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At The Movies ... in Owens Valley



terror
Son of Belle Star - 1953
along came jones
Along Came Jones - 1945
the good, the bad, the ugly
The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly - 1966

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Lone Pine Film History Museum

Lone Pine, Where the Real West Becomes the Reel West

lone pine film history museum
Lone Pine Film History Museum at night - courtesy of Dave Toussaint
(Copyright Dave Toussaint)

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Note: "OLLP" at then end of a text block indicates the text was taken from On Location in Lone Pine by Dave Holland.

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panavision
Movies/Documentaries/TV Series
Filmed in Owens Valley
(.xls format, .pdf format)
panavision

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A FILM LEGACY
Owens Valley has been the cradle of westerns since the early '20s. It has know such legends as Fatty Arbuckle, Jack Hoxie, Tom Mix, John Wayne, Cary Grant, Errol Flynn, Hopalong Cassidy (William Boyd), Hoot Gibson, Spencer Tracy, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Buck Jones, Tom Tyler, Steve McQueen, Tex Ritter, Randolph Scott, Jay Silverheels, Clayton Moore, Johnny Mack Brown, Humphrey Bogart, Marlon Brando, Ken Maynard, Karl Malden, Gregory Peck, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Susan Hayward, Jane Russell, Barbara Stanwyck. Rhonda Fleming, Anne Jeffreys, Linda Darnell, Dale Evans, Anne Baxter and a host of Hollywood celebrities over the decades.

Movie production to Owens Valley is a synonymous as bread is to butter. And, Owens Valley has provided a lot of "bread and butter" to Hollywood producers over these many decades. Of course the most famous of all the places in Owens Valley for movie production has been Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills. Perhaps the 2nd best place has been the area around Hot Creek, followed by the area around Dolomite where once the fame Carson and Colorado Narrow Gauge Railroad once passed through on its southern terminus route at Keeler.

The Alabama Hills and Hot Creek are timelessly still intact and continue to service the movie industry. Dolomite, where once Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Anne Francis, Ernest Borgnine, Lee Marvin, and Walter Brenan entertained us all in "Bad Day at Blackrock" has long since become a ghost town site. The Carson and Colorado Railroad is gone and rail service to Owens Valley from Mojave is also a distant memory. But, HALLELUJAH, Owens Valley, and the Lone Pine area in particular, continue to service the movie industry.
alabama hills
Movie set in the Alabama Hills - 1928

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dolomite siding
Carson and Colorado Railroad siding at Dolomite

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The Man on the Anchor

You can't tell the story of the movies in Lone Pine without considerable mention of Russ Spainhower. For years, he was THE contact man in Lone Pine for the studios.
russ spainhower
Paramount, RKO, Warner Brothers, 20th Century-Fox, Republic, MGM, Columbia, Universal - at one point or another, they all called to say, "We're coming up in October. Can you get 75 - 100 horses for a stampede across the flats?" or "Find us a deep canyon with a narrow entrance for the crooks' hideout" or...

"The studios really depended on him" is the proud recall of Spainhower's daughter, Joy Anderson, who still lives with husband Earl on the Anchor. "They got to know him over the years and they trusted him."

When and how did Russ Spainhower first hook up with the movies? "You saw those snapshots in the scrapbook of Fatty Arbuckle working on The Roundup," Mrs. Anderson said, "I don't know who would have taken those but my dad, which means he was actually on the set - doing no-telling-what but thee, nevertheless - when the movies first came to Lone Pine!?

To highlight the added historical significance of The Roundup, it is generally accepted that this was the first film made in Lone Pine. Those scrapbook snapshots are dated January, 1920.

"The Movies needed a man they could call day or night, someone who could solve whatever problems they had and make whatever arrangements they needed and my dad just filled bill better than anyone else up here!"

So says Joy Anderson, speaking of her father, Russ Spainhower, Hollywood's contact man in Lone Pine for so many years.
the roundup

conestoga

buckboard

"He knew the country, he could find them the locations they needed, he could get them however many horses they needed, or cattle, or wagons." Yes, he knew his rolling stock, too. If they needed buckboards on Thursday, freight wagons on Friday and Conestogas on Monday, they'd be there.

In the beginning, a rancher named Al Gallaher furnished the horses and cattle for the Westerns, Mrs. Anderson said, but when he moved his stock to Calistoga in the early '30s, Spainhower quickly filled the void. But he was involved long before that.

