Wichita Falls in Movies and Television
Looking into the history of Wichita Falls in movies and television we have one-off references to the city, stars born in Wichita Falls, and even a show or two taking place in or outright filmed in Wichita Falls. Sit back, grab your popcorn, and let the spotlight shine on Wichita Falls!
‘The Last Picture Show’
Set in the early 1950s, ‘The Last Picture Show’ is a semi-autobiographical book and film adaptation about the life of writer Larry McMurtry. While McMurtry, a native of Archer City, is also famous for other book adaptations like ‘Lonesome Dove’ and ‘Brokeback Mountain’, this film makes the list for the fact that parts of the movie were reportedly filmed in Olney and Wichita Falls (such as the pool scene). The movie was nominated for eight Academy Awards, with Ben Johnson winning Best Supporting Actor and Cloris Leachman winning Best Supporting Actress.
‘The War at Home’
Emilio Estevez directs and stars in this film about Vietnam vet Jeremy Collier who returns to his family in Wichita Falls and is suffering from PTSD. His parents, played by real-life father Martin Sheen and Kathy Bates, find it difficult to deal with Jeremy, culminating with a tense standoff between father and son at Thanksgiving. The movie was made on a $3 million budget, but poor advertising and distribution led to the film failing at the box office, earning just under $45,000. (Video contains explicit language)
‘The Real Gilligan’s Island’
While Bowling For Soup’s contribution to ‘Phineas and Ferb’ theme song is their best known work in television, its not their only one. BFS also provided a terrific rendition of the classic ‘Gilligan’s Island’ theme for the short-lived TBS reality contest series, ‘The Real Gilligan’s Island’, pitting people against each other on an island in ‘Survivor’ style contests, while dressed as characters from ‘Gilligan’s Island’. (I know what you’re thinking… genius television!) While answering questions during a meet and greet for NIN VIP members a few years back, Eric and Jaret said that while the theme to ‘Phineas and Ferb’ would be a longer-lasting honor, doing the theme to this show had its benefits as it allowed them a tropical vacation to promote the series. You can watch video of the Q&A session with Bowling For Soup here and here
The first of three films to star Doris Day and Rock Hudson, ‘Pillow Talk’ was a controversial film for 1959, with Rock Hudson’s character taking on the persona of a homosexual to get closer to Doris Day’s Jan, who finishes the film saying, “They’ll never believe this back in Wichita Falls.”
‘King of the Hill’
In the 1990s, Wichita Falls was rejoicing in being the training camp for the beloved Dallas Cowboys. One person who was not thrilled, Hank Hill. In the third season of ‘King of the Hill’, Hank takes his son Bobby on a trip to Wichita Falls to see the Cowboys and try to entice them to move their training camp to their hometown or Arlen, TX, even making a promotional video about Arlen. While in Wichita Falls, depicted as a fairly sparse town, Hank gets into a verbal battle with a Wichita Falls native about which town is better, to which Hank is told that a great part about living in Wichita Falls is how close it is to Oklahoma.
Jimmy Wehba’s alter-ego, the villainous Skandor Akbar, was a staple of pro wrestling television across the country, appearing on television shows for the WWWF (precursor to the WWF/WWE), World Class Championship Wrestling out of Dallas, and the Universal Wrestling Federation in Oklahoma. Wehba, born in Wichita Falls, came from Arabic parents, hence his persona as Skandor Akbar. Retiring from in-ring work in 1977, Akbar went on to manage future whose-who stars in professional wrestling including The Undertaker, Mick Foley, and Stone Cold Steve Austin, just to name a few. Wehba passed away in 2010 and ways laid to rest in Wichita Falls, his funeral attended by wrestling legends, including long-time friend and wrestling broadcaster Jim Ross.
‘Adventures of Superman’
When Superman made the jump from movie series to television, Wichita Falls born Phyllis Coates was cast as Superman’s love interest, Lois Lane. At the insistence of star George Reeves, Coates was given equal billing with Reeves, even on episodes her character didn’t appear after. After filming the first season, production was halted while producers searched for a nation sponsor. By the time a sponsor was secured, Coates had committed to another project. She was then replaced by Noel Neill, who played Lane in the theatrical serials. Though she spent many years distancing herself from the world of Superman, Coates would return years later as Lois’ mother in the first season of ‘Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman’, continuing the legacy of former Lois Lanes playing the mother of Lois in the new Superman series.
‘License to Kill’
Much like ‘Pillow Talk’, this Wichita Falls reference comes down to a single line. After taking time off to attend the wedding of his friend Felix Leiter, James Bond resigns as a British agent after Felix is attacked and his new wife is killed by drug lord Franz Sanchez and Bond is forbidden to investigate. Teaming with CIA informant Pam Bouvier, Bond plays up the rogue agent role to infiltrate Sanchez’s organization to bring him down. While Bond is on the inside of Sanchez’s operation and in trouble, Bouvier attempts to rescue him by infiltrating Sanchez’s business front, a religious institution lead by Professor Joe Butcher, played by Wayne Newton. Originally denied an audience wit Professor Joe, Bouvier reveals a bag of money and says she came all the way from Wichita Falls to deliver the donations her town collected.
During the second season/series of the restarted sci-fi series “Doctor Two”, the Doctor and his companions, Rose Tyler and Mickey, find themselves on a spaceship with a collection of fireplaces, each leading into a different point on the same woman’s life. So where does Wichita Falls come into play here? Check out Rose’s shirt, the Wichita Falls Tigers. Funny enough, there’s never been a Wichita Falls Tigers team, at least one popular enough to warrant a T-shirt being available across the pond in England. I’ve heard rumors that there’s a fashion trend in England of shirt with logos of fake sports teams from America, but never heard for certain.
‘3 Ways to Kill a Mook’
This short-film is as Wichita Falls as you can get, being filmed in-town with a local cast and crew. Written by WFHS alumni Nick Turnbow and co-directed by Turnbow and Jesse Johnson from Burk, “3 Ways to Kill a Mook” used Hollywood quality equipment and even had its premiere in Wichita Falls. You can check out our coverage of the making and release of the film HERE.