Bennie Kent was a pioneer
of newsreel film and worked with Bill Tilghman creating THE PASSING OF THE OKLAHOMA OUTLAW.
He documented life in Oklahoma from the turn of the century through 2 wars and many celebrations. Join us in honoring his life-long love of preserving our history on film.
1937 Newspaper Article
Film ‘Shot’ by Veteran Newsreel Cameraman Covers State’s Story; Shows Inaugurations,
By WILLIAM d. WYATT
thrills over the making of a semi-historical moving picture on “The Life of Jesse James” an Oklahoman is going
quietly ahead with another movie, one which he has spent 35 years in making. He
is J.B. “Bennie” Kent, one-time ace newsreel cameraman for Pathe News in Oklahoma.
picture is made up of actual newsreel film, taken in Oklahoma from its earliest days to the present. (1937) Kent has covered every Oklahoma gubernatorial inauguration.
He has filmed drouths, floods, civil warfare, beauty contests, oil booms and religious services-from Indian stomp dances
to the visit of a Roman Catholic cardinal.
life story might well make a movie plot. Born in England 71 years ago (1866)
, he came to the United States with his parents and settled in Wisconsin. Later
the family moved to Iowa, and at the age of 12 Bennie was apprenticed to a jeweler.
Lived With Sioux Indians
later he ran away from home, drifting into Nebraska. He settled down with the
Sioux Indian tribe, learned their habits, then struck out for Oklahoma in a covered wagon.
to photography, first as a hobby, then as a profession when the St. Louis world fair committee commissioned him to photograph
Oklahoma. With an 11 by 14 “still” view camera, he toured the state
with horse and buggy, photographing phases of Oklahoma life.
needed a representative in Oklahoma, so Kent became a cinematographer. His first
movie camera he had made to order in Chicago. When it was worn out, he bought
a Moy camera made in England.
25 years ago, and the old Moy today is a far cry from the modern sound cameras. But
under Kent’s expert handling, it still works, and though it is seen less often around Oklahoma than it was in the old
days, Kent , with his black bowler hat and long cigar still is on the job when news is breaking.
Editing 100,000 Feet of Film
he is less active. His bright blue eyes retain their sparkle, but he is more
content now to stay at his little farm two miles from Chandler, helping his wife, who was a portrait photographer before their
marriage. Much of life has passed before Kent’s eyes, and it has left him
cheerfully philosophical. His chief f ambition now is to piece together the 100,000
feet of movie film he has in sealed boxes at his home into a chronological history of Oklahoma. Half of each day he spends editing the film, cutting, splicing– building a history.
can understand the scenes now on the film, but someday he will have his picture completed.
And it will be an authentic, animated history of the state, probably the only such picture in the world.
to quote him, “through smiles and tears, let us watch the years of our lives go by again.