Searching for Melton Barker

From a Childress production of The Kidnapper's Foil, with Melton Barker at right
Keep Dallas Observer Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

For years, Caroline Frick -- founder and executive director of the Texas Archive of the Moving Image in Austin -- has sought the answer to a seemingly simple question, "Who was Melton Barker?" She knew only the bare-bones story: He was a Texas filmmaker who shot films around the rural South using child actors, none of whom had previous acting experience; he essentially remade one movie, The Kidnapper's Foil, over and over again. She also knew, thanks to a 1936 marriage certificate, that Barker had lived in Dallas -- at least in 1936. Made sense: Barker claimed to have discovered George McFarland -- "Spanky" from the Our Gang films, and a Dallas native.

In the summer of 2006, thanks to an article about her quest for Barker that appeared in the Austin American-Statesman, Frick received myriad tips about Barker's filmography and biography -- from Barker's stepson, no less. Turned out, he was born in West Texas but moved to Dallas as a child. American Public Media picked up the story last December, and one year later, the Associated Press checks in with Frick to see how her search is going for some unaccounted-for 60 Barker films. In short, sounds like she's about to spend a lot of time in West Texas. --Robert Wilonsky

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.