Posted by & filed under film history, film preservation.

In a span of 3 years, director Oliver Stone shot three major motion pictures in Dallas, Texas. Two of those films, “Talk Radio,” and “Born on the Fourth of July” were both made in 1988. Although “Born on the Fourth of July,” used false storefronts and existing buildings to recreate distant locations like suburban Massapequa, New York, Syracuse University, and Miami, viewers of the film will recognize their city behind these illusions.

Dallas Production

“Born on the Fourth of July,” is based on Ron Kovic’s 1976 biography and traces his experiences in suburban Massapequa, New York, to his service in Vietnam where he is paralyzed, and his subsequent anti-war activism. Oliver Stone began production in North Texas in October 1988. Several key scenes were shot in Dallas with local actors, students, and industry members playing an important role. Margaret B. Henderson Elementary School (2200 South Edgefield Avenue) stood in for Kovic’s High School. “Arthur’s Bar,” where Tom Cruise gets in a fistfight, was actually shot at Milo Butterfingers near SMU. SMU also made an appearance as Syracuse University during scenes of student protests. The Dallas Convention Center was even used  for action taking place at the Republican National Convention in Miami, Florida. 

One of the most memorable of these Dallas scenes, is when Kovic (played by Tom Cruise) returns home from Vietnam and rides in an Independence Day parade. Here and elsewhere in the film, the 2000 block of South Edgefield in Elmwood was given the Hollywood treatment and made to appear like an idyllic suburban town in Long Island. James Clarke, a member of Dallas’ motion picture industry, was an extra in the film and managed to take some beautiful photographs of the film’s production in Elmwood. 



Local Reactions

The film left a big impression on its viewers. Oliver Stone won an Academy Award for “Best Director” and Tom Cruise received a nomination for Best Actor. The film production also left an impression (both positive and negative) on community members and businesses in Oak Cliff. In this story from the KXAS-NBC Television News Collection, local business owners talk about the production.

[News Clip: OC movie Pkg] on The Portal to Texas History.

Their time in Dallas also apparently left an impression on both star and actor. Tom Cruise took out an ad in the Oak Cliff Tribune, thanking Oak Cliff or their hospitality and Oliver Stone was back in Dallas in April 1991 to film “JFK.”


Oak Cliff Tribune, November 1988


“Spotlight on North Texas”

James Clarke generously donated these photographs to “Spotlight on North Texas,” a project that preserves and provides access to North Texas motion picture histories. The rest of Clarke’s photographs and other historic North Texas photographs and movies are available through the “Spotlight on North Texas Collection” on The Portal to Texas History. If you recognize any events or locations, please email the project coordinator, Laura Treat

“Born on the Fourth of July” (DVD 4034 v.4) is available for check-out from the UNT Media Library.


“Spotlight on North Texas” is a community history and regional media preservation project conducted by the University of North Texas Media Library and the Texas Archive of the Moving Image. The project began in 2015 in Denton County and was repeated in Dallas, Texas in 2018. Community members were invited to participate in the preservation of North Texas’ motion picture histories by bringing their materials in for free digitization services. The digitized materials contained in this collection include home movies, television news footage, and photographs that document activities in the state of Texas and beyond. This project was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities Common Heritage grant program.


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A film debut for downtown Elmwood. (2016, November 21). Retrieved from 

Born on the Fourth of July. Retrieved from 

North Texas films: ‘Born on the Fourth of July.’ (2016, February 22). Retrieved from 

Dallas Fort Worth Region Film/Television Tourism – Locations. Retrieved from 

KXAS-NBC 5 News Collection. 

Spotlight on North Texas Collection. 

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Today we shine a spotlight on a filmmaker who is notable not only for his filmography but also for his unwavering commitment to film preservation and education and his support of libraries and archives. I’m not sure when or how I first met Mr. Dunlap, but I do remember him stopping by my office at the UNT Media Library one afternoon sometime in 2015 or 2016 to talk film and libraries. When I told Blaine about “Spotlight on North Texas” and our mission to preserve North Texas film history, he was the very first to sign up as a program participant.  The films he contributed, some of which are featured below, were digitized by our partners the Texas Archive of the Moving Image and are available online through the Portal to Texas History

Make sure to come down to our event at Top Ten Records on Saturday May 19th for a screening of Blaine’s classic Dallas films, “Sometimes I Run” and “Big D.” We’ll be showing these movies, on loan from Mr. Dunlap himself, from 1 – 2 p.m. along with films from the Dallas City Municipal Archives from 2-3 p.m.

The Oak Cliff Years

Blaine Dunlap grew up in Dallas, Texas in the 1960s where his mother was a public librarian. He began shooting movies on Super8 while he was still in grade school. One of these Super8 projects, an unfinished film titled “Sunset on Film” (ca. 1970), is a perfect timecapsule of daily life for students at Sunset High School in Oak Cliff including a pep rally, some fancy slow-motion photography, and a parade.

[Sunset on Film, 1 of 3] on The Portal to Texas History.

[Sunset on Film, 2 of 3] on The Portal to Texas History.

[Sunset on Film, 3 of 3] on The Portal to Texas History.

Blaine generously contributed 3 reels of raw footage for “Sunset,” as well as footage for another unfinished project to the 2016 Spotlight on North Texas project. The second film, “Oak Cliff Street Scenes” (1971), documents the residents and local businesses of West Jefferson Boulevard, including the Charco Broiler Restaurant and Ward Drugs, and concludes with the bizarre imagery of a boy wrestling with a dinner tray on his bicycle.

The SMU Years


After high school, Blaine attended SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts. Reportedly, Blaine’s friends told film editor and SMU professor Stephen Schmidt about Blaine’s films and on the basis of screening these reels, Schmidt arranged for him to enroll in the program. A year into his training at SMU, Blaine embarked on his first major film project, Sometimes I Run (1973). He told Robert Wilonsky in a 2011 interview, that he was inspired by his bus rides from Oak Cliff to downtown Dallas to visit his mom at the public library and “the way the streets looked at night.” A student of cinema verite, Blaine went looking for a subject and found Stanley Maupin, a “sidewalk flusher” for the City of Dallas Department of Public Works. The film features a score by Ken Watson and audio recordings  of Maupin paired with images of downtown Dallas nightlife and Maupin cleaning streets.

