Dusty Relics of Arkansas History

August 7-13, 2017

By Bob Denman

 

This is the story of one of the American Film Institute’s 10 greatest movie lines of all time ... Its writer and his connection to Arkansas  ...  a Dusty Relic of Arkansas History.  And there is even a Star Wars connection.

 

He was a childhood friend of Harry Thomason, Coach Thomason to me.  Harry was my junior high football coach and the only guy to give me licks with a paddle in school. I reminded him recently of this, he said he hoped he didn’t “scar my personality as I grew into adulthood.” I never would have dreamed he would go on to produce major motion pictures and hit television shows like the Blue and the Grey, Designing Women, the Fall Guy and Evening Shade.  

 

Harry and childhood friend Charles B. Pierce, Jr., grew up in the southern Arkansas town of Hampton.  It was here the two future movie icons found an old 8mm camera and made films in their backyards.  Pierce moved from back yard movies to Mr. Chuckles the clown on KTAL television in Shreveport.  From there he became Texarkana’s leading ad man, ultimately launching his career as film director, screenwriter, producer, set decorator, cinematographer and actor ... matching his buddy Harry.

 

His film credits include Pretty Maids all in a Row, Dillinger, the Outlaw Josey Wales, and The Town That Dreaded Sundown to name a few.  But it was his cult classic The Legend of Boggy Creek, the story of the Fouke monster, that made Pierce famous. It was his first movie effort shot on a shoestring budget of only $160,000, in faux documentary style. Most of his Texarkana clients underwrote the production expense. Unbelievably it went on to gross more than $25 million in 1972 making it one of the top grossing movies of the year.  

 

Pierce is credited by many as the father of independent movie production and distribution.  Daniel Myrick, the director of the 1999 hit movie The Blair Witch Project said his effort was inspired by Pierce and Boggy Creek, his favorite movie from childhood.

 

Surprisingly, Boggy Creek played a small part in the success of the Star Wars film series.  George Lucas was so impressed by the Boggy Creek movie poster designed by Ralph McQuarrie, that Lucas hired McQuarrie to do most all of the original Star Wars concept art.  

 

Now none of this has much to do with that famous movie line Pierce is credited with ... so here’s the story.

 

Late in his career Pierce moved to Carmel, CA where he befriended Clint Eastwood.  Pierce went on to do work on the Dirty Harry film series with Eastwood and it’s the 4th film in the series that gave us the American Film Institute’s 6th most famous movie quote of all time ranking just behind Casa Blanca’s “Here’s looking at you kid” and ahead of “May the force be with you,” “Bond, James Bond,” and “ET Phone Home.”

 

It’s from the 1983 production of the movie Sudden Impact where Pierce is credited with the story and writing detective Harry Callahan’s famous tough guy line “Go ahead, make my day.”  So what’s the connection to Arkansas? Pierce said his inspiration for that line traced all the way back to Hampton where his father would say, “Son, if that lawn is not mowed when I get home, you’re gonna make my day.”

 

Charles B. Pierce, Jr. died in 2010 ... and Dirty Harry’s famous line ... “Go ahead, make my day” ... a Dusty Relic of Arkansas History.

 

Bob Denman is Emeritus Vice Chancellor for University Advancement at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. You can reach him at bgdenman@ualr.edu.

  • Charles B. Pierce (findagrave.com)
    Charles B. Pierce (findagrave.com)
  • Bob Denman
    Bob Denman