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Branson: When Hollywood Comes to the Midwest

While Branson, Missouri, is known as the Live Entertainment Capital of the World, it has a rich history associated with another type of entertainment: movies. For nearly 75 years, Hollywood has come to the Midwest in search of just the right vistas – be it the mountainous terrain of the Interior Highlands or the tranquil scenery of the White River and Lake Taneycomo. Here are a few of the cinematic projects that were filmed in Branson:

  • The Shepherd of the Hills (1941) – Helmed by legendary director Henry Hathaway and starring John Wayne, this film tells the story of Daniel Howitt, a mysterious stranger who arrives in the Missouri hills and befriends a young backwoods girl. This raises the ire of her fiancé, a young moonshiner (Wayne), who has grown up hating the father he has never seen. While his obsession contributes to the hatred rampant in the mountains, Howitt’s presence begins to positively affect the locals.
  • Winter’s Bone (2010) – The movie (pictured) that first brought Jennifer Lawrence to national attention. The “Hunger Games” star earned her first Academy Award nomination for her turn as Ree, an unflinching Ozark Mountain girl who hacks through dangerous social terrain as she hunts down her drug-dealing father while trying to keep her family intact. The film was nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture.
  • Foxfire Light (1982) – This little-known film, based on a novel by Janet Dailey, stars Lara Parker as Joanna, a recent college graduate, who decides to leave her manipulating mother and stay within the Ozarks in order to find herself. What she finds is a small town filled with romance and the promise of love. The movie, which was filmed almost entirely in the Branson area, also stars Leslie Nielsen (“Airplane”) and Tippi Hedren (“The Birds”).

    “Foxfire Light” Trivia
    The title refers to a bioluminescence, also known as “fairy fire,” created by some species of fungi present in decaying wood.


  • Little Did He Know (2013) – A unique story of how a little humor and kindness can remedy the most cynical of hearts. The film follows Bradley Hayes, an awkward young writer whose first book thrusts him into unwanted international fame. When his publisher orders a fresh novel to meet audience demand, the stressed-out author travels to a quiet bed and breakfast in hopes of forcing himself to write. As he soon discovers, the inspiration of life comes in those funny moments where imagination meets reality. Filmed at several locations around Branson, including the Branson Hotel.
  • Awful Nice (2013) – A movie not only filmed in Branson, but set there as well. When Jim, a disenchanted college professor, learns of his father’s death, he must track down his deadbeat brother and deliver him to the funeral. Upon arrival, the brothers learn that they’ve each inherited one half of the family’s vacation home in Branson. In order to sell the house – from which they both badly need the money – they must travel to Missouri, and the ensuing trip fixes both the house and their relationship.

    “Awful Nice” Trivia
    Russian comedian Yakov Smirnoff, who operates and performs at his own theater in Branson, appears as himself.


  • The Beverly Hillbillies (TV series) – In 1962 Paul Henning, inspired by a Boy Scout camping trip to the Ozarks, created “The Beverly Hillbillies.” The first five episodes of Season 8 are set in the Branson area, when the Clampetts returned to their home. Henning later donated 1,534 acres for the Ruth and Paul Henning Conservation Area near Branson. He also donated the modified 1921 Oldsmobile truck used as the vehicle in the series to the College of the Ozarks.

To check out the cinematic sights in Branson – or in any of our wonderful travel destinations – contact us at info@takethreenights.com.

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