Arch Campbell Talks About His Career Reviewing Films

David Speck, Managing Director of Speck-Caudron Investment Group, can’t predict exactly what the stock market will do and film reviewer Arch Campbell can’t predict which movie will win next year’s Oscar. However, as experts in their fields – finance and films, respectively – they can speak with confidence and authority about their subjects. (Top photo: Speck on left, Campbell on right.)

Opening the December “Special Lecture for Clients,” Speck gave a brief update to his clients, saying, “The market has had a strange year. In August, there was a ten percent correction, which was due. However, the fact that the market dropped 600 points one day was a relatively minor event.” He contrasted this one-day downturn to 1987, when the market dropped 500 points – that was a 22.6 percent drop.

Continuing, Speck said, “September was mixed. October was one of the best months in history. November was mixed and December has been up and down. We’re not sure what to expect – the market has been so reactive, but I am somewhat optimistic [about next year].”

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Members of Speck-Caudron Investment Group with Arch Campbell

The investment group, co-managed by Tristan Caudron, holds these lectures periodically for their clients. The star of this show was Campbell, who spent four decades reviewing films for WJLA (Channel 7) D.C.’s ABC affiliate. “There are few people around that you don’t have to introduce,” Speck said. “He has brought fun, entertainment and information to generations.”

Campbell said that it was nice to be asked to come anywhere. Since he retired a year ago, he said, “Like Joan Rivers used to say, ‘I have so much white space on my calendar that I have to wear sunglasses.’” Campbell also commented on why he still wears his trademark hat. He took the hat off to show his bald head and said that he looked like Willard Scott without the hat. Looking around the Beth El Seminary where the lecture was held, Campbell said, “This setting is the most auspicious setting I’ve spoken in.”

Campbell then launched into this presentation about how he became a movie reviewer.

It all started in Dallas, Texas. “I was in my early 20’s, throwing spitballs around the newsroom. We had gotten a new producer, and he came into the newsroom, asking ‘Who wants to be a movie reviewer?’”

Campbell said that he raised his hand. The first movie he reviewed was American Graffiti. “I wrote that ‘it had a good beat kids can dance to’ and gave it three stars.” At the age of 26, Campbell became a movie reviewer for a major station in Dallas, Texas.

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Audience at Beth EL Seminar enjoys lecture by Arch Campbell

Going further back in his life, Campbell talked about what he THOUGHT he was going to do. As a child growing up in San Antonio, he listened to his father playing the piano and wanted to do the same. “He had perfect pitch and could play the piano by ear,” said Campbell. He could identify notes while blindfolded. My father didn’t sleep well and so after TV signed off, he would sit down and play the piano. As a kid, I would hear him playing all these great songs.”

His parents paid for piano lessons, but any hopes of Campbell becoming a great piano player were dashed after his first recital. “It was me and a six-year-old and the six-year-old was way better than I was,” he said. In high school, he became interested in photography, but was thrown off the grounds of a site where he tried to take photographs without a press pass.

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Elaine Flynn Reads One of Arch’s ‘Letters’

Speech class became a turning point for Campbell. He told a story about having an accident with a lawn mower and being in the hospital. “The stories were funny and two of my teachers said, ‘You should go into broadcasting.’”

He went to community college and got a job at KBTC in Austin, Texas. The station was owned by Lyndon B. Johnson, who had a small apartment above the radio station. He remembers listening to LBJ’s address in March, 1968, when he said that he would not accept the nomination for President. “There was a huge collective groan in the station as somebody said, ‘Oh no, he’s [Johnson] coming back’ [to the station],” said Campbell.

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Dick Stohr Reads Arch’s Final ‘Letter’

Campbell enjoyed working for the radio station but he really wanted to work on television. His chance came when they wanted his wife to leave where she was working and asked her, “What will it take to keep your husband here?” The answer was a spot on television. Campbell joined WRC-TV and was on television for 42 years before retiring.

“It’s interesting to look at the random nature of life,” said Campbell. “Here I am and isn’t it interesting to see how I got here.” Campbell said that he has been watching movies since he was 11 years old when he watched Shock Theater, Frankenstein, and Dracula. “I loved those movies,” he said. During college, he paid $10 for ten tickets for the Circle Theater’s double features.

Campbell reminisced about some of the new personalities that he worked with. “We had the best line-up. Jim Vance did the news; Bob Ryan the weather; George Michael the sports and then I did the movie reviews. After that Johnny Carson came on. “One of the reasons that it worked so well is that that four of us bonded so well.”

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Dottie Clarke Reads Another ‘Letter’

As he did during his television show, Campbell broke up his presentation by asking people to come up and read “letters” (basically corny jokes) addressed to him. Reading the letters were Elaine Flynn, licensed tour guide and speaker; Dick Stohr, ‘That Yo-Yo Guy’ and Dottie Clarke, Arlington County General District Court judge. ACT Executive Director John Porter won one of the movie passes given out at the end of the lecture.

Wrapping up the lecture, Campbell answered questions about his favorite movies – Citizen Kane and The Third Man; worst movie – there are a lot of the Dmes he binge watch?  Yes, he recently watched 60 hours of The Wire. He also commented on the current animation trend in films, saying that “Inside Out was one of the best movies I’ve seen. There’s an example of something good coming out of the computer world.”

Photos by Gale Curio

About Gale Curcio (15 Articles)
Gale Curcio is a freelance writer who writes for several local publications. She manages Curcio Connections, a multi-faceted business that focuses on running Estate Sales (salebygale.com), retail, and writing. She was a reporter and editor with the Connection Newspapers for over 10 years. She also spent four years doing development, marketing and communications for non-profit organizations. Visit her website at www.curcioconnections.com.