A Visit to the Famous Movie Location Once Again
My wife Beth and I hadn’t been back to the Lone Pine (Western) Film Festival in four years mainly because of my health. But since I am now a bona fide kidney transplant patient and no longer tied to a dialysis machine I can travel wherever I want to go. We attended the 13th annual festival back in 2002 as Western Movie fans, and we had a ball. We dropped in on the continuous Cowboy movies playing throughout the festival at the local high school auditorium; we toured the famous Alabama Hills – those unique rock formations with Mt. Whitney towering behind where so many of our favorite Westerns were filmed. We enjoyed delicious barbecue after barbecue. We met the Western stars who took part in celebrity panels and autographed their pictures for the fans. And we brought home some very fond memories of Lone Pine which we still cherish to this day.
This year, 2006, I was invited to be a festival participant. I spoke before an audience of devoted Western movie fans in the brand new Beverly and Jim Rogers Museum of Lone Pine Film History. I talked about my life in and around the Hollywood movie business starting as a child actor. I was also allowed to promote my new novel, Nickel-Plated Dream. I shared how I incorporated my own life experience as a teenage cowboy-stuntman-gunfighter into the book, based on the period in 1959 when I worked for B-Western Star, Ray “Crash Corrigan at his Simi Valley, California, movie ranch.
The new museum is something to behold. Constructed over the past year and opened to the public for the very first time on day one of the festival, the museum is designed to resemble an art deco movie theater on the exterior and a movie sound stage on the inside. There is a genuine stagecoach on display in the lobby – donated by 20th Century Fox Studios – the one used in the movie Stagecoach. There are dozens of Western Movie posters on the walls and numerous displays of Western memorabilia and movie photographs throughout the building. Plus, there’s the Wild West Movie Theater where I spoke – it will be used regularly to run old Western movies to the delight of the eager fans. There’s also a pretty neat gift shop with its unique to Lone Pine T-shirts, badges, hats, and clothing; plus other exciting Western paraphernalia and assorted Western-related gifts.
Stars and panel members attending this year’s festival included Ben Murphy (Alias Smith and Jones); Coleen Gray (Fury at Furnace Creek); Henry Silva (The Tall T); Jan Merlin (The Rough Riders); (Ed Faulkner (Chisum); Dick Jones (Range Rider, Buffalo Bill, Jr,); Donna Martell (Hills of Utah); Robert Easton (Gunsmoke); Peggy Stewart (Trail to San Antone); plus stuntmen, Diamond Farnsworth, and Loren Janes. Authors were also featured this year for the first time: Cheryl Rogers Barnett daughter of Roy and Dale); William Wellman, Jr. (son of director William Wellman); Dan Blasius; Sue Gossett; Linda Haun; Ed Hulse; Harry Medved; Boyd Magers; Dick Bann; Ed Phillips; Bob Birchard; Dave Matuszak; and myself. Entertainers for the festival were: Sandy and Clayton Anderson; Larry Maurice; Dave Stamley; and Ian Tyson.
The celebrity panels this year had some very appealing themes – Badmen and Men of Action; Hollywood Memories; Tom Mix and Other Lone Pine Silent Cowboy Stars; and On Location in Lone Pine – with all the stars in attendance contributing their expertise and fond memories.
Because I was an official participant, my wife Beth and I were invited to the annual volunteer dinner Friday night hosted by local resident and festival supporter, Dorothy Bonnefin. It was a pleasant evening where we met old friends and made plenty of new ones. We had breakfast the next morning at the local VFW headquarters just as we had done back in 2002. Why is it that ham, eggs, toast and coffee taste so much better when you’re chowing down at 4,000 feet?
There were bus tours of the Alabama Hills, taking fans to the exact locations of their favorite Western films; tributes to movie badman Lee Marvin, and Western hero Audie Murphy; the annual golf tournament; the arts and crafts fair held in the local park (my wife’s favorite); the barbecue dinners; Western music concerts; Cowboy Poetry; a rip-snortin’ Parade of Stars on Main Street; and just plain old all-American fun.
Beth and I plan on being in Lone Pine next year, whether by invite or as Western movie fans. We now have two Lone Pine (Western) Film Festivals under our belt. And The Good Lord willing, we hope to add a whole lot more of them in the years to come