Iowa’s oceans of green cornfields, balloon frame farmhouses, and the rich narrative of its people have inspired writers for decades. Capturing the state’s character with words that weave unforgettable stories has moved many authors off the page and onto the big screen.
“I think the best example of that is Field of Dreams,” said Leo Landis, curator of the State Historical Museum of Iowa. “W.P. Kinsella is a Canadian who’d never come to Iowa until he goes to the Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa, falls in love with the state, writes a short story about Joe Jackson coming to Iowa, which he then makes into the book, Shoeless Joe, and gets picked up by Hollywood,” said Landis.
This summer, the State Historical Museum of Iowa is showing Field of Dreams and other films during its Hollywood in the Heartland weekend events.
Every Saturday until July 25 visitors can tour the museum’s Hollywood in the Heartland exhibit, watch free family-friendly films with Iowa connections, create crafts for kids, take home fun giveaways, and have a chance to win prizes.
Cut to the good part: Exhibit highlights
While only about 13-inches tall, this gold-plated britannium knight on a black metal base is recognized around the world for achievement in the film industry. A select group of approximately 50 are chosen to receive the brilliant soldier, known as “Oscar,” every year. Iowa holds claim to three Oscar winning actors: Donna Reed, Cloris Leachman, and John Wayne. Viewing the Oscar on display from Donna Reed may inspire some visitors to imagine their own speech to Hollywood, “First, I’d like to thank the Academy….”
Although omitted from the Academy acceptance speeches in 1966, there is a fascinating connection between “the hills” of Austria and Iowa.
“The puppet maker for Sound of Music (marionette performance), the Lonely Goat Herd, Bil Baird, spent most of his life in Mason City,” said Landis. “The MacNider Art Museum in Mason City was able to acquire the puppet collection from Sound of Music. They’ve loaned us the boy, the goatherd figure and the girl goat. That’s another one of those stories that people don’t realize; they get in the exhibit and they say, “Oh, wow!”
What’s a Hollywood exhibit without movies, right? The museum has that covered!
“We have clips from State Fair, Cold Turkey, Music Man, Field of Dreams, Bridges of Madison County, and some more contemporary documentary films by Emmy-nominated filmmakers Kelly and Tammy Rundle of Fourth Wall Films in the Quad City area and some other clips, too. It’s a way that people can learn about past films, but also what’s going on in independent film making here in Iowa about Iowa subjects,” said Landis.
“People will come, Ray”
As James Earl Jones’ character stated in his iconic speech from Field of Dreams, Landis hopes that people will indeed come to the Hollywood in the Heartland exhibit and depart with a memorable experience.
From development to screenplay
What began in 2007 as a survey of historic movie theaters across Iowa developed into an extensive script. The museum worked with Dr. Marty Knepper at Morningside College in Sioux City who has studied movies about Iowa or those filmed here for decades. “We recognized the potential for doing a broader exhibit about movie-making and stars from Iowa as well,” said Landis. The Hollywood in the Heartland exhibit will run through late 2016.
You don’t have to move to Hollywood to experience the thrill of the “big time.” That same excitement is here all summer at the State Historical Museum!
Don't forget to check out all of the incredible cultural activities your Iowa community has to offer this summer.
Image source: State Historical Museum of Iowa
State Historical Museum hours: Monday-Saturday 9:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; Sunday Noon-4:30 p.m.
Closed official state holidays Location: State of Iowa Historical Building, 600 East Locust, Des Moines
Admission is free