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He was born Maxwell Henry Aronson in Little Rock in 1880, but moved to Pine Bluff when he was 3 years old. The family left Arkansas when he was 8. Eventually he got into Vaudeville in New York.

Cast to play three different roles in the motion picture The Great Train Robbery (1903), he was considered to be the first American action film star. He adopted a new stage name and during the next 25 years produced, directed and starred in more than 700 Western movies. He also developed film techniques that are still in use today.

He and a partner formed a motion picture studio, Essanay Film Manufacturing Co., and he began producing and starring in a series of short, low-budget Western movies that became world famous and made him the first real cowboy hero. Their studio was also the launching pad for future film stars such as Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy. Soon the public demanded a longer form of movies, but the partners refused to change and the studio declined.

In 1958, he received an honorary Academy Award as a motion picture pioneer. He died in 1971 at the age of 90.

Notable Arkansans is written by Steve Stephens and produced by Clyde Snider.

Who was this Arkansan movie legend?

Answer on Page 6E

Style on 09/16/2018


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