Among other iconic Dallas locations, Blaine captures (02:51) the now demolished Capri Theatre (which opened as The Hope Theatre in 1921 before becoming the Lowe’s Melba Theatre and the Capri in 1960). The theatre closed two years later in 1976 and was demolished in 1981.  

In the early 1970s, Blaine began working in public television and continued making films about Dallas with Ron Judkins and Pat Korman. With filmmaking grants from the Action Center City of Dallas, in 1974 the trio made  Big D  and East Dallas Summer 1974.

In the short and entertaining film Big D, a city trash collecter finds a magical hat in a trash can that transforms him into a drum major. The trash collector leads the Sunset High School Bison Band through the neighborhoods and streets of Dallas and is at the center of a joyous celebration atop the Southland Life building. Is that “Big D” they’re playing? Interestingly, “Sunset on Film”(1970) also features sequences of trash collecting and a marching band performance. In East Dallas, Florence Mayfield (narrated by Blaine’s mother) recalls her life in East Dallas the many changes she’s seen. Beginning at Munger Boulevard and Swiss Avenue, the film also includes the Lakewood Branch Library and Woodrow Wilson Highschool.

That summer he also began collaborating with filmmaker Ken Harrison, with whom he made Prince Albert Hunt in 1974. Shot on Super8, this short film concerns Prince Albert Hunt, a blues singer and fiddler from Terrell, Texas, who was murdered outside of a Dallas nightclub 1931. Blaine continues to work with Harrison and is in the process of preserving and restoring Harris’ documentary and narrative works. Some of these important films, including 20/20 Blues and Jackelope, are available to view online as part of the Moving History Resource Collection.

Public Broadcasting

Blaine left Dallas to work in Tennessee where he collaborated with documentary filmmaker Sol Korine on films about folk culture and folk musicians. The works created during this time are examples of their pioneering work in the use of portable video equipment and independent filmmaking. Many of these films from the 1970s and 1980s, including Shoedown at the Hoedown (1976), Hamper McBee (1978), Uncle Dave Macon  (1980)Mouth Music (1981)  Sometimes It’s Gonna Hurt (1983), and Gimble Swing (1981) are available online through Folk Streams.


Media Preservation

Blaine moved down South to New Orleans, where he began a new phase in his career — preserving historic film and videotape through the Southeast Media Preservation Lab. Projects included his work in the transfer of home movies for the documentary film, “Our Nixon” (2013). Now back in North Texas, Blaine continues to work on media preservation and restoration projects. “Spotlight on North Texas,” was honored to preserve and provide access to some of Blaine’s earliest films and we look forward to future collaborations during our 2018 Dallas program.

Join Blaine Dunlap in Dallas Film History

If you or someone you know made home movies, student films, or documentaries in Dallas join “Spotlight on North Texas: The City of Dallas” at Top Ten Records on Saturday May 19th from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Archivists from the UNT Libraries and Texas Archive of the Moving Image will provide free digitization services for your movies and make sure that they are available for future generations to view.  

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates and other tributes to Dallas filmmaking.



Wilonsky, Robert. “Two-Time Oscar-Winner Once Made Nutty Short Film About Dallas Sanitation Worker” The Dallas Observe 22 December 2010

Wilonsky, Robert. “Sometimes I Direct: A Talk With Blaine Dunlap, Who Once Captured Dallas Better than Anyone” The Dallas Observer 23 July 2011

Clinchy, Don. “TAMI Flashback: Blaine Dunlap Does Dallas.” Slackerwood 26 October 2011

Bosse, Paula. “‘Sometimes I Run’: Dallas Noir – 1973” Flashback: Dallas 13 August 2017

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Our State Fair is a Great State Fair…Dont’ Miss It…Don’t Even Be Late!

In 1962 Hollywood brought one of our most enduring traditions to audiences around the world. Shot partly on location in Fair Park and featuring many Texas extras (or Textras), the 20th Century Fox musical State Fair now offers contemporary viwers a look at Fair Park and this historic institution more than 50 years ago.

But you don’t need to turn to Hollywood musicals for a reenactment when you can watch home movies and other local productions for a more authentic depiction of how generations of Texas have enjoyed this event.  

[News Clip: Fair Fun] on The Portal to Texas History.



Our earliest footage, this 1936 home movie from the Orris Brown Collection  is preserved by the Texas Archive of the Moving Image and captures scenes from the Texas Centennial Exposition.


In this 1941 promotional film preserved by TAMI, two Dallas Little Theater actors–including future Miss Texas Charmayne Smith–play teenagers on a blind date at the fair. Watch it for the plot twist, but stay for the footage of fair exhibits, performers, and livestock competitions.  

1950s – 1960s

This montage of State Fair Footage from the Peter Stewart family (1953 – 1964)  is heavy on Ford tractors because the family operated a farm equipment company in Dallas, Stewart Co. The earliest footage in this reel is from 1953, just a year after Big Tex’s debut.

State Fair Montage from Spotlight on North Texas on Vimeo.



This 1982 promotional film for the State Fair of Texas highlights the benefits of being an exhibitor and marketing your products, but the real draw is the actual footage of fair visitors and performers. As they say in the film, “The mighty State Fair of Texas…you just can’t ignore it.”



This news story from 1990 includes footage of Jack Bridges, who created Big Tex in 1952, helping get the cowboy ready for the fair.

[News Clip: Untitled] on The Portal to Texas History.


In 1997, Big Tex learned to wave and also became bilingual. This news story shows how Big Tex is assembled and includes an interview with Jim Lowe, the voice of Big Tex since 1953!

[News Clip: State Fair] on The Portal to Texas History.



Our most recent footage comes from our project partner, Afsheen Nomai, Technical Director at the Texas Archive of the Moving Image.

[Nomai Family Video No. 1 – The 2014 State Fair of Texas] on The Portal to Texas History.

[Nomai Family Video No. 4 – The 2015 State Fair of Texas] on The Portal to Texas History.

