Monday, April 23, 2012

"Lightning" Deal

Smoke Lightning had a two day run at Fredonia, New York’s Winter Garden Theatre in May 1933, but the headline attraction wasn’t all-American George O’Brien. Topping the bill that week was Mussolini Speaks!, A six-reel documentary produced by Columbia Pictures and promoted with ad art showing a crowd of Blackshirts giving “today’s man of the hour” the fascist salute. Cult director Edgar G. Ulmer (Detour) reportedly worked on it as a director.

When Hollywood cowboy George O’Brien left Flagstaff for Los Angeles in October 1932, having completed three weeks of filming in and around Sedona for Robbers’ Roost, he had good reason to expect he’d be back. Before Roost’s cast and crew departed, Fox Film representatives told The Coconino Sun that David Howard (who’d directed O’Brien’s Mystery Ranch in Sedona six months earlier) was coming back soon to film the Zane Grey story Canyon Walls. Beyond that, Fox intended to shoot one or two unspecified Zane Grey stories in the area immediately afterward. Local rancher Lee Doyle was already engaged to help select locales and, as usual, handle transportation and supplies. O’Brien, whom Fox was now declaring the “most popular Western actor in pictures” had every reason to expect he’d be back on the train soon to star in one or all of these pictures.

But it didn’t turn out that way. While O’Brien did star in Canyon Walls, it wasn’t in Sedona. When the project was released on February 17, 1933, it was retitled Smoke Lightning, bore little resemblance to Grey’s story and was filmed entirely in California. Fox cameras would return to Red Rock Country, but not until almost a year later, in August 1933. And then it was not for an O’Brien/Grey western, but for Smoky, based on a best seller by cowboy author/illustrator Will James and starring Victor Jory. Given that Fox would chalk up a devastating $19.96 million loss in 1932, and surely had an inkling of that by the time the Roost company left town, it’s not such a leap to imagine that filming a low-return Western in Arizona had become a luxury Fox decided it could no longer afford; the three post-Roost Grey adaptations starring O’Brien (Smoke Lightning, Life in the Raw, and The Last Trail), were filmed entirely in California, a sign of the changes to come that would contribute to O’Brien and Fox parting ways.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Twin Beauts

Bet this photo grabbed your attention! The babe is Irish McCalla, 5' 9 1/2" pin-up glamazon and future star of TV's Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, seen here lounging in front of the slightly more statuesque but not nearly as sexy Merrick Butte in Monument Valley. This shot was probably snapped by prolific girlie magazine photographer David Sutton in September 1950 during the filming of River Goddesses, an indie travelogue that documented the adventures of five curvalicious pin-up models taking a sightseeing trip down the Colorado River in wooden rowboats. Footage from this obscure feature film hasn't been seen in decades, but based on the evidence of this picture, the goddesses also made a detour into bone dry Navajoland to pay a visit to John Ford's neighborhood in Arizona's Little Hollywood.

River Goddesses has one heck of an oddball pedigree. Its believed to have been produced by a Hollywood company called Capital Enterprises, which may or may not be the same outfit that later distributed Crusader Rabbit, the first made-for-TV cartoon series. It was directed by former German Communist Party member Carl Junghans, one of the leading documentary filmmakers of the Weimar period, who jumped sides in the '30s to work as a writer/director/editor for Nazi Germany's Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. His documentary short Jugend der Welt (Youth of the World) received the Coppa dell’Istituto Nazionale Luce award at the 1936 Venice International Film Festival, the same year that the partly photographed-in-Sedona Nazi Western Der Kaiser von Kalifornien won the Mussolini Cup as best foreign film. After falling into disfavor with Hitler, Junghans hot-footed it to the United States, where he worked as a gardener and landscape photographer. In 1946, he made a comeback as a filmmaker to write, produce and direct a pair of short documentaries about Monument Valley: Memories of Monument Valley and Monuments of the Past, the latter movie narrated with typically stiff upper lip aplomb by British actor Herbert Marshall. Junghans (disparagingly monikered “the Colonel” by Goddesses’ crew) was reported to have been a somewhat less-than-charming Teutonic misogynist; forty-three years after working with him, McCalla recalled to author Richard E. Westwood that he "openly said women should be kept in concentration camps for breeding purposes only: that's all we were good for."