A native of North Carolina, he had come to Lone Pine in 1909 via Southern California to work for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. (Farming was already diminishing as an industry here; that had begun when the City of Los Angeles needed water for its growing metropolis and began buying the 80 per cent of the property and water rights it now controls in the Owens Valley.)

By the '20s, Spainhower had a ranch the studios could use right in town, not only as a location but as a place to keep whatever animals they brought up themselves "from down below."

He was not only foreman of the DWP-owned Lucas Ranch but had begun leasing it "so he really had something to say about its operation," Mrs. Anderson said. "And I'm sure that in the beginning, that ranch was a contributing factor to his becoming the contact man up here. His involvement really just evolved."

He rented them the ranch, then found them livestock, then helped them find locations. Soon the word was out: If you were going on location in Lone Pine, Russ Spainhower was the man who could help you, whether you used his ranch or not. "It really grew like Topsy," his daughter said. "He started off doing a little and ended up doing a lot."


His Lucas Ranch had some large corrals and barns, all in excellent condition, all available for use. And use them they did. As early as 1922, Fox shot part of Just Tony with Tom Mix in the Lucas corrals and by 1926, there was a special barn for Ken Maynard's horse, "Tarzan," and Tarzan's doubles, five in all.

By the '30s, Spainhower had begun buying cattle of his own, stocking the adjoining rangeland which he bought from Dave Holland and name the "Anchor Ranch." As noted elsewhere, he began building the mission/hacienda set in 1938 but "we didn't move onto the Anchor until 1940." Mrs. Anderson recalled.

Probably the first movies to use the new set were two 1939 Hopalong Cassidy Westerns, Range War and Law of the Pampas, followed by Wagons Westward (Republic 1940) with Chester Morris (who later was "Boston Blackie" for Columbia).

The last picture Russ Spainhower worked on was From Hell To Texas with Don Murray. "Henry Hathaway really wanted him on that, Mrs. Anderson remembered quietly. "That was 1957, the year he died."

So many years, so many films, so many friendships. When Randolph Scott retired, he paid the Spainhower family to let his horse live out his days comfortably here on the Anchor Ranch.

In 1947, Russ added a western street to the hacienda set - he, the lumber yard's Rudy Henderson and Hopalong Cassidy Productions went in on thirds; they called their movie town "Anchorville."

That street is gone now, so is the hacienda set - their usefulness long over, they were finally torn down in 1975 to make room for a new "real life" ranch house, although the Andersons left some of the old stucco movie wall standing just off the front yard. At least, that's still there. That and the memories.

In 1964, a written tribute to Russ Spainhower said in part: "His opinion and judgment were highly respected by the movie directors and his friendship treasured."

That says it all.

OLLP
ken maynard
Ken Maynard and Tarzan

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The Western Stars
Ken Maynard
1895-1973
     
ken maynard
Tom Mix
1880-1940
   
tom mix
Fatty Arbuckle
1887-1933
 
fatty arbuckle
Jack Hoxie
1885-1965
 
jack hoxie
Roy Rogers
1911-1998
roy rogers
 
Gene Autry
1907-1998
gene autry
 
William Boyd
1895-1972
william boyd
 
Hoot Gibson
1892-1962
 
hoot gibson
Buck Jones
1891-1942
buck jones
 
Clayton Moore
1914-1999
clayton moore
 
Johnny Mack Brown
1904-1974
johnny mack brown
 
Tom Tyler
1903-1954
 
tom tyler
Jay Silverheels
1912-1980
jay silverheels
 
Tex Ritter
1905-1974
tex ritter
 
Herb Jeffreys
1913-
herb jeffries
 
Gary Cooper
1901-1961
 
gary cooper
Randolph Scott
1898-1987
randolph scott
 


 
John Wayne
1907-1979
John wayne
 


 
Gregory Peck
1916-2003
gregory peck
 
 
Marlon Brando
1924-2004
marlon brando

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alabama hills
Alabama Hills and the Sierra Nevada by Brian Lockett
(Copyright Brian Lockett)

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hop along cassidy
Good Guys Wear Black

Whether being chased or doing the chasing, the good guys in the white hats were a Hollywood staple for years and certainly a familiar sight in the Alabama Hills. But thee was one good guy in a black hat.

