Jean Arthur: Hollywood artistry meets Women’s History Month

This special originally aired on November 29, 2019

A mural in Plattsburgh, New York celebrates a connection the city has to classical Hollywood.

Artist Brendon Palmer-Angell painted the forty-foot high mural on the back wall of the old bank building at the corner of Brinkerhoff and Marion Streets in downtown Plattsburgh.  Hear the painter’s thoughts about the piece in this video essay by Spotlight producer Paul Larson and videographer Will Houle.

The mural depicts acclaimed Hollywood actress Jean Arthur, whose life began in Plattsburgh in the year 1900.  She rose to fame in the 1930s, by appearing in comedies, and she later starred in three films directed by Frank Capra, including Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and You Can’t Take it With You.

Outside Art Co-Founders Amy Guglielmo and Julia Devine say their organization partners with groups including the Plattsburgh Sunrise Rotary, to help fund large public art projects in the city. 

The Jean Arthur Mural is the ninth piece commissioned by Outside Art.

You’ll find more information about artist Brendon Palmer-Angell at

Jean Arthur’s Biographer struggled to research the secretive star.

Biographer John Oller of New York City faced a difficult task when writing a book about Hollywood actress Jean Arthur. 

The star of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Shane kept her personal information, including the city in which she was born, very private all of her life.  Through careful research and conversations with people who knew the actress personally, Oller learned Jean Arthur was born in Plattsburgh, New York, even though she always called New York City her birthplace.  He also learned other details about her life that will move readers who are interested in Hollywood history, and in the struggles of a comedic actress who enjoyed her work but battled anxiety while making audiences laugh.

Oller visited Plattsburgh to view the mural after it was completed. Larson interviewed the biographer about the elusive actress.

Lean more about Oller’s books at

Award-Winning Special

This half-hour special, an expansion of the Spotlight segment on Mountain Lake Journal, won a New York State Broadcasters Association award for Outstanding Specialty Programming in 2020.  It was produced by Paul Larson with videography by Will Houle.

Spotlight is made possible, in part, by the Glenn and Carol Pearsall Adirondack Foundation, dedicated to improving the quality of life for year-round residents of the Adirondack Park. “Spotlight” is also supported by Hill & Hollow Music.