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Allison Argo
Director Allison Argo with Gorilla, 1990.jpg
Argo with Gorilla in 1990
Born (1953-12-23) December 23, 1953 (age 70)
Years active 1975-present
Awards 1 duPont-Columbia
6 Emmy
4 Genesis
4 Christopher Columbus

Allison Argo (born December 23, 1953) is an American film producer, director, writer, editor, and narrator. She is best known for her documentaries that focus on endangered wildlife and conservation. Her films have received awards including six National Emmy Awards. and the duPont-Columbia Award for journalism.

In her early career as an actress, Argo performed on Broadway, in television, and in film. Her theatre roles included work as an original cast member in two Broadway theatre productions, and her work in television and film included roles in television movies and a major role in a TV series, along with recurring roles in two soap operas.

In 1989, while on location in the state of Washington, Argo happened upon a gorilla caged as an exhibit in a shopping mall. This experience led Argo to produce and direct her first film, The Urban Gorilla (National Geographic 1992), about the lives of captive gorillas. Argo received the duPont-Columbia award for the documentary. Since that time, Argo has dedicated her work towards advocating for the welfare and understanding of wild animals through documentary films and public speaking engagements.

With her production company, ArgoFilms, LTD, Argo has produced eighteen films. Among others, notable award-winning films have included Keepers of the Wild (National Geographic and PBS 1992), The Last Frog (National Geographic 1996), The Secret Life of Cats (National Geographic 1999), The Urban Elephant (National Geographic and PBS NATURE 2000), Chimpanzees: An Unnatural History (PBS NATURE 2006), Crash: a Tale of Two Species (PBS NATURE 2008), and Parrot Confidential (PBS NATURE 2013), The Last Pig (2017).

Early life

Argo was raised on Cape Cod as one of two daughters of Gordon Harold Argo (06/22/1924–07/10/2003) and Elizabeth "Betsy" Argo (née Brunk; 1922–2016), both actors. The Argos owned and operated the Orleans Arena Theater, America's first summer stock theater-in-the-round, in the town of Orleans, Massachusetts. From childhood, she was immersed in theater and the world of drama, which prepared her for a career as a professional actress in New York and Los Angeles.

Career as an actress

On Broadway, Argo played major roles as an original cast member in the revivals of Ibsen's The Lady from the Sea (1976), and Tennessee Williams’ The Night of the Iguana (1976–1977), and she appeared in the musical Grease. She played a leading role on the CBS television series Ladies Man and was featured on WKRP in Cincinnati, as well as on ten television movies and pilots. Argo played recurring roles on the soap operas Search for Tomorrow and The Bold and the Beautiful. She also voiced cartoon characters, including the character Andrea in the Cathy animated television specials.


Director Allison Argo on location filming Chimpanzees, An Unatural History
Allison Argo on location filming Chimpanzees, An Unnatural History in 2006

Argo's experience seeing the gorilla, Ivan, isolated and on display in an enclosure comprising two concrete rooms in a shopping mall was the catalyst for her forming ArgoFilms, LTD. Concerned about gorillas in similar situations as Ivan's, Argo made them the subject of her first film The Urban Gorilla, which in addition to the duPont-Columbia award was the recipient of two Emmy nominations.

Since The Urban Gorilla, ArgoFilms has gone on to advocate for, among others, frogs, snakes, cats, elephants, chimpanzees, and birds. One film has documented the effects of the September 11 attacks upon people. The Story of Dao, about a street elephant named Pang Dao, has been in pre-production since 2011. A scout (research expedition) was completed in Thailand in 2012.

ArgoFilms has produced eighteen documentaries for National Geographic, PBS, and the NATURE series. Allison Argo has either produced, directed, or written all films. Glenn Close narrated the first two films; and Argo has narrated since. The films have garnered twelve Emmy nominations, with six Emmys having been won in various categories including two for directing. Additionally, ArgoFilms has been awarded four Genesis Awards, most recently in 2014 for the film Parrot Confidential ( PBS NATURE 2013), and has also been recognized by the Missoula, Jackson Hole, and Japan Wildlife Film Festivals. In Parrot Confidential, the circumstances of parrots in captivity who often outlive their owners and suffer as a result are explored. The subject had received little documentation until the film was produced.

In an April 2014 article in a Cape Cod periodical, Argo has said that the most satisfying aspect of her work is when it makes a difference. Her goal is to open eyes; and if people are given the facts, they will do what they can to improve life. The work of ArgoFilms is meant to "foster compassion for animals and to champion wildlife through film, providing a voice for those who have none."

