Friday, October 19, 2018

Tonight's Movies: Frontier Days (1934), The Wild Horse Stampede (1926), Will James' Smoky (1933), and Broken Lance (1954) at the Lone Pine Film Festival

This was the beautiful view as we left our hotel before 7:00 a.m. Saturday morning for a full day of events at the Lone Pine Film Festival:

We began our movie viewing at 7:30 a.m. with FRONTIER DAYS (1934), a 61-minute film starring Bill Cody and Bill Cody Jr.

This was my first Bill Cody film, and I thought it was pretty good. Wheeler Oakman, who I saw in two films at this year's Cinecon Festival, was the villain trying to steal the ranch from the Wilson family, including Beth (Ada Ince) and her little brother Bart (Bill Cody Jr.). The Pinto Kid (Cody Sr.) saves the day!

There was nothing particularly special about the performances or the film, but I enjoyed it -- especially Bill Sr.'s roping. Robert Hill directed, with cinematography by Brydon Baker.

Afterwards we went on a car caravan tour of the movie's locations led by Don Kelsen, who prepares extremely helpful and interesting booklets of screen shots for tour participants to use.

Here we're following the caravan out of town, heading off toward the first couple of locations...

...which included what later came to be known as the "Hoppy Cabin." This cabin was seen in many Westerns but is most closely associated with William Boyd and Hopalong Cassidy Westerns; not only was the cabin sometimes seen in Hoppy movies, but Boyd also lived there during filming! That said, at the time the cabin appeared in FRONTIER DAYS, the first Hopalong Cassidy Western was still a year away.

Walking through the Alabama Hills where the movie was filmed:

Here's a comparison of a screen shot from the 1934 movie, seen at the upper right of the page...

...with the rocks as they look today. (Click any photo to enlarge for a closer look.)

More exploring!

After the tour and some lunch we had a wonderful time meeting Jay Dee Witney, his wife Kay, and their dog Pixel. Jay Dee is the son of director William Witney and very knowledgeable about his father's career. Jay Dee maintains a website on his father and has also worked on commentary tracks for Kino Lorber releases of his father's films.

We also had the good fortune to chat again this year with William Wellman Jr., who is always so friendly and interesting. He shared that the actresses his father enjoyed working with the most were Barbara Stanwyck and Loretta Young.

Then it was on to the hour-long silent film THE WILD HORSE STAMPEDE (1934), starring Jack Hoxie and a young Fay Wray, who was 18 when the movie was shot. The film also features a smart horse named Scout and an even smarter, tougher dog named Bunk, played by the busy "Rex," who made numerous films from 1923 to 1929.

Hoxie plays Jack Tanner, who works hard rounding up wild horses hoping to have enough money to marry his childhood sweetheart Jessie (Wray). In a spectacular sequence, the henchmen of evil Charlie Champion (William Steele) turn the corralled wild horses free...just as Champion and Jessie are riding into their path on a buggy.

THE WILD HORSE STAMPEDE was directed by Clifford Smith and filmed by William Nobles. Jay C. Munns provided the live piano accompaniment to this enjoyable film. I was especially glad to see it since I'd missed out at this year's Cinecon Festival due to it showing at a very late hour.

SMOKY (1933) aka WILL JAMES' SMOKY, was sadly as depressing as the 1946 version I'd previously seen with Fred MacMurray. Victor Jory plays a cowboy who loves a beautiful horse, who tragically is stolen and spends years -- years! -- suffering abuse before he's rescued. At 69 minutes, at least it was shorter than the remake, but it's a long time to watch that kind of a story. When the movie's happy, it's enjoyable, but when it's's kind of a slog.

A curious tidbit is that Will James, who wrote the original novel, serves as the onscreen narrator, periodically seen to bridge the gaps in time. There were Will James historians at the festival who disclosed that his voice was actually dubbed, as he slurred his words due to a drinking problem.

SMOKY was directed by Eugene Forde and filmed by Daniel B. Clark. Jory's leading lady was Irene Bentley.

It's become a lovely tradition to enjoy a dinner each year with Beth Ann Gallagher and her husband, chatting about Westerns, old time radio, and more. We had a great time, as always!

Then it was time for the Saturday evening "keynote" film, BROKEN LANCE (1954), starring Robert Wagner, Spencer Tracy, Richard Widmark, Katy Jurado, and Jean Peters, directed by Edward Dmytryk.

As the auditorium at Lone Pine High School fills up, Julie Rogers Pomilia and her husband, along with Rob Word and Vanda Krefft, laugh for the camera, with Wyatt and Lisa McCrea in the row behind them:

I last saw BROKEN LANCE back in 2007, and while I enjoyed it fairly well then, it definitely played more pleasingly in the dark on widescreen! I had forgotten just how much the movie belongs to Robert Wagner, who's quite good as Tracy's troubled youngest son. I really enjoyed watching him interact with the rest of the fine cast.

After the movie Wagner, now 88, chatted with Ben Mankiewicz and Scott Eyman:

He told so many stories I can't recite them all -- I should have taken notes but I wanted to be "in the moment"! -- suffice it to say it was a wonderful experience.

Though I've liked Robert Wagner since early childhood, when my mom watched him on IT TAKES A THIEF (1968-70), and I also enjoy his '50s films, I guess I wouldn't have called him a favorite; however, meeting him turned out to be very special indeed. I've been fortunate to meet a fairly significant number of actors over the years, and Wagner really stands out for me as someone with star power and charm; he may be nearly 90 but when he turned that megawatt smile on me I'm lucky my knees didn't buckle! Small wonder he had such a successful career.

He was very kind and patiently signed books and other items for every fan in line; I had the three books he wrote with Scott Eyman signed by both men. I had brought two of them with me and purchased the 2016 book I LOVED HER IN THE MOVIES in the museum gift shop.

Finally, to wrap up my Saturday coverage here's a photo of two gentlemen descended from famous Hollywood families, Ben Mankiewicz and Wyatt McCrea:

Coming soon: A look at Sunday at the festival, including the parade down Main Street, and a review of Tim Holt in THE ARIZONA RANGER (1948).


Blogger Walter S. said...

Laura, I so very much enjoyed this write-up on the LONE PINE FILM FESTIVAL. Thank you for taking me along. You made me really want to see WILD HORSE STAMPEDE(1926). BROKEN LANCE has always been a favorite of mine, since I first saw it over 50 years ago. What a successful career Robert Wagner has had, and is still having. All the way back to 1950 and still going strong today.

Keep doing what you are doing. Thank you.

5:59 AM  
Blogger Net - "It's a Wonderful Movie" said...

What a fantastic adventure, Laura! These old western type movies are so good and capturing. Thank you for sharing! :)

Blessings, Net

6:37 AM  
Blogger DKoren said...

Wow, just loving reading about this year's festival. Love the pictures, as always, and love hearing about Robert Wagner.

8:30 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Walter, thank you so much! I really enjoyed WILD HORSE STAMPEDE, which has fantastic vistas of the Alabama Hills, so I hope you have the chance to see it before long. Thank you for the encouragement and for letting me know you enjoyed the post!

Net, thank you as well, I appreciate it! The entire weekend truly was a great adventure. I know your site will be busy with all the Christmas movies coming up on Hallmark -- thank you in advance for your coverage!

Deb, always great to hear from you! I hope you'll have the chance to get back to the 395 and attend the festival at some point, I'm certain you'd love it. It really was a marvelous chance to see Mr. Wagner in such a relatively intimate setting.

Best wishes,

9:13 PM  

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