Do you have home movies of the State Fair or other events at Fair Park? Bring them to Top Ten Records on Saturday May 19th for free digitization and join Big Tex in Dallas Film History!

Learn More About the Program and follow us on Facebook and Twitter!



Posted by & filed under Uncategorised.

“Startling Progress of Picture Shows…

One-Third of Dallas’ Population Daily Entertained”



The Dallas Morning News reported in 1913 that approximately 1/3 of Dallas residents would attend a motion picture show each day, that there were nearly 50 theaters showing “moving pictures or photoplays,” three large film agencies distributed films, and more than one plant for the production of motion picture film. According to the paper, the first moving picture shown in the city was the Fitzsimmons and Corbett fight, shown first at the State Fair in the fall of 1897 and later on open-air screens at Main and Lamar Streets. The first permanent moving picture show, The Theatorium (known as the Dixie in 1913), opened in July 1905 on North Elm and faced fierce competition in no less than one month. In the next century, numerous Dallas movie theaters would open, undergo renovations and new ownership, and ultimately close as theater presentation technologies advanced and consumer preferences changed.

Oak Cliff was the home to a number of neighborhood movie theaters, which served as places of entertainment, education, and sometimes religious worship . According to The News, the first actual “neighborhood picture show, or a picture show in the residence districts” was the open-air theatre T. P. Finnegan’s ran at Ninth and Lancaster in Oak Cliff in the early 1900s.

Unfortunately, there are few publicly available still or moving images that document the glory of these movie houses and their role in the Oak Cliff community.

If you have photographs or home movies that feature Oak Cliff movie theatres, please bring them to the “Spotlight on North Texas” digitization event at Top Ten Records on Saturday May 19th. At this community event, you will receive free digitization and preservation services and become part of Oak Cliff film history!


The Arcadia

2005 Greenville Ave

Open: 1927

Close: Destroyed by fire on June 21, 2006

The Arcadia Theater opened on Greenville Avenue in 1927 and featured a mediterranean garden themed interior and iconic tree stump sign. In the 1970 and 1980s it transitioned into a Spanish-language movie house before becoming a music venue and nightclub. More than one fire occurred at this site in its nearly 80 years of operation and it was unfortunately destroyed by fire in June 2006.  


 Additional photographs of the theater before and after the fire are available on Cinema Treasures and  Cinema Tour.

Cliff Queen Theater

661 E. Jefferson Blvd.

Open: 1914

Close: ca. 1950

Demolition: 1958

The Cliff-Queen opened in 1914 and was operated by W. J. Shivers and other operators over the next several decades, including Gene Autrey Enterprises in 1946.  The theater closed in early 1950 and was vacant until it was demolished in 1958. One of the few images I’ve found is available on Cinema Treasures.

The Texas Picture Theater (ca. 1914 – ?), The Bluebird Theater (ca. 1922 – ?), The Bishop Arts Theatre Center (2015)

215 S. Tyler Street

One of Oak Cliff’s first motion picture theatres, The Texas Picture Theatre, also hosted sermons from local churches. It appears that it was renamed the Bluebird Theatre in around 1922. The building later became a commercial space and is now a training space for the performing arts, The Bishop Arts Theatre Center.


The Rialto Theatre (1919 – ca. 1932), The Bishop Avenue Theatre (ca. 1932 – ca. 1937), The Astor Theatre (ca. 1937 – 1947)

410 North Bishop Avenue

When it opened in 1919, the Rialto was part of the Foy’s Neighborhood Theater chain. In the 1930s, it was renamed the Bishop Avenue Theatre and then the Astor in 1937. After the Astor closed, it was briefly a nightclub. The building remains as a commercial business space. The below photographs and more are available on Cinema Treasures. Check out Gayla Brook’s article from The Advocate about Martin Weiss who paid for the construction of the theatre.


Midway Theater

110 W. Jefferson Blvd

Open: 1922

Close: ca. 1970

Current use: Retail

Photographs of the theatre and current space area available on Cinema Tour and Cinema Treasures.

Rosewin Theatre (1922 – 1964); Rex Cinema (1964 – 1976)

927 W. Jefferson Blvd.

Demolition: ?

The Rosewin was opened in 1922 and operated by C. R. “Mac” McHenry. The theater remained in operation until November 1963 when it was dropped by Rowley United. As an independent company, the theatre was renamed Rex Cinema and reopened in 1964 as an arthouse. The Rex then became an adult theatre until it closed in 1976. The building was later demolished. Photographs of the theatre are available on Cinema Treasures.

Beverly Hills Theatre

3203 W. Davis Street

Open: August 1944

Close: Unknown

Current Use: Church

The Bevelry Hills Theatre opened in 1944 as part of the Beverly Hills Shopping Center on West Davis Street. This 1944 photograph of The Beverly Hills and others are available on Cinema Treasures.

Vogue Theatre (previously The Bison)

2010 Jefferson Ave.

Open: March 1949

Close: ca. 1971 – 1972

Current Use: Church

The Vogue Theatre was built on the site of the demolished Bison Theatre near Sunset High School. The building remains as a church.

Additional photographs of the building are available on Cinema Treasures and Cinema Tour.

Wynnewood Theater

666 Wynnewood Plaza

Open: 1951

Close: ca. 1984

Demolition: ca 2000

The Wynnewood Theatre in The Wynnewood Shopping Village, “Oak Cliff’s newest and most beautiful family theater,” opened with a gala on July 3, 1951. The theatre became a dollar house in 1983, closed in 1948, and demolished in around 2000.


Opening of the Wynnewood Theatre as seen in the July 01, 1951 Dallas Morning News.


Stevens Theatre

2007 Fort Worth Ave.

Open: Unknown

Close: Unknown

Demolition: Unknown

We don’t have much information about the opening, close, or demolition of the Stevens Theatre, but we do know that it was in operation in the 1950s. According to the below 1958 news story from WBAP, the Stevens Theatre was closed for 6 months in 1958 and reopened on July 3rd under the management of two Dallas teenagers, Don Shaw and Gary Gilliland. 

Sunset Theatre

1112 South Hampton Road

Open: Unknown

Close: Unknown

Demolition or Current Use: Unknown

We don’t have information about this theatre, other than the address and photograph we found on Cinema Tour.


