When you think about North Texas’ place in movie history, the usual suspects come to mind: The Last Picture Show. Robocop. Maybe Robert Altman’s Dr. T and the Women? But if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find a ton of stuff – everything from TV shows to music videos to commercials – that was made in the area.
The Dallas Producers Association has taken it upon itself to make sure those classics aren’t forgotten with the It Came From Dallas series, which rolls for the fifth time Thursday night at the Studio Movie Grill in Dallas.
In addition to the movie and television clips, film historian Gordon K. Smith – who organizes the event with DPA co-founder Bob Dauber – says we can expect, “the most-bizarre educational film ever made in Dallas.” And did we mention there will be a theremin performance to start the show?
Smith and Dauber sat down recently to preview the event and to explain why Dallas was once ground zero for some of the strangest movies ever made as part of this week’s Art&Seek Q&A:
Art&Seek: Where did the idea for It Came From Dallas come from?
Bob Dauber: The concept for this came from Garry Potts, who was a longtime member of DPA, past president. We were sitting around one night trying to think of an idea for a fundraiser, and Garry said, “How about a schlockfest?” Well, what do you mean by that Garry? “Well, a schlockfest would be horrible films that were produced here.” So everybody thought that this was a great idea, and everybody also thought it probably wasn’t a good thing to call it a schlockfest. Because even some of the things that we show, some people were proud of at one time. So we discussed it for a while and came up with the name It Came From Dallas.
A&S: This is the fifth year of It Came From Dallas – have you unearthed anything new/old for this year that you are particularly excited about?
Gordon K. Smith: Every year, we generally have a time frame that we work with. The first show, we went back to the 1940s. Now we’re on the high end, up to about the mid ’90s. But there are things every year that become available on DVD that were never available before, so I keep unearthing these little gems of Dallas film and television history. … My prime discovery this year, which I came across by accident, is that the Route 66 series shot five episodes in the DFW area around ’61-’62 for their second season. As near as I’ve been able to tell, it’s the only time a prime-time regular dramatic series filmed in Dallas prior to the Dallas show, which came 15 years later. This is nearly two years before the JFK incident, so this is how prime-time America got a look at Dallas prior to November 1963.
B.D.: One of the things we have of new/old this year is a segment of a Mister Peppermint show from 1981. I used to front a kazoo band here called Phil’s Harmonic Kazoo Band and Delicatessen. My then wife and I were friendly with Jerry Haynes, and he invited us on his show, and he gave us the last 11 minutes of his final show before Christmas. We did Christmas carols on kazoo with him participating.
So where do you find this stuff?
G.S.: Sometimes it’s stuff we all just had in our closets and our personal collections that not many people have seen. And others are things that have become viral videos that people probably never knew came from here.
B.D.: You just gave me the title of next year’s show: It Came from Dallas: Out of the Closet.
A&S: It seems like Dallas was this Mecca for cheap B movies. How did that happen?
B.D.: I moved down here in ’77, and prior to that I used to come down here and produce commercials. We used to come down here because it’s a right-to-work state, and so we were able to buy talent out. The unions refer to it as runaway production; we looked at it strictly as a matter of economics. And I think that’s probably one of the reasons for it. It grew a very substantial infrastructure here in terms of crew and facilities. … And Dallas is a good place to shoot, climate-wise.
A&S: Do you have a favorite good movie and favorite bad movie made in North Texas?
G.S.: All things considered, I think The Last Picture Show is the best film made in the Dallas area.
B.D.: Better than Robocop?!?
G.S.: Yes! …On the other end of the spectrum, nothing beats Mars Needs Women, which was actually made in Dallas simultaneously with Bonnie and Clyde. When Warner Bros. was here making Bonnie and Clyde, Larry Buchanan was here making Mars Needs Women. … That’s an amazing story to me that the two polar opposites of Dallas cinema were actually being made at the same time here.
The Art&Seek Q&A is a weekly discussion with a person involved in the arts in North Texas. Check back next Thursday for another installment.