Spectacular and Spellbinding! Gene Autry and the Twentieth-Century West: The Centennial Exhibition, 1907-2007
May 16, 2007
The Autry National Center showcases the life and times of this iconic figure June 22, 2007-January 13, 2008
"On the whole my life has been favored by friendly winds. I watched, and was a part of, the development of talking pictures, the heyday of radio, the birth and incredible growth of television. I saw country music leap out of the haylofts and honkytonks. I had the best of two eras – mine and the one I re-created on the movie scene."
Los Angeles (April 2007) – Who is the first and only celebrity with all five stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame? It might surprise you to know that it is Gene Autry.
Why was Autry's visit to Dublin in 1939 likened to "Beatlemania for the 1930s"? How did he harness the power of mass media to impact and influence generations of fans? Find out at the Autry National Center's Gene Autry and the Twentieth Century West: The Centennial Exhibition, 1907-2007, a much-anticipated exhibition about Gene Autry, the legendary entertainer and businessman who parlayed his consummate charm, amazing showmanship, impeccable timing, and sheer genius to achieve so much.
Throughout his long career, Gene Autry played many roles – as a recording, radio, motion picture, television, and live performance star; singing cowboy; media maverick; sports team owner; and museum founder. Over a seventy-year career, he recorded 640 songs, including more than 300 that he wrote or cowrote, and starred in ninety-three movies and ninety-one television productions. Autry was among the top ten box office earners in Hollywood for three consecutive years, 1940 to 1942. In 1940, he was voted the fourth biggest box office attraction, behind only Mickey Rooney, Clark Gable, and Spencer Tracy, and was one of the first performers to sell out Madison Square Garden. From his early days in rodeo and throughout his long career as a performer, Gene was accompanied by his partner and sidekick, Champion, the World's Wonder Horse. Like Gene, Champion received thousands of fan letters every month.
Autry played a part in the major events of the era. He worked with President Roosevelt to express important national messages through entertainment in the 1930s, served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, and made the leap from motion pictures to television in 1950, producing and starring as himself in The Gene Autry Show, along with several other series produced by Autry's own Flying A Pictures. In the 1960s, Autry combined baseball with broadcasting to establish a new standard of professional sports heroes on television. At every critical time throughout the twentieth century, Gene Autry was there – as a patriot, celebrity, visionary, and everyday hero who helped shape and influence culture.
Come be surprised as you tour the stunning, five-gallery exhibition and experience firsthand Gene Autry's rise to superstardom as a performer and businessman in the arts, entertainment, and information industries. Framing the entry into the first gallery are a brilliantly lit marquee and art deco columns. A restored 1930s movie theater ticket booth draws visitors into a stylized movie theater environment that features key objects and offers a short film that illuminates Gene's rise to stardom.
Fun, interactive displays and presentations that are positioned throughout the galleries put a spotlight on Gene's amazing virtuosity and achievements. Guests are invited to relax in a re-created 1930s living room while listening to radio broadcasts. They can enter a sound booth to sample early Autry recordings in six different genres of music or view video clips from the cowboy's motion pictures and television shows, including some period promotional trailers made between 1934 and 1958 – in essence, becoming "fans" for a moment in time.
In addition, there are hundreds of artifacts and images that frame Gene's story – such as the life-size replica of Gene and Champion, the World's Wonder Horse, and Gene's closet with his brilliant embroidered shirts by Nudie and Rodeo Ben, handsome hand-tooled leather boots from Lucchese of San Antonio, and spotless cowboy hats from Stetson and Resistol featuring the "Gene Autry crush." Other key objects include his first gold record, Autry's famous Martin D-45 guitar, and his retired baseball jersey #26. The gallery sections include The New Deal Cowboy, The Singing Cowboy, The Corporate Cowboy, The Cowboy, and Win One for the Cowboy.
Gene Autry and the Twentieth-Century West: The Centennial Exhibition, 1907-2007 will be in the George Montgomery Gallery at the Autry National Center from June 22, 2007, through January 13, 2008. The exhibition will be accompanied by special programs and events that honor Gene and put a spotlight on his many achievements and contributions to the twentieth-century West. More information and updates can be found at theautry.org.