Shot in Oklahoma
A Century of Sooner State Cinema
Shot in Oklahoma: A Century of Sooner State Cinema
While no one may ever confuse Oklahoma with Hollywood — the air’s a lot cleaner in Oklahoma, for one thing — that’s not to say the Sooner State doesn’t have it’s own unique history as a filmmaker’s Mecca. Former Tulsa World entertainment writer John Wooley takes readers on a guided tour of the state’s filmography in Shot in Oklahoma: A Century of Sooner State Cinema. It’s a trip that is short on classics, but long on personality.
The cameras first rolled in Oklahoma in the earliest days of motion picture history. Filmmakers from Thomas Edison’s studio trekked there from New Jersey to capitalize on the success of the 1903 western The Great Train Robbery. The 101 Ranch near Ponca City served as a popular backdrop for cowboy pictures from many of the genre’s first stars, from Broncho Billy Anderson and Tom Mix to Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. There were even visits from a few genuine Wild West legends such as Bill Tilghman, who served as “advisors” on the first westerns to bury their facts beneath a tall tale.
But there was more to Sooner State cinema than westerns; Wooley describes the circumstances that brought a wide range of movies to Oklahoma; among them the sports biopic Jim Thorpe — All American starring Burt Lancaster, the 1962 remake of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical State Fair, the counterculture road film Two-Lane Blacktop, and the Oscar-winning Rain Man with Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise.
Shot in Oklahoma also includes a complete filmography of the more than 100 films partly set or shot in the state. Even if many of the titles are unfamiliar, the stories behind them are, as related by Wooley, reliably engaging.