I was no actor and I went to work on this Wayne thing,” the Duke said. “It was as deliberate a projection as you'll ever see. I figured I needed a gimmick, so I dreamed up the drawl, the squint and a way of moving meant to suggest that I wasn't looking for trouble but would just as soon throw a bottle at your head as not. I practiced in front of a mirror.”

The Bridges of Madison County (1995)
Robert James Waller’s romantic novel was a hot topic in 1992 not simply because of its effect on its (largely female) readers, but as a source of speculation as to who would play the main characters should a movie version be made. Robert Redford and Isabella Rossellini were names that frequently cropped up. In the end, the role of an aging photographer and an Italian-Iowa farmwife went to Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep, respectively, with Eastwood directing. Shooting took place near Winterset and Adel, Iowa. Years after the film’s release, bad luck visited a couple of structures that appeared in the movie—the bridge where the characters first meet burned down in September 2003, and arson destroyed the farmhouse where Streep's character lived in October 2003.

Cloris Leachman
Born in Des Moines, the Oscar- and Emmy-winning actress graduated from Des Moines’s Roosevelt High School and went on to major in drama—first at Illinois State and then at Northwestern University, where her classmates included Paul Lynde, Charlotte Rae and Patricia Neal. An ambition to become Miss America in 1946 got her as far as the Miss Illinois pageant, where she competed as Miss Chicago. After that, she moved to New York to continue her acting career and made her debut on television in The Ford Theater Hour, the first of a long line of television appearances. Her film debut came in 1955 with Kiss Me Deadly.

State Fair (1945)
The cast and crew of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical got only as close to Iowa as Century City and Thousand Oaks, California, but the picture was steeped in a romanticized version of rural Iowa life that saw boy get girl, another boy get another girl, a farmwife intoxicate a series of judges with spiked mincemeat and a farmer win a prize ribbon for his beloved sow—all at the annual event of the title. When one compares it to other Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, State Fair is a bit skimpy on music—only six numbers rounded out the soundtrack. Nevertheless, the composers included a rousing salute to the fair state, “All I Owe Ioway,” performed by Vivian Blaine, Fay Bainter, Charles Winninger and cast.

The Straight Story (1999)
Director David Lynch took a break from his usual offbeat, sinister fare with the true story of an elderly man named Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth) who rides a lawn mower from his home in Laurens, Iowa, to Wisconsin in order to repair a strained relationship with his dying older brother Lyle. Filming took place in Wisconsin and in the Iowa towns of Clermont, West Bend, Lansing, Laurens, New Hampton, Pocohontas and West Union. Farnsworth received a Best Actor Oscar nomination for what would be his last film; the actor, diagnosed with terminal cancer, took his life on October 6, 2000, in Lincoln, New Mexico.

Cold Turkey (1971)
The real town of Greenfield, Iowa, becomes the fictional town of Eagle Rock, Iowa, which is offered $25 million by a tobacco company if the townspeople can abstain from smoking for 30 days. Reverend Brooks (Dick Van Dyke) frantically tries to keep Eagle Rock smoke free while tobacco company executives scheme to get citizens to light up. The comedy was written and directed by Norman Lear and also stars Pippa Scott, Edward Everett Horton, Jean Stapleton, Vincent Gardenia, Tom Poston, Barnard Hughes and a handful of Greenfield residents as extras.

Jean Seberg
Her tale is a famous example of a film director plucking a girl from obscurity and making her a star. In this case, Otto Preminger was the director, Jean Seberg was, of course, the girl and the role of obscurity was played by the lovely municipality of Marshalltown, Iowa. She was a month shy of her 18th birthday when she was selected among 18,000 aspiring actresses for the role of Joan of Arc in Preminger’s drama Saint Joan (1957). Seberg, the daughter of a substitute teacher and a pharmacist, attended the University of Iowa and acted in just a single season of summer stock before stepping in front of the movie cameras. Neither the film nor its new star was warmly received. "I have two memories of Saint Joan,” the actress said. “The first was being burned at the stake in the picture. The second was being burned at the stake by the critics.”

Field of Dreams (1989)
“Is this heaven?” John Kinsella (Dweir Brown) asks Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner). “It’s Iowa,” comes the response. The story of a farmer who hears voices instructing him to create a baseball field on his farm was shot in Dubuque, Farley, and—for the farm and baseball scenes—outside of Dyersville, Iowa. The grass of the playing field appears green only because the crew painted it that way after the hastily planted sod died and turned brown. The field became a big tourist destination when the film took off at the box office.

Donna Reed
A denizen from Denison, Donna Reed was a farm kid and local beauty contest winner who left the state after high school to go to Hollywood and break into the movies. It was while she was performing onstage at Los Angeles City College that an MGM talent scout spotted her, leading to small roles in Babes on Broadway (1941) and The Courtship of Andy Hardy (1942) before hitting it big with The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945). “Forty pictures I was in,” the actress recalled, “and all I remember is 'What kind of bra will you be wearing today, honey?' That was always the area of big decision―from the neck to the navel.”

The Music Man (1962)
Though filmed in Burbank, California, the Meredith Willson musical was set in the fictional town of River City, Iowa, based on Willson’s hometown of Mason City. A hit on Broadway in 1957, the show told the story of Harold Hill, a con man selling instruments to musically challenged youth while falling in love with the town’s librarian. A star-making performance by Robert Preston was at the show’s core, and when Warner Bros. set about acquiring the film rights from Willson, they had Frank Sinatra in mind for Hill. Willson laid down the law: “No Robert Preston, no movie.”

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