This version of an Our Gang style itinerant film, made by Texas filmmaker Melton Barker, stars a local cast from Fayetteville, Arkansas, in 1937. When their friend Betty Davis is kidnapped, the local children pull together to find her. Once the kidnappers are caught and turned over to the police, the gang celebrates with a party and talent show. The Kidnappers Foil was among the 25 American films deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically" significant through their addition to the 2012 National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.
Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, so-called "itinerant filmmakers" traveled throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, visiting smaller cities and making a business out of the creation of local "stars." These "town booster" or "home talent" films featured community landmarks, businesses and, most importantly, local residents. Many of these "itinerant" films did not feature a narrative structure; rather, the camera simply panned groups of school children, business owners, and factory workers. Other itinerant films, however, either concocted some sort of limited narrative, or mimicked popular Hollywood films and genres as a method through which to focus upon the local community. The local talent films, their premieres heralded and touted in the local print press, were then exhibited along with other "short subjects" before major theatrical features.
One of the most prolific itinerant film directors was Dallas native, Melton Barker. He and his company, Melton Barker Juvenile Productions, traveled all over the country – from Texas and New Mexico to North Carolina and Indiana – filming local children acting, singing, and dancing in two-reel films that Barker titled The Kidnapper's Foil. TAMI is working to find all of Barker's films. We have found evidence that over 100 films were shot by Barker from the 1930s through the 1970s. Do you have information on Melton Barker or did you participate in a Kidnapper's Foil film in your hometown?? TAMI would love to hear from you!