Indeed, if there's one cowboy hero who's identified with the Alabama Hills - and vice versa - it's Hopalong Cassidy. Just as all those Republic Westerns and serials showcased the Iverson's location ranch in Chatsworth, California, so did the Hoppys showcase the Alabama Hills.

If Lone Pine was the Khyber Pass to Mom and Dad, to us kids it was Texas or Old Mexico or Argentina. (In Law of the Pampas, this was Argentina!) In other words, it was wherever Hoppy said it was.

William Boyd played Hopalong Cassidy in 66 theatrical features - still a record - between 1935 and 1948 and more than a third of them were shot in Lone Pine, including the first on, Hop-A-Long Cassidy.


Clarence E. Mulford wrote his first Bar 20 ranch stories in 1904 (published in Outing Magazine, some with N.C. Wyeth illustrations). Gathered into novel form in 1907, the realistic adventures featured a cowboy with a limp. (That's right: a cowboy with a limp.) He was called "Hopalong," was red-headed, swore, drank and would be changed completely when film producer Harry Sherman put him in the movies.hopalong cassidy

"Pop" Sherman felt he could do with Mulford's stories what Fox and Paramount had done with the Zane Grey novels. Mulford agreed, Paramount said it would release the pictures - that was when Sherman's first choice to play Hoppy, James Gleason, raised his acting price and lost the job - and in 1934, Sherman selected a 1910 Bar 20 novel called Hopalong Cassidy to kick off the series. That was also when he decided to go with Boyd, his second choice to play Hoppy.

By the time the Cassidys had run their course in the theaters, the shrewd Boyd had bought up all the rights. He made those pictures available to that new-fangled thing called Television and people fell in love with Hoppy all over again. More importantly (in general sense), the fell in love with westerns again.

Thanks to Hoppy's success, the Alabama Hills were re-introduced to the movie-watchers and to movie-makers. Cowboy heroes racing through the Alabams became standard TV fare during the '50s as studios followed Boyd's lead and not only dusted off their own old westerns for television but were encouraged to continue making new ones for the theaters (like the still-good Tim Holt series from RKO.)

TV westerns of the '50s headed up the trail to Lone Pine, too, shows like The Lone Ranger, Wild Bill Hickok, Bonanza, so many more.

OLLP


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MAJOR FILMING AREAS IN THE ALABAMA HILLS

filming areas
NOTE: To get more of the details of these areas please consult On Location in Lone Pine by Dave Holland


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Time and Time Again

If you've seen 'em once, you've seen 'em a hundred times ... a modified old saying that hold true with quite a few of the rocks throughout the Alabama Hills. They do tend to pop up again and again in various movies.

And why not? If a particular spot looked good to one film-maker, it often looked just as good to others. That's why you see Gene Autry Rock so often.

Another popular location was Area One's Lone Ranger ambush site. That was also where John Wayne escaped his own ambush in Westward Ho (1935), where California and Johnny trapped those horses at the beginning Outlaws of the Desert (1941) and where Roy Rogers, Duncan Renaldo and Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams headed off another bunch of wild horses in 1943's Hands Across The Border, trying to lasso Trigger.

THE HOPPY CABIN - Private property on Tuttle Creek Road; no trespassing, please. This was used in at least six Hopalong Cassidy Westerns, plus Bill Cody's Frontier Days (1935), Ken Maynard's Western Frontier (1935), Gunsmoke Ranch (1937) with the Three Mesquiteers, Tim Holt's Stagecoach Kid (1949) and Mysterious Desperado (1949), Gary Cooper's Springfield Rifle (1952), Glenn Ford's The Violent Men (1954) and Randolph Scott's Seven Men From Now (1956).

LIGHT BRIGADE ROCK - In addition to scenes done in the area for Errol Flynn's Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), you'll also recognize the slope of the rock in Gene Autry's Cow Town (1950). This was where Jock Mahoney was escaping in a wagon - until Autry used a lasso trick to yank the rear wheels off.

RAWHIDE BURIAL SITE - Also shot here wer the scenes where Robert Preston yanked Gregory Peck out of that wagon in How The West Was Won (1962), where Hopalong Cassidy captured Sidney Blackmer in Law of the Pampas (1939) and it was here that outlaws chased the Three Mesquiteers in Gunsmoke Ranch (1937). You'll also see those distinctive rock columns way in the backgroound when Smiley Burnette and the boys are trailing Autry and later when Gene is breaking that wild horse in Comin' Round the Mountain (1937) and when he's singing the title tune at the end of Boots and Saddles (1937).

