Documentary filmmaker influenced by late writer Charles Portis

KNWA

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — Perhaps one of the best places to see the full impact of Charles Portis’ legacy is in Larry Foley’s office at the University of Arkansas.

Foley, a documentary filmmaker and UA School of Journalism & Strategic Media chair, learned about the influential Arkansas writer at a young age.

“My grandfather, who was a voracious reader, had the book [True Grit] and just loved it,” Foley said.

True Grit, Portis’ most-famous work, spawned two film adaptations. The El Dorado native, who died this week at 86, based much of his content on Arkansas towns. Fort Smith, the setting of True Grit, still shows Portis’ influence.

Foley’s upcoming film “Indians, Outlaws, Marshals and the Hangin’ Judge” follows major Fort Smith history, and it intersects the same world Portis wrote about.

“There’s a story about the end of Judge Parker when he decides that he’s gonna become a Catholic as opposed to a Methodist,” Foley said. “I think the line is something like, ‘if you’d hung as many people as Parker has hung, you’d need something a little stronger than being a Methodist yourself,'” Foley said.

Portis graduated from the University of Arkansas’ journalism program long before Foley took over as chair, but the stories of his collegiate history continue to travel down the wire.

“Portis was kind of a self-effacing guy, from all those who really knew him well,” Foley said. “His old joke was he needed to major in something, and he thought journalism sounded easy. It would be like going to barber college.”

Portis will be remembered for his witty writing, low-key promotion style and immense success, Foley said. His legacy will continue to live through students who attend the UofA.

“I’m gonna bring examples [of his writing to my classes], which I always do,” Foley said. “Let’s bring in some Charles Portis. None better.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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