Western RoundUp: Preview of the 2019 Lone Pine Film Festival
Last fall I shared some of the history of Westerns filming in Lone Pine, California, along with a look at five movies filmed in the area.
Those five films were just a tiny percentage of the Westerns which have been filmed in Lone Pine over the years, which are celebrated annually at the Lone Pine Film Festival. This year the 30th edition of the Lone Pine Film Festival, titled “They Went That-a-Way,” will take place from October 10-13, 2019.
This will be my sixth consecutive year at the festival, and I thought this year I would share a festival preview here outlining some of the films and experiences available at the festival. Perhaps this overview will inspire a few readers to make the trek up from Los Angeles to Lone Pine and join in the Western fun!
Lone Pine is a small, walkable town on Highway 395. Many of the festival’s events occur at the Museum of Western Film History, a “must-see” for Western fans in and of itself; some festival events take place in a small theater inside the museum, while the majority of screenings take place across the street in the Lone Pine High School Auditorium.
In addition to screenings and other festival events, there are also over 15 guided car caravan tours to various spots in the Alabama Hills outside of town, as well as other area locations. In past years, for example, I have visited the ghost town of Dolomite, briefly seen as “Soda City” in Hitchcock‘s Saboteur (1942), and the town of Keeler, seen in Greed (1924) and I Died a Thousand Times (1955). Many of the tours are given multiple times during the festival, so guests can find times which fit their schedules.
This year, as always, the festival kicks off with a gala buffet at the museum. This is often an opportunity to mingle with festival guests; for instance, last year my husband took this snap of Robert Wagner (in pink) and his friend and frequent co-author Scott Eyman:
This year’s scheduled honored guests will include Robert Carradine, Patrick Wayne, Bruce Boxleitner, Darby Hinton (Daniel Boone), stuntman Diamond Farnsworth (son of actor-stuntman Richard Farnsworth), Cheryl Rogers Barnett and Julie Rogers Pomilia (daughter and granddaughter of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans), Wyatt McCrea (grandson of Joel McCrea and Frances Dee), William Wellman Jr. (son of William Wellman), and Jay Dee Witney (son of director William Witney).
Many of the discussions will be moderated by film historians Ed Hulse and Rob Word. Live piano accompaniment for a pair of silent films is provided by the excellent Jay C. Munns.
Films shown at the fest most often were either filmed locally or feature festival guests. Or both! A few of the movies being shown this year:
*Bill Tilghman and the Outlaws (2019), a new film with a cast of old favorites including Robert Carradine, Johnny Crawford, Lana Wood, and Darby Hinton.
*Gunga Din (1939), which was filmed in the Alabama Hills; you can still see the spots where the bridge was anchored to boulders and occasionally stumble across a piece of 80-year-old plaster from a set.
*Saga of Death Valley (1939) starring Roy Rogers, introduced by his daughter Cheryl.
*Red River (1988), a TV remake starring James Arness, introduced by costar Bruce Boxleitner. (Update: This was cancelled due to Boxleitner’s filming schedule and replaced with a screening of The Way West introduced by cast member Michael McGreevey.)
*The Cowboys (1972), followed by a discussion with Robert Carradine, Patrick Wayne, and Diamond Farnsworth.
*King of the Pecos (1936), starring John Wayne.
*Hopalong Rides Again (1937), one of many “Hoppy” films shot in Lone Pine; it costars child actor Billy King, a lovely man met at past fests, who recently passed away.
*Blazing Days (1927), directed by the great William Wyler.
This is just a partial list of the movies available to see during the festival!
Tours will be available specifically based on some of the films shown, including Gunga Din (a must for festival newcomers) and King of the Pecos. Other tours this year include “Randolph Scott in Lone Pine”; multiple Hopalong Cassidy tours with varied locations; a tour of the townsites from Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) and The Law and Jake Wade (1958); a tour based on The Twilight Zone episode “The Rip Van Winkle Caper”; a tour of science fiction and fantasy locations including Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) and Iron Man (2008); a sunrise tour of the Alabama Hills, including a light breakfast; and several more.
Some of the tours, such as the sunrise tour, repeat annually, while others vary year to year. Most of the guides have many years of experience conducting tours in the Alabama Hills and other areas around Lone Pine; they provide outstanding history and insights into movie production along with pointing out locations.
Other events typically available during the festival include a stunt show (held this year at the high school gymnasium); a horseback ride in the Alabama Hills, led by wranglers from McGee Creek Pack Station; “Cowboy Church,” a nondenominational Christian service held Sunday morning (this year it will take place at the nearby Anchor Ranch movie location site); Sunday breakfast at the town VFW Post; a Sunday afternoon parade down Main Street featuring festival celebrities and local civic groups; and a Sunday evening closing campfire at Russell Spainhower Park, which is named for the man who spearheaded bringing the movie business to Lone Pine in the early days of Southern California filmmaking.
For complete information, please visit the festival section of the Museum of Western Film History website.
I can’t stress enough how much fun this festival is for a Western film fan. The vibe is relaxed, the folks are friendly, the scenery is gorgeous, and there are many activities and screenings from which to choose. And where else will you see cowboys on horseback going through the McDonald’s drive-through line?!
Most importantly, there is simply nothing like watching a Western with fellow fans and then minutes later standing in the Alabama Hills in the very spot where that movie had been filmed.
Hope to see you there!
– Laura Grieve for Classic Movie Hub
Laura can be found at her blog, Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings, where she’s been writing about movies since 2005, and on Twitter at @LaurasMiscMovie. A lifelong film fan, Laura loves the classics including Disney, Film Noir, Musicals, and Westerns. She regularly covers Southern California classic film festivals. Laura will scribe on all things western at the ‘Western RoundUp’ for CMH.