This is only an abbreviated list and brief description of the movie theatres that once existed in Oak Cliff. Noticeably absent is the Texas Theatre, which we’ll explore in a later post.

We’re grateful to the other resources about Dallas movie theatre history, many of which go into much greater detail about the theatre’s history, architecture, and motion picture technologies. We encourage you to continue your exploration by looking at the articles written by Gayla Brooks for the Oak Cliff Advocate, Dr. Troy Sherrod’s Historic Dallas Theatres book from the Arcadia Images of America Series, and the various postings on Cinema Tour and Cinema Treasures.  


Learn More About the “Spotlight on North Texas” Program and follow us on Facebook and Twitter!


Posted by & filed under film history, film preservation.

 Local film productions have the capacity to reveal landscapes, architectures, and traditions that are no longer viewable in present day cities. Often shot by local crews and featuring local actors, these movies give us a visual representation of historical landscapes, events, and people that are not always depicted in nationally produced materials. Many of these films were produced in Dallas movie studios, shot on location in North Texas, distributed through Dallas film exchanges, and shown at Dallas movie theatres.

Unfortunately, many of these buildings have been demolished and many of these films are lost or missing. This appears to be the case for Dallas filmmaker, H. K. Carrington who made a living filming Texas. With the exception of  the short film “Texomaland,” located in the UNT Media Library’s 16mm film collection, I have been unsuccessful in my search to locate copies of Carrington’s Texas-based film series.

A Texan By Choice 

Information about Carrington and his films is difficult to piece together. Texas Week, a local news magazine, reported in 1946 that H. K. Carrington was “born at the turn of the century, educated in England, France and America, and graduated by Harvard with a degree in electrical engineering.” He was reportedly an employee of Bell Telephone Laboratories in New York before the “lure of show business beckoned” and he became a director or cameraman for motion pictures. What follows is a brief history of the films Carrington made in and about Texas pieced together from local newspapers and trade magazines. We hope to find other local films like these at our media preservation event, “Spotlight on North Texas.”



“Texas is to have its own newsreel. Produced in Texas, of Texas, and for Texans.”

During the 1930s and early 1940s, Carrington worked as a traveling cameraman and supervisor at Nationwide Pictures, shooting popular newsreel series about the history and landscapes of the United States including “See America First,” “Great Moments in American History,” and “Skylines of America.” These films, a sort of travelogue and  state history lesson, were distributed across the country and told the histories of exotic places like Twin Falls, Idaho. It was while working on these pictures, possibly while shooting a film about the 1939 Galveston Oleander Festival, that Carrington became fascinated with the history and traditions of the state of Texas and first dreamed of the possibility of a newsreel devoted only to Texas.

Carrington established a Nationwide Pictures unit in Dallas, Texas with the plan to produce a monthly newsreel, “This is Texas.” The whereabouts of the film studio has not been confirmed and various newspaper reports have it located at the Melba Theatre Building, Jackson Street, or even in Grand Prairie. The Kingsville Record reported in April 1942 that these newsreels would “bring to the screen many and varied pictures of unusual and interesting events, people, occupations, and places which serve to make Texas the grandest station in the nation.” The film studio was reportedly offering Texans $10 in cash for ideas and were “especially interested in unusual people, odd and different occupations, places of historical significance, and, in fact, all sorts of oddities.” 

This is Texas

Carrington and his crew shot three or more short films in 1945 – 1946, but these films were apparently not distributed until 1948 and 1949. In the fall of 1948,  Television Enterprises acquired exclusive world television and non-theatrical rights to “This is Texas.” The deal included six one-reel films per year over the next 5 years. Showmen’s Trade Review columnist Jack Jackson reported on June 25, 1949  on the activities of Carrington and Nationwide Picture, noting that Carrington “conceives the ideas, writes the script, turns the camera crank, edits, and cuts the film and then goes about the job of arranging playdates for short subjects.” He reported that Carrington was about to engage in a 4-city world premiere of a 10-minute picture and “has been hipped on the idea of getting a series of shorts ‘This is Texas,’ on the screens of the big state’s theatres for some time, and has spent many dollars and far more hours banging his noggin against that immovable wall of circuit indifference.” He said Carrington had gone to “executives of the State of Texas and wangled permission to put his reels into school film libraries on a sponsor basis–some firm buying the reel and donating to schools in return for a credit frame–and this seemed the turning point.” Jackson reported that 

Invisible Rivers (ca. 1945, 10 min., B&W, Sound): A guide to the city of New Braunfels and the big springs of Texas.

Swords and Plowshares (ca. 1945, 10 min., B&W, Sound): The film was to show the history of the iron and steel industries in the Southwest from the Civil War era to present. According to a May 1945 news story in the “Rusk Cherokeean,” Carrington spent several hours shooting the site of Old Birmingham and would be filming at the Dangerfield and Sheffield plants in Houston. Carrington was to return to Rusk after receiving permission to shoot the Rusk Blast Furnace. The completed film was released for a week-long run in Dallas in December 1946.

Unknown (ca. 1945): The Fort Stockton Pioneer reported on Friday July 13, 1945 that Carrington’s Nationwide Pictures was in town and had shot footage of Comanche Spring and Rooney Park for a short feature “on points of interest, mainly water scenes, about Texas.” The Pioneer reported that Carrington’s cameraman “added local color with several pictures of a Pecos County donkey, with Miss Florence Potter, daughter of Mrs. J.A. Campbell,as the rider.”

The Bells of Tejas (ca. 1946, 10 min., B&W, Sound): This film concerned the 8 remaining Franciscan missions built in Texas and was filmed in Yaleta, Socorro, Goliad, and San Antonio. The Showmen’s Trade Review reported on 05/15/48 (p.15) that Jim Preddy of the Telenews Theatre in Dallas had orchestrated for his showing of the film “an exploitation campaign that rivaled the one for his feature, Universal-International’s ‘Black Narcissus.’” The Review reported that Preddy had mailed out 500 letters to churches, schools and clubs which “called attention to the short’s story of the religious influence and cultural backgrounds which commenced in the early days of the Tajos (Texas) people and continues to the present time, emphasizing the fact that it is the first picture dealing with the religious influence of the early Tajos.”

