Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The 28th Lone Pine Film Festival: Friday, Part 1

After an enjoyable opening night at the Lone Pine Film Festival, I was up bright and early Friday morning for a screening of NEVADA (1944), which I reviewed here in 2010.

Above, that's the moon going down over Lone Pine Peak and the Alabama Hills about 6:45 in the morning, as I left the motel to eat breakfast and catch the 7:30 a.m. movie. The first movies of the day are early at the festival, but that way the post-movie morning tours in the hills are over before it gets hot! The doors to the high school auditorium (below right) were already open before 7:00 a.m. as the first movie of the day was being set up.

NEVADA, which was Robert Mitchum's first leading role, filmed outside Lone Pine, was shown in honor of Mitchum's centennial. It's a fun "B" film in the style of the Tim Holt Westerns, with the irrepressible Richard Martin playing his long-running role as Chito Jose Gonzalez Bustamonte Rafferty.

As it happened, the screening also served as a nice tribute to actress Anne Jeffreys, who had passed on just a week and a half previously. She's seen here with Alan Ward (center) and Mitchum.

Jeffreys is seen below with Craig Reynolds and Nancy Gates, who is still with us at the age of 91.

William Wellman Jr. told me in a conversation that he knew Anne well and that he used to golf with her husband, Robert Sterling. He said she was quite the glamorous lady her entire life.

Wellman (below right) was interviewed by Ed Hulse (on the left) after the film. He recounted the story of his father spotting Mitchum and asking Mitchum if he was an actor. After Mitchum brusquely replied that he was, Wellman explained he wanted to test him for THE STORY OF G.I. JOE (1944). Mitchum received the part, which led to his only Oscar nomination and his quick ascension to top-tier stardom over the next couple of years. A decade after making G.I. JOE, Mitchum and Wellman reunited for TRACK OF THE CAT (1954).

When I saw the John Wayne film BLOOD ALLEY (1955) this summer I wondered if Wellman might have anything to say about it, given that his father kicked Mitchum off the film, replacing him with Wayne. Wellman said that his father and Mitchum remained friends even after his father fired Mitchum from the movie!

Incidentally, Mitchum would later work with Wayne on Howard Hawks' EL DORADO (1967). They were both in THE LONGEST DAY (1962) but I don't recall them sharing scenes.

After the movie we headed out front of Lone Pine High School (below) to board buses for our tour of the movie's locations in the Alabama Hills. I'll pause here to note there was a new "low bidder" local bus company this year; I won't go into details but let's just say the busses were in such poor condition the company owner should have been embarrassed to provide them. I later read that one bus even broke down before a John Wayne tour! It's the only substantive criticism I can recall having about the festival in the last few years.

The tour itself was fantastic. As always, tour guide Don Kelsen put together a detailed booklet of screenshots which we used to match up locations with the movie.

I asked Don (seen below) if he automatically knew where to find sites when he sees them in films and found his reply interesting. He said that if the Alabama Hills were a football field, he "knows where the aisles are," but he has to hunt for the "seats."  He also pointed out the sight line is very different in each direction which helps narrow down where the camera is pointing.

Here are a few examples of how we were able to compare the booklet to the sites around us; each photo with the booklet is followed by a shot of a location seen on that page.

Robert Mitchum rode his horse right next to this rock, as seen above in the opening credits shot:

My friend Beth wrote this weekend that "Lone Pine offers the rare chance to interact with cinematic history by touring the Alabama Hills." I thought that was a great way to put it, as being there is like stepping back in time. Pretty much nothing has changed since the movies were made decades ago.

For instance, see that metal hook sticking out of the low rock in the center? That's been there since John Wayne filmed TYCOON (1947) 70 years ago!

Coming in Friday, Part 2: The horseback ride my husband took through the Alabama Hills while I was on the NEVADA tour, plus more on local sites, festival guests, and movies!


Blogger Raquel Stecher said...

Lots of great photos and coverage here Laura! And of course, you know me, I love all the anecdotes about Robert Mitchum. I appreciate you sharing them.

9:12 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you so much, Raquel, I'm delighted you enjoyed it! I thought of you every time Robert Mitchum was discussed, wishing you could be there also!

Best wishes,

12:05 AM  
Blogger Vienna said...

Thanks so much for all the wonderful photos and all the details. Much appreciated.

9:36 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'm delighted to know you've enjoyed them, Vienna, thank you!

Best wishes,

3:05 PM  

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