South Arkansas Historical Preservation Society

SAHPS News and Press Releases

Hollywood’s Golden Era, Up-Close and Personal


    Rediscover the era when men were gents and ladies could be Femme fatale with a visit to The Michael G. Fitzgerald collection, a rare insider view to vintage Hollywood. The massive collection, of which less than one percent is currently on display from the over 10, 000 items, was amassed over a life time by El Dorado’s own film historian and author, Michael Fitzgerald.

    Michael’s fascination with the movies began at an early age.  During a recent visit to the exhibit his brother Jerry Fitzgerald said, “When Mike was around ten, I think, he was home sick from school one day and happened to catch an old Universal musical playing on T.V. and after that, well, you couldn’t  get him to shut up about movies. I think he had a crush on Gloria Jean and Deanna Durbin, but Mike would always tell us he would know these people one day. He started writing fan letters to Gary Gray, who played Lassie’s Timmy in The Painted Hills, and that was the start of it all.  You know those two were best friends for 40 years. Mother always talked about Mike’s friends coming to El Dorado to visit. They would stay at the house or park their travel trailers on the street in front. Over the years she told of visits by Ginger Rogers, Donald O’ Conner, Rosemary Clooney, Peggy Ryan, Gary Gray, and Rosemary DeCamp. She said they liked it here because no one recognized them or pestered them for autographs and pictures.”

    Michael’s collection, donated in memory of his mother, Tommie May Murphy Fitzgerald, includes over 600 vintage 16mm films, many which are now considered to be lost, hundreds of first edition books and autobiographies inscribed and signed by their authors, rare studio stills, headshots, lobby cards, posters, press books, records, and hundreds of cards, letters, and postcards. Almost every item in the collection was provided by the stars and authors, themselves, to the man who was not only a fan but a friend.