Unknown (1948): While shooting footage for the Lone Star Riders  (see below), Carrington was reportedly shooting a film about ranching in the Panhandle, starring cover model Jinx Falkenberg. The January 04, 1948 Amarillo Globe quoted Carrington as saying “It is beginning to look like the Panhandle has about everything in the way of locale for a Western and we are looking forward with a great deal of pleasure to our stay in Amarillo.”

City of Contrast (ca. 1949, 10 min., B&W): This film reportedly features San Antonio, Texas and the influence of its Spanish heritage.

Spanish Texas (ca. 1949): This film reportedly showed the influence of Spain and Mexico on the Southwest and included dramatic historical recreations.


Texomaland on Digital Library.

Texomaland (ca. 1949): This film shows the recreational opportunities to Texans at the Texomaland Dam. Showmen’s Trade Review columnist Jack Jackson reported on June 25, 1949 that the film would have a release in four “fair-sized cities–and maybe Dallas–with two big circuits, Interstate and R&R participating.” Of the promotional campaign, Jackson reported “Carrington has practically every merchant in the cities surrounding Texhoma Lake cooperating and a string of activities including parades, Queen contests, etc., that would do credit to the most impressive of Hollywood’s super attractions lined up to build interest and attract patronage.”

Town and Country (ca. 1950, 10 min.) This film, partially shot in Kerrville, Texas, contrasted the everyday ranch life of West Texas with dude ranching and ended in a Western style wedding on horseback. The  Kerrville Mountain Sun reported (04/27/1950), that the film had a sneak preview for about 20 people including the film’s local actors and members of the Junior Chamber of Commerce who assisted in the production.The Sun reported that Dr. P.B. Hill, Adam Wilson III, and about 50 other people were featured in the wedding scene. The movie would have a local premiere at The Arcadia, be reduced to 16mm size for school distribution, and have a minimum television showing of 31 stations. After the film opened in Kerrville, the Harrington family came to the Bantex theatre in Bandera for a screening of “Town and Country.” According to The Bandera Bulletin (Friday 4/28/1950) the film “presented a short sketch of the Hill Country, showing scenes on the Flying L Ranch, Mayan Ranch, Lost Valley, Circle R and other guest ranches in this section. Among the interesting scenes were activities on the various ranches, plus a western wedding which took place at Kerrville with the famous cowboy preacher, Dr. P.B. Hill, officiating. The Decatur Wise County Messenger advertised on 5/25/50 that the film had it’s world premiere that day at the Plaza Theatre.


Other Nationwide Films about Texas

The Magic Valley (ca. 1947, Color, Sound): Nationwide traveled in early 1947 to Brownsville, Texas to film the Rio Grande Valley and the February 1947 Charro Days Festival.  According to the Brownsville Herald (02/09/1947), the film would show the “color and fantasy of the celebration with emphasis on costumed pageantry, the Grand parade, and the Children’s Parade, and the international [illegible] of the Fiesta.” However, the majority of the film would “consist of a colorful pictorial record, in sound and dialogue, of the palm-ringed, rich agricultural region along the northern bank of the Rio Grande.” It was said that the film would be “one of the most effective Valley advertising mediums ever produced, carrying the name of the Rio Grande Valley to big cities and little villages from Maine to California.” The script was to be written by Brownsville advertising man Welch Richardson  and Brownsville Herald reporter Wallace R. Johnson.  

Skylines of America

American Riviera (1951): Carrington and his wife traveled to Gulfport, Mississippi in October 1950 to work on this picture which would also include Biloxi and the Gulf Coast. The Gulf Park College student newspaper, The Tammy Howl, reported (11/25/50) that the Carrington’s visited the campus on Wed 10/11 and Thursday 10/12/1950 to shoot classroom and campus scenes. The Carrington’s visited with Dr. and Mrs. Hogarth in the college dining room and were introduced for the student body.  

Bullets and Bibles (ca. 1952, ~12 min.): Possibly part of the “Skylines of America” series which were produced for television, this film reportedly featured the history and contemporary attractions of Waco, Texas. They would produce 16mm prints for television and 35mm prints for theatrical distribution.The Waco Tribune Herald reported (08/31/52) that the film would include the city’s major industrial plants, Baylor University, Browning Library, Waco Technical High School, Cameron Park, James Connally Air Force Base, and the Little Pentagon. On 8/31 they filmed a show staged for them by the Waco Longhorn Club and scenes at the Mission of St. Francis on Brazos, old and new homes, Lake Waco, Lovers Leap, and the Ridgewood Country Club. Footage was also planned of the Paul Quinn College, Old Waco Spring, and bridges across the Brazos River. According to the Waco Tribune Herald (05/02/1954), the film would have its premiere at the Orpheum Theatre with the feature “It Should Happen to You” on Friday 05/07/54. The film “takes its title from two qualities long associated with Waco history, it’s early reputation as a town where gunfights were accepted as the usual thing and, in contrast, its standing as a religious and educational center.” It appears that the film included a recreation of the William C Brann and Tom Davis pistol duel by members of the Waco Civic Theatre on the actual battle site, illustrations of the city’s industrial growth with scenes from the Wm. Cameron Mill, Owens Illinois Glass Plant, General Tire and Rubber Co., scenes of early and current agricultural practices,Waco ante-bellum and modern homes, and recreational facilities. Following the premiere, the film would be shown at the Westview and Oakland Drive-Ins as a companion feature with “The Naked Jungle,” “Ride Clear of Diablo,” and “It Came from Outer Space.”