Four boats carrying the Goddesses gang shoved off from Hite, UT, at the northeast end of Lake Powell, and went ashore for numerous photo ops along the Colorado before landing at Lee's Ferry, Ariz., 7.5 miles southwest of the town of Page, Ariz., and the Glen Canyon Dam. Joining McCalla in the on-screen escapades were shipshape mates Becky Barnes, Lee Moi Chu, Irene Hettinga and Martha Moody; with the exception of Chu, who later did walk-ons in a pair of clinkers released by major studios (Universal-International's Forbidden and United Artists’ Dragon's Gold), the other models booked return passage into obscurity at the end of the nearly monthlong cruise.

The see-worthy sirens were chaperoned during the excursion by pioneering female river-running guide Georgie White Clark, who told Northern Arizona University researcher Karen Underhill in 1991 that the travelogue wasn't really about the scenery, but "was more to show the girls... they just showed the beauty of the girls more than anything. I mean, the thing was [they] really wanted to show more of that as they hiked around, which they did, up to Rainbow Bridge and all––[it was] more to show their beauty while they were doing it."

In her 1977 autobiography, Georgie Clark: Thirty Years of River Running, she recalled a Goddesses “action sequence” that featured Irish McCalla: “Next, they had Iris [sic] walk along the top of the cliff. Actually, it was just a little spot outside of camp. Next she fell and grabbed the top of the cliff. Next scene, the camera zoomed in to show her hanging hundreds of feet above the river. I almost died laughing over that one. They actually made that girl hang from the top of that little rock with her feet barely a foot above the ground. All she had to do was let go and drop easily to safety.” The march of time hadn’t dimmed Clark’s memory of Herr Junghans, either. “The first thing the director did after they unloaded [his boat], was to pop down in his chair on the beach and order martinis. I remember watching him drink that martini and thinking, ‘Boy, this is going to be some trip.’”

The idea for the cinematic nautical tour was apparently dreamed up by cameraman Sutton, who photographed the movie and at the same time snapped cheesecake stills of the frolicking short-shorts and bikini-clad bombshells to peddle to various “gags and gals” rags, like Brief, Peril, and Laff. The slightly classier Night and Day (modestly taglined "America's Picture Magazine of Entertainment") published shots from the trip for years; photos even showed up in the big circulation and appropriately named Look magazine, which ran a five page pictorial titled "Six Girls Against the Colorado" in its May 8, 1951 issue. Unfortunately, these titillating images are all that remain of River Goddesses. Every frame of it has vanished and there are no posters, newspaper ads or other types of publicity materials to be found anywhere. This lack of a paper trail could be telltale proof that the film never made it into theaters, although Georgie Clark claimed that she saw it once, so its a good bet that the movie was actually completed before it sank into oblivion.

Prior to making her invisible big screen debut in River Godeseses, Irish McCalla was one of the triumvirate of post-war American pinup superstars, along with sister va-va-voom icons Betty Brosmer and Bettie Page. Her filmography consists of just six post-Sheena features, mostly low-budget drive-in schlock like The Beat Generation, Hands of a Stranger, and She Demons, the cheesy 1958 grindhouse classic in which she portrayed a haughty society girl who washes up on an uncharted tropical island inhabited by a love-frenzied mad scientist, renegade Nazi storm troopers, sloppily made up zombie women and a bevy of over-rehearsed hoochie coochie dancers.

