The Oscars are this weekend, Sunday, Feb. 24. In celebration of a love for movies and love for our neighborhood, we’ve compiled this list of movies that have a connection to Oak Cliff. Can we watch them all before Sunday?
1. Bonnie and Clyde — The most obvious choice and maybe the best gangster movie of all time. In the film, Bonnie meets Clyde when he’s trying to steal her mother’s car. It’s a great scene, but in real life, the notorious bank robbers met at a mutual friend’s home on Eagle Ford Road, now Singleton, about half a mile south of where the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge is now. The movie is available for rental on Amazon.
2. Stardust — This film is based on the true-life story of the impossibly beautiful Linda Darnell, who attended Sunset High School as Monetta Eloyse Darnell until she left for Hollywood at 15. Darnell was in a lot of other good movies in the ’40s, including “The Mark of Zoro” and “My Darling Clementine,” but I love her most in Otto Preminger’s “Fallen Angel.” The story is good, the clothes are amazing and Darnell is stunning. That one is available on DVD from Netflix.
3. Eraserhead — David Lynch spent four years making this, his first feature film, which turned out to be too weird for mainstream film critics to grasp. Thank goodness for the tenacity of David Lynch and Eraserhead star Jack Nance, who was raised in Oak Cliff and attended South Oak Cliff High School. Nance acted in several other Lynch projects, including Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks.
4. Groundhog Day — If ever you are compelled to make a list of the coolest dudes from Oak Cliff, do consider putting Stephen Tobolowsky at the top, ahead of the Vaughan brothers and Ray Wylie Hubbard even. Tobolowsky is a character actor perhaps best known for playing Ned Reyerson in Groundhog Day. But he also is a prolific writer, author, radio host and documentarian. Plus, he is that rare Hollywood personality who seems normal. Like you might run into him at a rock show or the grocery store or something, and he wouldn’t even get mad if you were all “Bing! Ned Reyerson!”
5. Earthling — A few of our neighbors were involved in making this 2010 sci-fi film, which was shot in Dallas. Director Clay Liford had a studio in our neighborhood at the time it was filmed. And the Texas Theatre’s Barak Epstein, Eric Steele and Adam Donaghey were producers on the film. It received good reviews at SXSW three years ago. Here’s the synopsis: “After a mysterious atmospheric event, a small group of people wake up to realize that their entire lives have been a lie. They are in fact aliens disguised as humans. Now they have to make a choice: live amongst men, or try to find a way back home.” Earthling is available on DVD at Top Ten Records. Also check out Wuss, a 2011 Clay Liford film with much of the same production team.
6. Mars Needs Women — Yvonne Craig, TV’s original Bat Girl, is another bombshell with an Oak Cliff connection. Her family moved to our neighborhood when she was 14, and she attended Greiner, Adamson and Sunset. Check out this Q&A where she talks about not graduating for lack of a P.E. credit. In 1954, Craig became the youngest dancer in the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Then she became an actress, working in TV and film throughout the late ’50s and the ’60s. She starred in the Elvis vehicle Kissin’ Cousins, and she plays a ballerina in the spy movie In Like Flint, which inspired Austin Powers. In the campy sci-fi flick Mars Needs Women, Craig plays Dr. Marjorie Bolen, an expert in “space genetics,” what else?
7. 3 Women — Belita Moreno grew up in Oak Cliff and had a full theater scholarship to SMU. She is best known for her role as Benny, the grandma in “The George Lopez Show.” But Moreno started out in film, and she appeared in three of filmmaker Robert Altman’s films in the ’70s. 3 Women, her first film, was Altman’s first independent feature, produced through his company, Lion’s Gate.
8. Paper Moon — Rosemary Rumbley grew up in Oak Cliff and is known for her work as a very entertaining book lecturer. She is a stage actress, but few people know that she also acted in an Academy Award-winning film. Rumbley plays Aunt Billie, opposite young Tatum O’Neal, in Paper Moon.
9. Dr. Strangelove — Terry Southern was born in Alvarado and graduated from Sunset. He is credited with sparking the independent film movement of the ’70s with his writing in Easy Rider. Southern and Stanley Kubrick wrote the script to “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.” They were nominated for a “Best Adapted Screenplay” Oscar in 1964.