"Hoosiers in Hollywood

By David L. Smith

Indiana Historical Society Press, 2006; $59.95

Hoosiers in Hollywood, a resplendent coffee-table-sized tome, published in conjunction with the exhibit of the same name currently on view at the Indiana History Center, covers three centuries and over 50,000 personalities, films and events connecting Hoosiers with Hollywood. An abundance of black and white photographs add to the splendor of the artfully designed pages.

David L. Smith, now professor emeritus of communications at Ball State University, has had an equally distinguished career in the broadcast industry. He created, wrote and hosted the TV series When Movies Were Movies.

Filled with facts, anecdotes and quotations along with highly readable accounts of biographic highlights, this book elicits a lot of “I didn’t know that.” Thomas Edison gets the credit, yet it really was C. Francis Jenkins of Richmond, Ind., who invented and perfected the first projector. On Oct. 29, 1895, 20 people at Jenkins Jewelry Store “witnessed one of the first moving-picture exhibitions in the world.” Dancer Annabelle “enraptured” with the “Butterfly Dance.”

J. Warren Kerrigan of New Albany became one of the first matinee idols at the turn of the 20th century, starting the trek of Hoosiers to Hollywood. The stardom story of Indianapolis native Monte Blue, who started as a stuntman in The Birth of a Nation, is typical of Hoosiers’ continuing attachment to birthplace.

Did you know three Tarzans, 10 cowboys and nine Disney artists hailed from Indiana? As have 11 directors, over 50 screenwriters and novelists, over 30 musicians and composers, over a dozen choreographers, costume designers, film editors, animal trainers, special effects and production designers, voice-over specialists, motion picture entrepreneurs, producers and executives, talent agents and cinematographers.

You’ll learn of non-natives who lived in Indiana before going West to fame and fortune, including Polly Bergen, Irene Dunne, Johnny Gruelle, Burl Ives, Karl Malden and, yes, Kevin Kline.

An outstanding feature is the bibliography following each entry. Appendices include Oscar winners and nominees, soap Hoosiers, movies shot in or about Indiana, Hoosiers on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a county by county listing of Hoosiers in Hollywood.

Also published by IHS Press are biographies of Carole Lombard and James Dean, both by Wes D. Gehring.