McCalla moved to Prescott, Ariz., in 1982 to devote her time to painting, her first love. She was the subject of numerous gallery exhibitions in Scottsdale, Ariz., and a longtime member of Women Artists of the American West; her paintings are even in the permanent collection of the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. But it is her brief reign as pulp pinup queen that has made Irish McCalla immortal; the river goddess was named one of “The Top 100 Sex Stars of the Century” by Playboy magazine in January 1999.––Joe McNeill

Monday, January 30, 2012

Stock Answers

Richard Dix and Lois Wilson in 1925's The Vanishing American...
Between 1923 and 1928, Paramount Pictures released almost a dozen films based on Zane Grey stories that were photographed on Arizona locations, including To the Last Man, The Call of the Canyon (1923), The Heritage of the Desert (1924), The Light of Western Stars, Code of the West, Wild Horse Mesa, The Vanishing American, (1925), The Last Frontier (1926), Drums of the Desert (1927), Under the Tonto Rim, Avalanche, The Water Hole and Sunset Pass (1928). But when talkies took the movie business by storm the studio decided to cut costs by shooting its Zane Grey westerns close to home in California.

However, Paramount continued to churn out low budget movies in the 1930s based (sometimes barely) on novels written by Grey, and by cleverly stitching in footage lifted from the silents, these also appear to have sequences photographed in Arizona. Some of the film shot on location in Payson for the lost silent version of To the Last Man has survived because cash-stricken Paramount saved a few dollars during the Great Depression by recycling scenes from it for the 1933 sound remake with Randolph Scott. A few glimpses of the silent Heritage of  the Desert (filmed north of Flagstaff at Cameron) can still be seen because Paramount plundered it as economy footage for its 1939 remake.

... and Buster Crabbe wearing Dix's duds in 1936.
Even The Vanishing American, the only northern Arizona-lensed silent Grey adaption that still exists in good condition, was mined for stock. The 1936 remake of Desert Gold had star Buster Crabbe dressed identically to Vanishing’s Richard Dix, which made a reasonable enough illusion in longshot to fool unsuspecting matinee crowds into thinking that the California production had crossed the state line into Arizona.––Joe McNeill

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sedona's Citizen Welles, Part 3

Orson Welles and cinematographer Greg Toland at work on Citizen Kane.
Orson Welles lived in Sedona for nearly two years in the ’70s. His daughter, Beatrice Welles, offers a rare glimpse into his private life in the third and final part of our exclusive interview.

SEDONA MONTHLY: Your mom, Paola Mori, was an Italian countess who thought Sedona was beautiful, but what did she think of living in such a rural area?

BEATRICE WELLES: It was difficult for her – more difficult for her than me. I left London for her because she was going to be alone in Sedona. We knew nobody. She got to know people through me. I worked for [Sedona watchmaker] Geoffrey Roth for a while just to have something to do. But it was tough for her. There was nothing.

Did your mom consider coming back to Sedona? 

She wanted to, she loved it here, but she didn’t think about coming back. She needed to stay in Vegas.

She painted, right? 
She was very artistic.

Did she paint Sedona? 

Yes [gestures to room behind her] – they are in there. But there was always a dog in it or me – Sedona was the background. They are very sweet and charming paintings. I come from a very artistic family. And here I am…making handbags [laughs]. I am artistic. I realize that now, but it never dawned on me that I was artistic. It took forever to realize it was there.

Your father seemed to like working with family members. His second wife, Rita Hayworth, was in The Lady From Shaghai. Your half-sister, Christopher, was in Macbeth. Your mother was in Mr. Arkadin and you were in Chimes at Midnight. Did it make him feel more comfortable to be around familiar faces or was it a matter of economics? 

I think it was both. He did a lot of adaptations, and he thought of specific people while he was doing the adaptations. Economics was always a huge part because he put all of his money into his movies. Everyone thinks I must be rolling, but they don’t understand. He made all of these movies, put all of his money in, and then it ended up being owned by someone else.

Parts of The Other Side of the Wind, his last, unfinished, film were shot in Carefree [Arizona] just prior to the time he lived in Sedona. Was any filming done in Sedona or other parts of northern Arizona? 