Lone Star Riders

In 1947, Nationwide began planning a 6-episode fictional Western series, titled perhaps”Lone Star Riders” or the “Lone Rider.” The films would be released by Crystal Pictures Corp. of New York. Nationwide arrived in Amarillo for background sequences in January 1948. They were also searching for a new male star for their series. Clarence Jackson, owner of the Mayfair Nightclub, arranged for most of the shooting scenes in the Palo Duro Canyon and old ranches. Jackson’s club, redecorated as an old west saloon, was also the location of Carrington’s campaign to find a “typical Texas Couple” to take part in several of their films. For 14 nights in January 1948, local couples auditioned in front of audiences for the possibility of an all-expenses paid trip to Dallas for screen tests and possible roles in a future Western.  Johnnie Prewitt and his Western Hits performed while Nationwide Director Harrol Perkinson directed the amateurs through a scene. Three months later, in April 1948, 14 screen tests were shown at the Mayfair over 6 nights. Each night the audience would be given one vote to select the Sweetheart of the Mayfair.

The American Little Theatre in Action

In the summer of 1952, Carrington began shooting a series of one-act plays produced by non-professional groups throughout the country. His first film was shot in Waco with plans to shoot productions by The Tyler Civic Theatre, The Daniel Baker College/Brownwood Civic Playhouse, and Hardon-Simmons University

Free for the Evening (1952, Color): The Waco Civic Theatre’s September 1952 production of Waco resident Charles Carver’s one-act play as directed by Norma Rhodes and starring Dee Voorhees, William Johnson, Harold Harrison, Robert Dupree, and Joann Sheev. The film was shot in color but would be distributed for television viewing in black and white. The film had its local premiere on December 19,1952 at the Waco Hall. Nationwide executives and crew members were on hand to orchestrate and events surrounding the premiere including local actors escorted in convertibles, luncheons, and press conferences. Prior to the filmed play, Carrington screened his short film about Biloxi,  Mississippi, which would be part of the “Skylines of America Series.”

Join H. K. Carrington in Dallas motion picture history by sharing your home movies of Dallas and your photographs of Dallas area movie theatres with us on Saturday May 19th at Top Ten Records.  

Learn More About the “Spotlight on North Texas” Program and follow us on Facebook and Twitter!


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History Revealed Through Home Movies


The home movies of the Peter Pauls Stewart family are proof that you don’t have to be a Hollywood filmmaker to leave a lasting visual legacy. Spotlight on North Texas first learned of Mr. Stewart and his film collection when his daughter, Elizabeth Wally, brought some of his films to our 2016 Denton County preservation event at the Denton Public Library.

On January 10, 2018, Mr. Stewart passed away peacefully in his home, surrounded by friends and family, at age 97. We are grateful for the opportunity to have met him and for his lasting commitment to the preservation of Dallas history.

Dallas Icons: Peter Stewart & Elizabeth May “Betty” Exall

Peter Stewart was born in May 1920 in Kansas City, Missouri to Myrtle and Harry E. Stewart. In the 1930s, H.E. moved to Dallas where he owned and operated the Stoneleigh hotel and Stewart Co., a farm-equipment business. Peter Stewart attended the Culver Military Academy, the University of Texas,  and then Harvard University. In 1942 he married  Elizabeth May “Betty” Exall. The Exall family are philanthropists responsible for many significant Dallas institutions, including the Dallas Public LIbrary and the Dallas Museum of Art. Betty Exall Stewart, who passed away in 2009, was engaged in many Dallas civic organizations including as president of the Dallas Woman’s Club, Dallas Shakespeare Club, and The Dallas Garden Club.

In 1949 Mr. Stewart began working as the assistant sales manager at Stewart Co, which became the nation’s largest farm and industrial equipment distributor. Mr. Stewart was active in real estate development and numerous Dallas civic organizations including the Dallas Art Association, the Dallas Arboretum, and the Hockaday School.  Perhaps his most lasting impression on the Dallas landscape was his role in creating Thanks-Giving Square as the founder of the Thanks-Giving Foundation.

History Revealed

The films contained in the Peter Pauls Stewart collection document the geographic and industrial development of the Dallas area and beautifully illustrate enduring family and community traditions. We hope you enjoy these films and encourage you to explore more films on The Portal to Texas History. 

[The Peter Pauls Stewart Family Films, No. 3 – North Central Expressway] on The Portal to Texas History.

This 1950 home movie documents the Stewart family driving on the North Central Expressway with footage shot from the car and the roadside, including a glimpse of the Mrs. Baird’s bread plant, Superior Lanes Bowling Alley, and Republic National Life.

[The Peter Pauls Stewart Family Films, No. 5 – Helicopter and Railroad Rides] on The Portal to Texas History.

This home movie (ca. 1955) includes a helicopter ride over newly constructed North Texas roadways and Mr. Stewart awaiting the arrival of a train at the White Rock train station.


[The Peter Pauls Stewart Family Films, No. 6 – Holidays and Community Events] on The Portal to Texas History.

This home movie includes multiple family and civic events (see stills below), including groundbreaking ceremonies, transportation, and business.


[Peter Pauls Stewart Family Films, No. 12 – Ford Tractors] on The Portal to Texas History.

This home movie (ca. 1957) shows Mr. Stewart’s tractor business.


[The Peter Pauls Stewart Family Films, No. 41 – Construction] on The Portal to Texas History.

This home movie from 1974 includes footage of construction in downtown Dallas (00:01:51).

[The Peter Pauls Stewart Family Films, No. 50 – Sun Study No. 2] on The Portal to Texas History.This home movie from 1985 is one of four fast-motion “Sun Studies” of Thanks-Giving Square.

[The Peter Pauls Stewart Family Films, No. 33 – Graduation] on The Portal to Texas History.

This 1972 home movie shows a graduation ceremony at the Hockaday School.

Do you want to be part of Dallas film history?

Did your family shoot home movies of community events and family traditions in the Dallas area? Bring your home movies to our free community digitization event at Top Ten Records on Saturday May 19th from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.!

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Posted by & filed under film history, film preservation, movie theatres.