Stage acting credits (Broadway)

Year Title Role Notes
1975 Grease Patty Simcox replacement
1976 The Lady From the Sea (Revival) Hilda original cast member
1976-'77 The Night of the Iguana (Revival) Charlotte Goodall original cast member

Television acting credits

Year Title Production Type Role Notes
1976, '77 Search For Tomorrow TV series Cindy French
1977 Between the Lines film dancer
1979 The Gift TV movie Kathleen
1980 WKRP in Cincinnati TV series Carol Travis Episode 36 "A Family Affair"
1980 High Ice TV movie Kathy
1980 Casino TV movie Angie Taylor
1980 The Return of Frank Cannon TV movie Jessica Bingham
1980, '81 Ladies' Man TV series Susan Major role, appeared in all 16 episodes
1983 An Uncommon Love TV movie Arvetta
1984 Legmen TV series Linda "I Shall be Re-Released"
1984 The Paper Chase TV series Unnamed Season 2, Episode 8 "Mrs. Hart"
1985 Cry From the Mountain Feature film Laurie Matthews Argo's first feature film
1986 Club Med TV movie Allison
1987 The Bronx Zoo TV series Mrs. McKaren “Conspicuous by Their Abstinence”, “Changes”
1987 Cathy TV movie Andrea (voice) Argo's first animated film
1987 The Bold and the Beautiful TV series Robin West “Episode #1.153”, “Episode #1.151”, “Episode #1.144”
1988 Family Medical Center TV series Unnamed
1988 Cathy’s Last Resort TV movie Andrea (voice)
1989 Vytor: The Starfire Champion TV movie Baboose (voice)
1989 Cathy’s Valentine TV movie Andrea (voice)
1991 Star Street: The Adventures of the Star Kids TV series Moon (voice) Major role

Filmography, awards, and nominations

As producer, director, writer, or editor

Year Film Title Involvement Notes
1990 The Urban Gorilla producer, director, writer, editor Nominated – 1990 Emmy Award
Nominated – 1990 Emmy Award
DuPont-Columbia Award
Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival – First recipient of the Best Newcomer award
Christopher Columbus Award
WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival Award
Genesis Award
Narrator – Glenn Close
1992 Keepers of the Wild producer, director, writer Won – 1992 National Emmy Award for directing
Christopher Columbus Award
Narrator – Glenn Close
1996 The Last Frog producer, director, writer, narrator Won – 1996 National Emmy Award
Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival Award
Japan international Wildlife Film Festival Award
Missoula International Wildlife Film Festival Best of Festival
Earthwatch Award
1997 Stolen Treasures producer, director, writer, narrator
King Cobra writer Won - 1997 Emmy Award News and Documentary
Lords of the Everglades writer
Extraordinary Dogs producer, director Finalist - Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival
Snake Invasion producer, director, writer, narrator
1999 The Secret Life of Cats producer, director, writer, narrator Won – 1999 National Emmy Award
Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival
Japan international Wildlife Film Festival
International Wildlife Film Festival
ITVA Peer Awards
Christopher Columbus Award
Wisdom of the Wild producer, director, writer, narrator
2000 The Urban Elephant producer, director, writer, narrator Won – 2001 Emmy Award for Outstanding Cultural & Informational Documentary – Best Director
The New York Festivals World Medal
Genesis Award
2003 Inca Mummies: Secrets of a Lost World producer, director, writer, narrator ITVA Peer Awards
2004 Return to Freedom producer, director, writer, narrator, editor A short film for the American Wild Horse Sanctuary
2006 Chimpanzees: An Unnatural History producer, director, writer, narrator Won - 2007 National Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in a Craft: Research
Genesis Award
Best Editing, Best Television Program $250,000-$500,000 Budget, Merit for Powerful Storytelling, and Merit for Advocacy at the International Wildlife Film Festival
Christopher Columbus Award
Explorer's Club
2008 Crash: A Tale of Two Species producer, director, writer, editor, narrator 31st International Wildlife Film Festival: Sapphire Award-Second Place, Best Conservation & Environmental Issue, Best Script
Nominated - National Emmy Award
2009 Frogs: The Thin Green Line producer, director, writer, editor, narrator Selection for DC Environmental Film Fest
2011 9/11: Where Were You? producer, director, writer, editor This film is about immediate responses to the attack on the World Trade Center.
2013 Parrot Confidential producer, writer, editor, narrator Genesis Award
Special Jury Award, New York Wild Film Festival
2015 The Sagebrush Sea co-producer, writer, narrator
2017 The Last Pig director, co-producer
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