Some folk that know me know I have to see dang near err movie that’s filmed in, set in or tied to Missouri (whurr I grew up). With the Bourne Trilogy, those ties were somewhat tenuous… Badass Jason Bourne is merely informed that his real name is David Webb and he’s from Nixa. No wonder he joined the military. Needless to say, people are sick of hearing me talk about my home state, but most of yins are strangers so it will hopefully be only a fraction as annoying as what they put up wither pritnear err time I sip on somethin’.
I just sawl Winter’s Bone the other day. What can I say? The boyz (and gulz) in the woodz is always hard! Wisely, they actually filmed in the Ozarks rather than in Canada or some other pale stand-in. Not much in the way of distracting celebrities either. Perfect music by Tindersticks‘ Dickon Hinchliffe. Real recognize real, ya heard? Anywho, hurr’s my pretty complete timeline of Mo Films.
MO MOVIES IN THE SILENT ERA
Silent Movies were ideal for the people who made “Show Me” thurr motto. With outlaws from Missouri including Tom Horn, and badass cowgirls Belle Star and Calamity Jane, it’s kind of surprising how many Missouri-set Westerns overwhelmingly favor popular Missourian Jesse James. Apparently, the most Missouri silent movie would have Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer joining the James Gang. Just consider the following silent films set in the state:
MO MOVIES IN THE EARLY SOUND ERA
People have always love songs about Missourians wildin’ out. Just consider “Frankie and Johnnie,” about Frankie Baker, who rubbed out her man in 1899 after she found him with another woman. It inspired the films Her Man (1930) and Frankie and Johnnie (1936).
Then thurr’s Lee “Stagger Lee” Shelton, a Mack who killed William Lyons in 1895 after he made the mistake of touching his pimp hat. “St. Louis Blues“ is relatively peaceful by comparison, and was in essence, one of the first music videos.
There were more movies about the creations of Mark Twain and Robert and Zerelda James too. Interestingly, thurr seems to’ve been a short-lived vogue for movies about people (‘specially dames) from Missouri, probably in part due to the popularity of Missourian actress Jean Harlow. Consider the following:
Meanwhile, the events of her famous lovers quarrel inspired films, including Her Man (1930) and She Done Him Wrong (1935). After that, her legend spread nationally and people hounded her for autographs and prank called her. Frankie and Johnnie (1936) followed.
St. Louis Blues (1929), Tom Sawyer (1930), Huckleberry Finn , Kitty from Kansas City (both 1931), The St. Louis Kid, The Girl From Missouri and Kansas City Princess (all 1934), St. Louis Woman (1935), The Voice of Bugle Ann (1936), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938), I’m From Missouri, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer – Detective, Jesse James and Days of Jesse James (all 1939).
MO MOVIES IN THE ’40s
The ’40s were pritnear a continuation of the previous decade as the nation remained obsessed with popular, racist murderer who stole from everyone and gave to himself (Jesse James). Just look at these’n’s:
In Old Missouri and The Return of Frank James (1940) Bad Men of Missouri, Belle Starr, Jesse James at Bay, and Shepherd of the Hills (all 1941), A Missouri Outlaw (1942), Meet Me in St. Louis and Kansas City Kitty (both 1944), Down Missouri Way (1946), Adventures of Frank and Jesse James (1948) and Calamity Jane and Sam Bass and I Shot Jesse James (both 1949).
TV AGE MO
Finally, movies about Missouri started to get a little more interesting in the 1950s, focusing often on modern crimes and juvenile delinquents, and not just outlaws from the Old West. Consider the following:
The Great Missouri Raid, Return of Jesse James and The Missourians (all 1950), Pete Kelly’s Blues (1951), The Pride of St. Louis and Kansas City Confidential (both 1952), Calamity Jane and The Great Jesse James Raid (1953), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Jesse James’ Women (both 1954), The Delinquents (1955), The True Story of Jesse James (1956), The Pride of St. Louis (1957), The Cool and the Crazy (1958) and The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery (1959).
MO MOVIES IN THE ’60s
After nearly half a century, Americans seemed to have finally had enough of films about Tom Sawyer and Jesse James. As a result, movies taking place in Missouri became fewer and farther between; consider:
Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (both 1960), Hoodlum Priest (1961), Beetle Bailey and Hottenanny Hoot (both 1963), and Ride a Wild Stud (1969).
MISSOURI IN THE ’70s
After a decade away from screens, a new generation of film-goers clamored for cinematic representations of Tom Sawyer and Hollywood obliged. Missouri-loving audiences were also blessed with many new characters.
Huckleberry Finn and Kansas City Bomber (both 1972),Tom Sawyer (dir. Don Taylor), Tom Sawyer (dir. James Neilson) and Paper Moon (all 1973), Huckleberry Finn and Lucas Tanner (1974), Huckleberry Finn, Bucktown, Linda Lovelace for President and Kansas City Massacre (all 1975), The Student Body (1976), The Baxters (1977) and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1979).
MISSOURI IN THE ’80s
When most people think of ’80s cinema, teen sex comedies often come to mind. Not in Missouri, thank you. For Hollywood, Missouri in the ’80s meant a revival of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn films… and Mama’s Family. Things began, finally, to change toward the end of the decade.
MISSOURI IN THE ’90s
For whatever reason, in the ’90s it became somewhat popular to set things seemingly randomly in the Show Me state… that, and the subject matter began to expand in odd directions. Look the these:
THE NEW MO-LLENNIUM
For some reason, the new millennium brought a decrease in Missouri’s star turns. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and The Lookout were both obviously filmed in Canada and the latter film was a steaming piece of horse pockey.
Living in Missouri (2001), The Games of Their Lives (2003), Jesus Camp (2006), The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and The Lookout (both 2007), Albino Farm (2009).
MO IN THE 2010s
I haven’t been home in a while but Winter’s Bone made me nostalgic; so far it’s the only MO Movie of the decade that I know of. Update: The Pruitt-Igoe Myth was great too.
Winter’s Bone (2010)
The Pruitt-Igoe Myth (2012)
Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in Amoeblog, diaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art Museum, Form Follows Function, Los Angeles County Store, Skid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Magazine, LAist, Eastsider LA, Boing Boing, Los Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
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