No, only Carefree and Los Angeles.

Did he ever mention the possibility of shooting in Sedona?

No. He was home. The moment there was my mother and me, it all changed. Not when we were traveling, but when we settled in London. We didn’t think about making movies. [Editor's note: Welles filmed a conversation with lifelong friends Roger and Hortense Hill in Sedona in June, 1978, that he may have intended to use as a segment in a never-completed self-portrait to be titled Orson Welles Solo. Portions of this footage, renamed Orson Welles Talks With Roger Hill, have been restored and were screened at Switzerland's Locarno International Film Festival in 2005] 

You all three left Sedona at the same time?

Yes, and we left because of him. He needed us to be closer, but he really loved it here.

Did he ever express any regrets about leaving?

Yes, because he hated Las Vegas. We all did. He said he wished there was a way we could have stayed. Leaving was purely logistical.

Did he ever return to visit?

Never. My father didn’t vacation – it didn’t exist in his life. Vacation was coming home. At one point we talked about flying here, but the airport was much smaller. You couldn’t get a jet in. He didn’t want to be crammed into a tiny plane – he had a bad back. He said it was the same as driving. There was nothing to do. And I got tired of driving him back and forth. But he loved the drive [from Phoenix]. He loved Bloody Basin Road. He thought it was the most wonderful name. It’s so Southwest. Every time we passed it, he had to say something about [deep male voice] Bloody Basin Road [laughs].

Did you have any involvement in his film projects? 

No. I never worked on anything. I was always just with him.

You didn’t appear in any other films? 


But you modeled.

I modeled. I did it out of necessity. I had been show jumping – I was short listed for the Olympic games – and then I busted my knee. My whole life stopped. I had four horses. Nobody bought me the horses. I went out and dealt and got the horse and worked on them and made them into jumpers. That was the fun part, more than the competing. They were all ex-racehorses. You could do that in England. Then my whole life stopped. I had been modeling now and again, so I decided to do it. I was so depressed – my life was the horses. So I did a lot of runway work, which was what I enjoyed the most. Unfortunately, I also wanted to make money. In those days, supermodels didn’t exist. I only worked for Vogue, and they paid a flat rate of 25 pounds a day. It didn’t matter how many hours you worked. I didn’t really like it. I wanted to do catalogue work because you would get paid, but you had to be shorter. The clothes were made for shorter people in the early- and mid-’70s. I was almost six feet – nothing fit me. But I did the Milan and Paris shows. It was fun. Angelica Houston was modeling at the time – she was a friend. There wasn’t the snobbism there is now. I think it’s unbearable now.

What did your father think of the modeling? 

He was fine with it.

Did he encourage you to be creative? 
No. He was the worst father in that sense. He was the most wonderful father in teaching me about the world. I knew things that no one else knew about because he had read about it. He was always interested in learning, and he would talk about what he learned. But he was never the father that guided you. I got no schooling and no guidance. I didn’t know what to do, so modeling seemed right.––Interview by Erika Ayn Finch and Joe McNeill

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sedona's Citizen Welles, Part 2

1941 Orson Welles publicity portrait for Citizen Kane.

Filmmaker Orson Welles lived in Sedona from 1977 through 1978 with his wife and daughter, Beatrice, who still lives there. Beatrice gives us a glimpse of what life was like with her father. 

SEDONA MONTHLY: What was a typical day in Sedona for Orson Welles? 

BEATRICE WELLES: Quiet but not quiet. He never slept. He slept when he was tired. He’d be up all night, and then he’d sleep a couple of hours in the afternoon. The typewriter never stopped. He tried to teach me about baseball, which didn’t work. My mom was the cook – everyone was an exceptional cook in my family except me. But I got all of my father’s [traits]. I knew nothing about Thanksgiving until I moved to America. So he had to tell me the story about Thanksgiving – I was 21 years old. So we had Thanksgiving in Sedona. I think my grandmother was here from Italy – she stayed for a few months. I remember my mother made a turkey stuffed with mini tamales. She got the recipe from Sunset Magazine.