POT-SA-GA-WA-GARDENS - So called from the days when Paiute Indians from the local reservation put on ceremonial dances here, different portions of this area are always popping up in films.

Hopp and California drov e cattle across here in Silent Conflict (1947), Robert Mitchum and Richard Martin galloped toward the sound of gunfire across here in West of the Pecos (1945) and you've already seen a photo of Gene Autry's radio show caravan driving across here in Melody Ranch (1940).

And where Autry jumped that horse over the convertible in Trail to San Antone (1946) is the exact spot where John Wayne strung a rope across the trail and tripped the four horses and riders chasing him in Westward Ho.

This was a favorite Autry road. He galloped along here in Boots and Saddles and after leaving the pony express station in Comin' Round the Mountain.

William Elliott and Joseph Schidkraut had their final shoot-out in Plainsman and the Lady (1946) in the Gardens and outlaws had a corral here in Heart of Arizona (1938).

And in an all-star scene from Trail to San Antone, Autry rode a horse he'd lassoed up to Peggy Stewart, whereupon Bill Henry socked Tris Coffin all in the one scene. Right here in Pot-sa-ga-wa Gardens.

OLLP

law of the pampas

stagecoach kid

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trail to san antone
Trail to San Antone with Gene Autry and Peggy Stewart - 1947
(Alternate: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12)
[Colorization by: www.worth1000.com]

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high sierra

have gun will travel

An Overview

Seeing where some of your favorite movies were made in Lone Pine is an easy as looking at maps and photos and looking out the car window. And when you find one location, you'll generally find others, either along the way or often at the same spot.

Case in point: When you drive up the switchbacks of the Bogart road - it's really called Whitney Portal Road - you're not merely where the cops chased Bogart, you're on the same road Lucy and Desi almost slid off in The Long Long Trailer, the same road Tyrone Power led his troops up in the King of the Khyber Rifles and the same road Dean Jagger stumbled across in Brigham Young to look out over the Owens Valley toward the dry Owens Lake bed and say "Looks like Salt Lake City to me..." (or something like that).

But getting up to those cliffs may not be as easy as it sounds. Not because the road isn't paved or anything - in fact, it's about the only road that is paved between the town and the mountains (along with Horseshoe Meadow and Tuttle Creek Roads and some residential streets). The trick is getting past what lies between the town and the mountains.

To reach the Sierra, you have to get past the real "star" of Lone Pine, a magnificent maze of eroded and tangled rocks and boulders called the Alabama Hills. They stretch from here to way over thee and getting past them is like asking a paper-clip to get past a magnet.


the Alabama Hills -
Just think of all the movies that were shot here, all the dreams that came to life here.

Your own perception of these magnificent rock formations depends on how and when you were first introduced to them.

If as a kid, you went to the movies on Saturday afternoons for a dime at that little neighborhood theater over by the cleaners or were a baby boomer kid raised on Saturday morning TV, then thee rugged rocks and narrow passes were the scene of so many of the great cowboy adventures with Hopalong Cassidy and Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. And Tom Mix and Ken Maynard and Buck Jones. And the Lone Ranger and Annie Oakley and Have Gun, Will Travel.

On the Other hand, if you were a little older and went to the movies on Saturday nights down town, then the Alabama Hills weren't associate with the cowboy heroes at all. Instead, you remember the "A" pictures: Gregory Peck as The Gunfighter or Clint Eastwood as Joe Kidd or Kirk Douglas in his first western, Along the Great Divide.

But all the big pictures done up here, it was probably the dusty images of the British Army on patrol that branded this magnificent rocky setting more indelibly in our minds than any others. Because let's fact it, as far as Hollywood was concerned, the Alabama Hills looked more like India than India did. This was the Khyber Pass.

OLLP

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black jack
Black Jack - 1927
Buck Jones and Barbara Bennett
rawhide
Rawhide - 1950
Tyrone Power and Susan Hayward
(Alternate: A, B)

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panavision
Movies Filmed in Lone Pine and Owens Valley
(.xls format, .pdf format)
panavision

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have tun will travel

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Ed Brown - Mt. Whitney Pack Trains Packer and Cowboy Poet  
 
More At the Movies ... in Lone Pine
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Little Lake, CA
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Irene Kritz: Mt. Whitney Pack Trains Cook, Packer, Cowgirl, and Author
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This page was last updated on 09 December 2015