Ready For Her Closeup: Eureka Springs reveals loving links to Hollywood

Ready For Her Closeup: Eureka Springs reveals loving links to Hollywood
BECCA MARTIN-BROWN
bmartin@nwadg.com

For Eureka Springs mover-and-shaker Jeff Danos, it all started a few years ago with a “Bad Movie Night.”

The 1969 sci-fi thriller “It’s Alive” was filmed in Onyx Cave, and the Eureka Springs Historical Museum has a a replica of the “funny looking ping-pong-balls-for-eyes creature costume” in its new exhibit, “Eureka on Film.” (Courtesy Image)

The series he initiated, screened at the Eureka Springs City Auditorium, showcased “campy low-budget flicks that are so bad they’re good,” Danos says.

“Included in the showings were films with local ties, such as 1969’s sci-fi thriller ‘It’s Alive,’ filmed in Onyx Cave, and ‘Pass the Ammo,’ a 1988 Hollywood romp about a scandalous televangelist played by Tim Curry, co-starring Annie Potts and Bill Paxton,” he explains. “These films also featured locally sourced extras, and as a result, they are beloved by many longtime Eurekans, regardless of what the professional film critics thought.

“When we screened ‘Pass the Ammo’ in the Aud, we had a huge turnout, and I had lots of folks who told me they had kept memorabilia from these films,” Danos goes on. “I have also collected some of my own over the years. Eureka Springs has been featured on film since at least the 1920s, so I thought it would be fun to gather what I could find from the various films and actors who have roots in Eureka.”

Of course, with Danos having recently become director of operations for the Eureka Springs Historical Museum, the next logical step was to assemble an exhibit. “Eureka on Film” opens to museum members at a gala tonight and to the public Monday.

Danos found the museum job perfectly suited a time in his life when he wanted to do something different.

Gwenllian Gill was born on Dec. 11, 1915, in Hartlepool, County Durham, England. The actress, best known for “Murder Tomorrow” (1938), “Menace” (1934) and “Flame in the Heather” (1935), died on Jan. 24, 2004, in Eureka Springs. She is included in the new “Eureka on Film” exhibit at the Eureka Springs Historical Museum. (Courtesy Image)

“I was born in New Orleans, but moved to Colorado just in time for high school,” he begins his own history. “I attended Metro State College of Denver and have a fine arts degree with an emphasis in graphic design, but I had fallen into a corporate job working for the phone company. The benefits and pay were great, but I disliked traveling away from my wife and children so often. Big city living was also getting me down, and small-town living was calling to us, but we didn’t find the right kind of small town until we happened upon Eureka Springs.

“We’ve lived here for 15 years now, and built our own home. Together with my wonderful wife Christina, who works at the Eureka Springs Carnegie Public Library, and a handful of amazing volunteers, we have organized numerous special events throughout the years, including the popular Zombie Crawl that benefited the Flint Street Food Bank,” Danos goes on. “In addition to being known colloquially as ‘the zombie guy’ and the ‘mad scientist of music’ DJ Testube, I am also a fanatical local history enthusiast. With special events severely impacted by the pandemic, it was time for a change for me. I saw the listing looking for a new museum director, a job that ticks all the boxes for me, so I applied and got it! As Alexander Graham Bell once said, ‘When one door closes, another opens.’”

Danos has collected wonderful things for the exhibit, among them a replica of the “funny looking ping-pong-balls-for-eyes creature costume from ‘It’s Alive,’ as well as part of a gargoyle statue that sat poised on the roof of the Auditorium during the filming of ‘Pass the Ammo.’”

He also learned “that there were, and still are, stars among us here in Eureka Springs — even when they don’t make their presence known. I learned that famous silent film stars once called this town home, starlets from Hollywood’s golden age became actors in the Passion Play, and at least one scuba diving enthusiast swam with sharks and James Bond.”

“Eureka on Film” will be on show through mid-November, and items donated for the exhibit will become part of the museum’s permanent collection, Danos says.

An entire building facade was constructed on the south side of the Eureka Springs City Auditorium for the 1988 film “Pass the Ammo,” says Jeff Danos, the new director of the Eureka Springs Historical Museum. “And it was blown to bits at the end of the film! Most of the stories I’ve heard tell of a genuine good time that was had by locals, whether spectating or participating” in films shot in Eureka Springs. “While some of these films occasionally stepped on local toes,” he adds, “the only real complaint I’ve heard was from a Eurekan who regretted not ‘hooking up’ with Tim Curry while he was filming here!” (Courtesy Image/Jeff Danos)

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FAQ

‘Eureka on Film’

WHEN — 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m., closed Sunday & Wednesday

WHERE — Eureka Springs Historical Museum, 95 S. Main St. in Eureka Springs

COST — $5; ages 6 & younger free

INFO — 253-9417 or eurekaspringshistoricalmuseum.org

Categories: Galleries