Your father said he learned to make movies by watching Stagecoach dozens of times. Did you ever hear him talk about the film? 

Yes! He always said Monument Valley was one of the most beautiful places in the world. When he sent us off on the trip that led us to Sedona, he said we had to see Monument Valley. He was in awe of Jack Ford; he saw Stagecoach 33 times. It is an amazing movie. I saw it four or five years ago on the big screen – I’d never seen it on the big screen. It’s extraordinary – it has everything. It’s ageless.

Did he ever express interest in making a Western? 

Never that I knew of. He had so many projects – maybe there was a Western in the middle of one. I don’t know.

You mentioned Burt Reynolds. Did any other filmmakers or actors visit him in Sedona? 

No, because he didn’t want them to [laughs]. That was the whole point. He had to deal with them in Hollywood, and he didn’t want them coming here. Of course, he was very close to Burt at that time.

Did he ever watch any of his older films on TV? 

No. Once something was done, you moved on because you can’t change it. Especially movies. He was in love with movies, but he loved to do theater because he could change it every night. If there was something that wasn’t quite right, he could tweak it. He was a perfectionist, and I get that from him. It’s annoying because you’re never quite happy with what you do, and he never was. The only movie he ever said he loved and the one movie he wanted people to remember him by was Chimes of Midnight, which was the five Shakespeare plays he put together and made into a 90-minute movie. It was first on stage in Dublin and then it was made into a movie backed by Spaniards.

I was in the film. It was my one acting experience. I got rheumatic fever the moment it started, so it was all over. I had to get a double. It was his favorite movie. I remember watching it with him. But he never watched his other movies. God forbid one of his commercials came on. He would instantly change the TV. He never wanted to see himself. Everything that was past was past. It’s what saved him. He had a lot of hardships in his life. He had so much taken away from him – most of his movies. And he moved on.

That’s the side of me that’s hard. If I think about everything I’ve done [to preserve his legacy], I know I’m doing it for my father, but he probably doesn’t care. I’ve spent the last 20 years going through heartbreak – it’s all emotion and I’m the only one who cares about it. That’s logical; I’m the only one who would care. But there’s another side that makes me think he wouldn’t care, and maybe I should stop. But I can’t. I want to leave his films the way they should be left. It’s not about him but what he left and how he made it. They should be left that way.

I’m talking about Othello and all of his films I’ve tried to get my hands on. We stopped Touch of Evil from being screened at the Cannes film festival [in 1998]. They wouldn’t listen to us. We wanted to see what was being done to the movie. It was being restored – footage had been added. As the estate, we wanted to see it. They ignored us like we didn’t exist. We brought in a lawyer who told them the movie wasn’t approved by the estate, and the Cannes festival didn’t show it. I was very unpopular. Chuck Heston called me an idiot on TV. I didn’t want to stop a premier at the Cannes film festival, but we wanted to see what was going on. We wanted to see the script and the movie. Is that so much to ask?

So how much filming did you actually do for Chimes at Midnight?

I was 9. My British accent was dubbed by a boy. I played the part of Falstaff’s page. It was very traumatic. I was 9 years old, I had long hair, I was starting to think about being a girl, and suddenly I had to have my hair all chopped off, looking like a boy. Nobody understands how traumatic that was for me. I was quite feminine, and suddenly I had to have this horrible haircut, which was also bad because he told me during that time nobody had good haircuts, which is a very good point.

I worked on the film quite a lot. They would drag me out of bed. I was in bed for a year. Thank God for that – we had the right doctor. The only way to save your heart is by not moving. I had cortisone injections every day. So I would be put on a pillow for filming. There were parts where they couldn’t use a double. But my part became much smaller because I was sick. The worst of it was that my father hated birthdays, like me. He hated them because on his ninth birthday, his mother died. So my ninth birthday came along. Usually, it wasn’t a big thing for him. Christmas was. But on my ninth birthday, he bought me a horse. But I never got to ride the horse, because I was sick two days later. And we ended up selling the horse. It wasn’t practical.

