"Kidnappers Foil"

Online Exhibit

In February 1937 Melton Barker came to Northwest Arkansas to film three separate movie “shorts” styled after the popular “Our Gang” comedies (a.k.a. “Little Rascals”) of the 1930s. Barker was an itinerant filmmaker from Dallas who shot the same movie, Kidnappers Foil, dozens of times from the 1930s into the early 1970s, primarily in towns throughout the Southeast and Midwest. The plot was simple. A young girl is kidnapped after her birthday party. Her father offers a reward for her return. A group of children search for her, eventually rescuing her from her captors. Then a small talent show is staged, featuring the kids singing and dancing. To make the movies, Melton Barker Juvenile Productions teamed up with local theater mogul William Sonneman. After casting calls were placed in area newspapers, would-be actors auditioned for various roles. Those who made the cut received training for a “small fee.” It took about a week to shoot all three movies in Fayetteville, Springdale, and Bentonville plus the talent shows, which were filmed in Rogers. A few weeks later, Barker delivered the completed movies to Sonneman who showed them at his Palace (Fayetteville), Concord (Springdale), and Plaza (Bentonville) theaters. 

Once they were shown, the movie reels were placed inside a film carrier box and forgotten for decades. In 2016 they were found in Springdale and placed on eBay where Todd Terpening spotted them. He bought the films and donated them to the Library of Congress, where he volunteers. Then he contacted the Shiloh Museum for help with identifying the people and places in the films. Below is a list of 170 actors (with married names, if known) and the town in which they were filmed. Also included are images of the folks in the movie whom we have positively identified or feel fairly certain of their identification. But our work is not done. We need help in identifying more children and getting in touch with them or their descendants. If you can help, please email our photo archivist Marie Demeroukas or call 479-750-8165.

You can watch the Northwest Arkansas films on our YouTube channel, as well as videos from the movie “premiere” we hosted in November 2017:


Below is a list of 172 actors (with married names, if known, in square brackets)