Beth Brickell made a huge and lasting impact on the entertainment industry, starring in television shows and movies, and going on to direct and produce her own.
Image Credit: Encyclopedia of Arkansas
Beth Brickell was born on November 13 1936, in Brinkley, Arkansas, and was raised in Pine Bluff and Camden. A consummate tomboy, Brickell ran around barefoot, watched cowboy movies, built balsa wood model planes, and won awards in archery. In 1954, She graduated from Camden High School and attended the University of Arkansas where she majored in history and political science. Brickell watched the movie East of Eden in 1955 after the death of the lead actor James Dean. She was mesmerized and decided to pursue acting that very same evening. Unsure of how to become an actress, she kept her aspirations a secret, especially from her parents. In 1958, she graduated and spent a year traveling Europe, before studying European history at the University of Edinburgh.
Still determined to pursue acting, she wrote to her idol Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco, a celebrated former actress, for advice on how to enter the business. To her surprise, Grace Kelly invited her to Monaco for a meeting. During their meeting, Grace told Brickell, “The best teachers are in New York, and you have to study first.” Grace had studied in New York with famed acting coach Sanford “Sandy” Meisner. So, Brickell followed in her footsteps and moved to New York to study with Sandy as well. She spent the four years acting in more than twenty-five stage productions as she learned from Sandy and then Lee Strasberg, founder of the Actors Studio. Soon Brickell was cast as one of the lead characters in a half-hour family adventure series called Gentle Ben. The series which also starred a 700-pound black bear was a hit and ran from 1967 to 1969.
Throughout the 1970s, Brickell racked up numerous appearances on episodic television shows like Marcus Welby, M.D., Gunsmoke, Emergency!, Bonanza, Hawaii Five-O, and Fantasy Island. She also appeared in several feature films, including The Only Way Home, The Posse, and Death Game. All in all, Brickell starred in more than 100 television episodes, television movies, and motion pictures. She even received Emmy nominations for her roles on Hawaii Five-O and Bonanza.
Brickell gave up acting to pursue a career as a film director and became a fellow at the American Film Institute Conservatory in Los Angeles where she received an MFA in 1978. She went on to establish her own production company called Luminous Films. According to the company’s website, “Beth Brickell formed her own independent film company, Luminous Films Inc., to pursue a passion to make uplifting character-driven movies that speak to the lives of viewers.” Brickell has achieved this goal by writing, producing, and directing three award-winning made for television movies, A Rainy Day, Summer’s End, and Mr. Christmas. Brickell even developed an original screenplay called Disappearance and a subsequent novel based on an 18-article investigative series she wrote for the Arkansas Gazette in 1986 about the mysterious disappearance of Maud Crawford, a prominent Camden attorney and socialite.
Brickell has made a point to give back to the film industry, in general, and specifically, in Arkansas. She served as chair of the steering committee of the Director’s Guild of American Women, an Emmy Awards panelist, and a member of the grants committee for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. She also taught screenwriting at the University of Arkansas and served on the screening committee for the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival. For her impressive achievements in the entertainment industry, Brickell was inducted into the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame in 2007.
Written by: Ninfa O. Barnard