"Wanda the Wonderful," a feature-length documentary film about a volatile 1920s Wild West sharpshooter who uses her firearm skills to escape her past, will have its world premiere at the Oak Cliff Film Festival in Dallas at 6 p.m. June 22 at the Kessler Theater. Seven years in the making, the film is a labor of love by Wanda’s granddaughter Carolyn Macartney, associate professor of film at SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts.

Born in 1900 in the Chickasaw Indian Territory, Wanda grew up to be a rebel, a woman who toted guns and wore pants at a time when skirts were the norm. She traveled the world as “Wanda Savage,” entertaining vaudeville audiences both large and small with her sharpshooting act. Along the way, she bore seven children by four different men, performed as a stuntwoman and actress in Hollywood, and worked at The Ritz brothel in Thermopolis, Wyoming. It was at The Ritz that she met her fourth and final husband, a sheep rancher named Carl Hampton. Wanda and Carl lived together happily for some time, until the secrets of her past caught up with her, and during a heated argument Wanda shot Carl.

“I never met my grandmother Wanda but was always intrigued by the stories I heard about her growing up, even though she was a taboo subject,” says Macartney. “With this film I have sought to uncover the true story of Wanda. She was a magnetic, restless and fallible character who led an adventurous life and had numerous tempestuous love affairs. She followed her passions at whatever cost, and at a time when women had few options. The film looks at the sacrifices that individuals of extreme talent and temperament make, and their consequences.”

A documentary/narrative/Western hybrid, the film is based upon and includes documentary elements about the real-life Wanda, including archival imagery from her Hollywood and show business careers and ranching life; interviews with descendants and friends; voice-overs of Wanda’s letters to her children; and family home movies.  Dramatic interpretations feature Texas actors Arianne Margot and Zach Rose, as well as award-winning songwriter and musician James McMurtry. The narrative elements were filmed on location in Wyoming and Texas. More than two dozen SMU film students and alumni contributed significantly to "Wanda the Wonderful," including award-winning filmmaker Kimby Caplan (M.A. ’05), who served as director of photography.

Macartney received numerous grants to assist in the film’s production, including  a Kodak Faculty Scholarship Award from the national University Film & Video Association, a Women in Film - Dallas grant, a Texas Filmmaker’s grant, grants from the Meadows School of the Arts and the SMU University Research Council, and a generous donation from the Chickasaw Nation.

The Kessler Theater is located at 1230 W. Davis St. in Dallas (75208). Tickets for the June 22 showing are $10 and may be purchased online in advance or at the door. For more information, call 214-272-8346 or go here.

Following its debut in Dallas, the film will have a local premiere in Worland, Wyoming, July 3-6 at the Washakie Twin Cinema.

To learn more about "Wanda the Wonderful," go here.


Carolyn Macartney works in photography and film, and hybrids thereof. She made her first film with a Double 8mm film camera that she found in her granny’s attic to accompany her original electronic music composition. Her work is motivated by themes of the outsider and non-conformist individuals. Raw, provocative and fallible characters interest her most.

Her films have won awards at the Ann Arbor Film Festival, Onion City Film Festival, Houston Worldfest and other juried screenings and have enjoyed success in screenings and festivals around the world. She has 14 years of professional experience as a director of photography, having shot four feature-length narrative films as well as numerous music videos, commercials, short films and documentaries. In addition, her award-winning still photography has been published and exhibited in the U.S. and Europe. Among other honors, Macartney has received an award for music composition and a DAAD scholarship to study painting at the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin, Germany. She has lived in five different countries and in as many U.S. states. She received her B.A. in art from Smith College and her M.F.A. in filmmaking from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.