“‘Bandolero’ is a contemporary western, filled with action, a good deal of violence, some humor, and a good, healthy, woman-meets-man situation. It is not hoked up with Freudian overtones or ludicrous situations. The picture is told in a smooth but slightly off-beat way.” – Dallas Morning News

Texas Production Leads to Texas Premiere

Bandolero (1968) is the tale of Mac Bishop, who saves his outlaw brother Dee from hanging for the murder of a wealthy rancher and subsequently flees to Mexico with Dee and the murdered rancher’s widow. Although principal photography began in Arizona, significant location shooting took place in Bracketville, Texas at the film set built in the 1950s by J.T. “Happy” Shahan for John Wayne’s Alamo. The director, Andrew McLaglen (Shenandoah, The Rare Breed, The Devil’s Brigade) as well as the film’s two male leads, Dean Martin and James Stewart, had already worked on more than one Texas-based Western film. Stewart had even been named an honorary Texan back in 1956. Bandolero was Raquel Welch’s first Texas picture and she was reportedly looking forward to  a role that would move her out of the sex symbol category. WBAP-TV reported Martin’s arrival at Love Field in October 1967 for four weeks of filming in Bracketville. Martin, who told newsmen that he preferred movies to television, was reportedly expecting some on-set danger and was  carrying a snake bite kit with him.



A Texas-Sized Premiere 

Square dancers perform at world premiere of “Bandolero” provided courtesy of Lovita Irby and Spotlight on North Texas.


The Interstate Theatre chain regularly sponsored extravagant events and wild publicity stunts at their Majestic Theatre in downtown Dallas. The June 1968 world premiere of Bandolero! , orchestrated by Interstate and 20th Century-Fox, was no exception. The Dallas Morning News boasted that it would be “the biggest premiere ever held in the Southwest and probably one of the most extravagant in the nation.”


Celebrities began arriving in Dallas on Monday June 17th and were greeted by the press and Interstate Theater official, Raymond Willie.  Reporters from the Dallas Morning News reported the arrival of “a small section of the milky way,” including director McLaglen, producer Robert L. Jacks, James Stewart, Raquel Welch, Andrew Prine, and Clint Richie.The News observed that Welch “tied up the American Airlines ramps in her modified safari suit, mini-skirt, and her all-girl looks.” Ritchie, who had already been to 16 Texas cities to promote the film, arrived wearing an elaborate sombrero gifted to him by the city of McAllen. WBAP-TV described the airplanes arriving at Love Field as carrying “enough movie stars…to make it a constellation” but were disappointed that they had missed seeing Welch. The stars, minus no-show Dean Martin, were whisked away to the Hilton Inn, where they were treated to a poolside cocktail party followed by dinner at Harper’s Corner



WBAP-TV (Television station : Fort Worth, Tex.). [News Script: Stars], item, June 17, 1968; ( accessed October 4, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting UNT Libraries Special Collections


The day of the premiere, June 18th, began with a special preview screening and briefing for the premiere followed by a press conference with the stars. Elm Street was closed to traffic as the theatre began preparing for the pre-premiere entertainment. Thirty-five Texas and Oklahoma journalists as well as 23 television stations, including KRLD (Channel 4), were on hand to ensure “border-to-border” television coverage.  Two videotape units used to shoot Dallas Cowboys football games were even called to duty “making this, perhaps, the first premiere to have instant replays.” The Dallas Morning News reported that the live “informal” telecast would be directed by Olin Terry of Glenn Advertising and that it would be “loosely scripted, but impromptu.”The televised newscast would feature interviews with the stars, film footage, and “flashbacks to the music and dancing” taking place in front of the theatre.



The evening entertainment began at 7:30 p.m. with Smokey Montgomery and his Cowboy Band providing the music and two square dance groups–The Duncanville Squares and the Dixie Chainers–providing the visual entertainment. The stars and their guests arrived by motorcade of seven limousines and a charter bus at 8 p.m.  The live telecast began at 8:30 p.m. with broadcast personality and emcee Cactus Pryor,  interviewing celebrities on stage in front of the theatre.  Can you identify the celebrities being interviewed in the picture on the left? At 9:15 p.m., the stars were to appear on the Majestic stage to introduce the film. After the busy day, stars were transported back to Hilton where they had a post-screening celebration.


“Spotlight on North Texas”

Still and moving images of The Majestic and the events held there are not numerous and easily accessible. “Spotlight on North Texas,” a North Texas media preservation project has digitized and made publicly accessible more than 50 unique photographs of Dallas movie theatres. These photographs were generously donated by former Interstate Theatre employees and collectors, Lovita and Ken Irby. Check out their collection as well as other historic photographs and movies preserved by this project on The Portal to Texas History. If you recognize any events or locations, please email the project coordinator, Laura Treat

“Spotlight on North Texas” is a community history and regional media preservation project conducted by the University of North Texas Media Library and the Texas Archive of the Moving Image. The project began in 2015 in Denton County and was repeated in Dallas, Texas in 2018. Community members were invited to participate in the preservation of North Texas’ motion picture histories by bringing their materials in for free digitization services. The digitized materials contained in this collection include home movies, television news footage, and photographs that document activities in the state of Texas and beyond. This project was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities Common Heritage grant program.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to see more posts about Dallas film history.



Neville, John. ‘Bandolero’ Will Debut with Stars and Hoopla. The Dallas Morning News. June 16, 1968.

Neville, John. ‘Bandolero’ Stars Come for Big World Premiere. The Dallas Morning News. June 16, 1968.

Neville, John. Screen: ‘Bandolero’ Marches On. The Dallas Morning News. June 19, 1968.

Original Outtakes from Bandolero!, Austin History Center – Texas Motion Picture Service Collection, accessed at Texas Archive of the Moving Image

Ritchie Beating the Film Drums. The Dallas Morning News. June 18, 1968.

WBAP-TV (Television station : Fort Worth, Tex.). [News Script: Stars], item, June 17, 1968; ( accessed October 3, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting UNT Libraries Special Collections.

WBAP-TV (Television station : Fort Worth, Tex.). [News Script: Scotch and soda], item, October 17, 1967; ( accessed October 3, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting UNT Libraries Special Collections.

Bandolero!, AFI Catalog of Feature Films 


Posted by & filed under film history, film preservation, movie theatres.

3-Dimensional Action on the Screen: Bwana Devil at the Melba Theatre

Photograph of the Melba Theatre courtsey of Lovita Irby and “Spotlight on North Texas”


The Melba Theatre (previously The Hope Theatre from 1921-1922) was located at 1913 Elm Street on Dallas’ impressive Theatre Row and became part of the Interstate Theatre chain in 1939. In the 1950s, The Melba was an early adopter of cutting edge theatre presentation, including 3-D motion pictures. On Christmas Day 1952, The Melba was one of three Texas theatres showing the first feature-length color 3-D film, “Bwana Devil.”

