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Thursday, November 26, 2015

W. Wilson Rawls

Dreams Can Come True

Rawls and the movie
"Where the Red Fern Grows"
portrait of W. Wilson Rawls

Billy and his dogs

In 1974, a movie was made from Rawls' best selling children's book, Where the Red Fern Grows by Doty-Dayton Productions. Some of the following pictures and information was extracted from materials loaned by the Cherokee National Heritage Center and from articles printed in the Post-Register in 1974.

"Where the Red Fern Grows"

  • James Whitmore as Grandpa
  • Beverly Garland as Mother
  • Jack Ging as Father
  • Lonny Chapman as Sheriff
  • Stewart Petersen as Billy

    Cast List:
  • Jill Clark as Alice
  • Jeanna Wilson as Sara
  • Bill Thurman as Sam Bellington
  • Bill Dunbar as Ben Kyle
  • Rex Corley as Rubin Pritchard
  • John Lindsey as Rainie Pritchard
  • Garland McKinney as Mr. Pritchard
  • Robert Telford as Station Master
  • Charles Seat as Carl Brown
  • Roger Pancake as Shopkeeper
  • Marshall Edwards as Preacher
  • Wilson Rawls as the Narrator

    Production Staff:
  • Produced by Lyman Dayton
  • Directed by Norman Tokar
  • Screenplay by Douglas Stewart and Eleanor Lamb
  • Executive Producer: E. Ellis Dotty
Coleman family

Wilson Rawls with James Whitmore & Stewart Petersen

Childhood Memories Relived

"Talented movie actor, James Whitmore, plays one of the lead rolls in the movie version of Wilson Rawls' book "Where the Red Fern Grows." A new face in the movie, playing another lead role, is young Stewart Petersen of Cokesville, Wyo. Rawls is pictured above with the two actors. Both Mr. and Mrs. Rawls found all of the cast to be "extremely pleasant and interesting." This picture was taken on location while the movies was being shot in Oklahoma."

(The photograph is courtesy of the Cherokee National Heritage Center. The caption is from a feature story printed in the Post-Register of March 17, 1974.)

Wilson and Stewart
Wilson Rawls and Stewart Petersen
Photo from New Era Magazine April 1974 issue.

Extracts from Post-Register article
of March 28, 1974:

"Where the Red Fern Grows" is a true story written by the Idaho Falls author. He grew up in Oklahoma and recalled the days of his youth when he and his hounds hunted the Ozarks night after night for raccoons.

"The book, and now the movie, has captured the warmth and spirit of this Oklahoma family and what two beautiful dogs can mean to a 12-year-old boy.

"Stewart Petersen, a Cokeville, Wyo., boy, was in his first movie playing the lead role of Billy Coleman."

Recreation of Rawls' homestead
For the movie, a recreation of Rawls' homestead was
constructed by the Cherokee Indian nation, it was then
moved to an Indian village where it is a tourist attraction.
Photo from New Era Magazine April 1974 issue.


Rawls' Homepage This information was drawn from the materials collected by Madelaine Love in 1997 as a part of the "Woodrow Wilson Rawls: Dreams Can Come True" research project funded by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council and the Idaho Falls Public Library. The original interview tapes and transcripts, photographs and other materials are housed in the Idaho Room of the Idaho Falls Public Library and used with permission. Any use without permission is expressly forbidden.
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