Bwana Devil (1952)

In the early 1950s, television was on the rise and theatre attendance was declining. Motion picture studios were looking for new, innovative technologies and gimmicks to bring moviegoers back to the big screen. The enormous screens of Cinerama did bring people to the theatres, but it was costly and few theatres were able to instal the necessary equipment. A more practical solution was a new 3-dimensional presentation invented by the Gunzburg brothers’ Natural Vision Co. The brothers demonstrated the process to independent producer Arch Oboler, who eagerly adopted this technology to turn a rather mediocre story into a fantastic experience.

The resulting film, Bwana Devil, was the first feature-length 3-D color film and is considered a pioneer in the 3-D film market. Bwana starred Robert Stack and Barbara Britton and was based on the book,The Lions of Gulu, a story of big-game hunters tasked with defeating man-eating lions in Africa. The film opened simultaneously in two Los Angeles theatres on Thanksgiving weekend 1952 and was a box office success.


“If you didn’t get a lion in your Christmas stocking, then don’t give up hope for Interstate has one waiting to jump right in your lap.”


Interstate Theatre executive Raymond Willie, who attended the Hollywood premiere, arranged a Christmas Day opening for the film in Dallas at the Melba Theatre as well as Interstate Theatres in Houston and San Antonio. In the month that followed, new projectors and larger screens were installed and Polaroid glasses ordered for patrons. Oboler as well as the head of the Natural Vision Corporation came to Texas to ensure proper installation of the equipment.

The Melba Theatre opened their doors to patrons on Christmas Day at 10:45 a.m. ahead of such big markets as New York (“who is still arguing about Cinerama”). The theatre ran the film continuously, with no reserved seating, ending with a 10 p.m. late show. Dallas Morning News critic John Rosenfield was not alone in elevating the technology and dismissing the story. Of the “mediocre adventure story,” he stated “The picture has not been directed for even its slender charge of adventure. It has been used to make animals jump at you, to tickle your brow with spikes, and to choke you with wafting cigarette smoke.” However, of the “thousand persons or more” who saw the film at the Melba, he observed that they acted “as if they were seeing something that might revolutionize their best entertainment, the wonders of which they have long since taken for granted.”

The Dallas Morning News, January 01, 1953


Despite its failures at storytelling, Bwana continued to attract Texas theatregoers — some of whom faced danger and punishment to see the three dimensional picture. Fourteen-year-old Larry Gallop of Denton reportedly hitchhiked from Denton to Dallas for a New Year’s eve screening but when he got there didn’t have enough money to attend. Thankfully, theater manager Forrest Thompson sympathized with the boy and invited Larry to be his guest of honor. Young Larry was even treated to a visit with Interstate executives, fried chicken and black-eyed peas, and a chauffeured ride back home to Denton.


Three-Dimensional Pictures & More!

Bwana Devil ended its successful three-week run in Dallas in late January 1953, but Dallas theatres continued to showcase other three-dimensional films and cutting edge theatre presentation technologies. Following the box-office success of Bwana other studios began developing their own system of shooting three-dimensional films. Just 5 months, Warner Brothers released House of Wax starring Vincent Price. Television news station WBAP-TV reported on the arrival of the stars of House of Wax in Dallas in April 1953 as well as the director of another 3-D picture, Sangaree in June 1953.


“Spotlight on North Texas”

The Melba Theatre became The Capri Theatre in the 1960 and has since been demolished. Unfortunately, still and moving images of The Melba and other Dallas-area theatres are not numerous and easily accessible. “Spotlight on North Texas,” a North Texas media preservation project has digitized and made publicly accessible more than 50 unique photographs of Dallas movie theatres. These photographs were generously donated by former Interstate Theatre employees and collectors, Lovita and Ken Irby. Check out their collection as well as other historic photographs and movies preserved by this project on The Portal to Texas History. If you recognize any events or locations, please email the project coordinator, Laura Treat

“Spotlight on North Texas” is a community history and regional media preservation project conducted by the University of North Texas Media Library and the Texas Archive of the Moving Image. The project began in 2015 in Denton County and was repeated in Dallas, Texas in 2018. Community members were invited to participate in the preservation of North Texas’ motion picture histories by bringing their materials in for free digitization services. The digitized materials contained in this collection include home movies, television news footage, and photographs that document activities in the state of Texas and beyond. This project was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities Common Heritage grant program.


Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to see more posts about Dallas film history.



Added equipment for ‘Bwana’ run in Texas Theaters. (1952, December 02). Dallas Morning News

Askew, R. (1952, December 01). New film is trick for eyes. Dallas Morning News

Askew, R. (1952, December 23). Arch Oboler predicts rush to three-dimensional films. Dallas Morning News

Bwana Devil play dates for 225 cities of U.S. (1952, December 12). Dallas Morning News

Bwana Devil run to end Wednesday. (1953, January 14). Dallas Morning News

Bwana Devil sets records at box office. (1952, December 27). Dallas Morning News

Cinema Treasures    

Christmas for Elm Street to mean holiday schedules. (1952, December 24). Dallas Morning News

Dauntless Denton schoolboy makes ‘Bwana’ dream work. (1953, January 01). Dallas Morning News

Melba may play ‘Devil’ for Christmas. (1952, November 25). Dallas Morning News

Miller, J. M. Bwana Devil. Retrieved from 

Nisbet, F. (1952, December 25). Novel yule gift in 3 dimensions. Dallas Morning News

Oboler to make visit to Texas for “Bwana Devil.” (1952, December 03). Dallas Morning News

Rosenfield, J. (1952, December 13). Three-dimensional ‘Bwana Devil.’ Dallas Morning News

Rosenfield, J. (1952, December 26). Melba depth film has strong impact. Dallas Morning News

Rosenfield, J. (1952, December 1958). The 3-D gimmick in movies may be with us to stay. Dallas Morning News

KXAS-NBC 5 News Collection. 

Spotlight on North Texas Collection.