What were his favorite movies from the late 1970s? 

He was a great admirer of Clint Eastwood and Sylvester Stallone – he thought the first Rocky was amazing.

Was there a movie theater in Sedona, and did you go see movies? 
There was the Flicker Shack, but we didn’t see any movies. Again, coming home was sacred. In those days, there was no VHS, so it was just TV.––Interview by Erika Ayn Finch and Joe McNeill

Monday, January 9, 2012

Sedona's Citizen Welles, Part 1

Beatrice Welles on Sedona’s Schnebly Hill, flanked by her father’s 1970 Academy Honorary Award “for superlative artistry and versatility in the creation of motion pictures.” 
Most Sedona histories name German-born Dadaist Max Ernst and American Surrealist Dorothea Tanning as the most famous artists to have ever lived in Red Rock Country. But for our money, that honor is owned by Orson Welles, the multi-tasking genius considered the single most influential filmmaker of the sound era, who lived with his third wife and his daughter, Beatrice, in Sedona for nearly two years in the 1970s.

We are proud to claim Orson Welles as one of Sedona’s own. In 1941, at age 25, he directed, produced, starred in and co-wrote
Citizen Kane, widely hailed as the greatest film ever made. He went on to direct, write and act in a dozen additional masterful features before his death in 1985 (some of which, unfortunately, he was never able to complete) including The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), The Lady from Shanghai (1947), Othello (1952), Touch of Evil (1958), The Trial (1962), Chimes at Midnight (aka Falstaff, 1965) and F for Fake (1973).

Orson Welles’ association with Arizona dates back to at least 1941, when he scouted locations in Tuscon for
Mexican Melodrama, aka The Way to Santiago, his unrealized follow up to Citizen Kane. Today, his daughter, Beatrice Welles, still lives and works in Sedona. Beatrice, who as a child played a small role in Chimes at Midnight, her father's favorite of his own films, is a passionate animal rights advocate and talented artist well known for her innovative handbag and fichu designs. She is also a controversial figure due to her ongoing fight to preserve her father’s artistic legacy. For our annual film issue, Beatrice sat down with Sedona Monthly to reflect on life in the red rocks with her father.

SEDONA MONTHLY: How did your family discover Sedona? 

BEATRICE WELLES: We were visiting America from London, and my dad told us we should visit the Grand Canyon. Off [my mom and I] went. Of course, I believed everything my father said. This was in the ’70s, and the speed limit was 55. He told me if I went over 55 in Arizona, I would be put in jail. So here we are in this big car with no one on the roads, and I’m doing 55. It took us a month to do something that would probably take a week [laughs]. Somebody told us we had to see Jerome, but that there was nowhere to stay in Jerome, so we had to stay in a place called Sedona. We looked it up on a map and made a hotel reservation. It took me probably two hours to get down the canyon because I couldn’t see – it was a nightmare. We woke up to this amazing view. Nobody had told us. I was 20 – this was 1976. We toured the Southwest, but we kept on finding ourselves back in Sedona. We felt compelled to be here.

We went back to [Los Angeles] and showed my father 7,000 photographs. Sedona, Sedona, Sedona! We stayed in L.A. for about a month, and as we were packing to go back to London, my father said, Why don’t you pack for Sedona, find a house and we’ll live there. So that’s how it happened. It’s not surprising – that sort of thing happened a million times. He’d never seen Sedona, but he’d seen the photographs, and he saw that we were so happy. He wanted us to move to America anyway because he was working so much in the states. He thought Sedona would be a wonderful place, but it wound up not being a wonderful place because of the distance [between Sedona and L.A.]. He would get two days off, and it was two days to travel here. He was exhausted, but we all loved Sedona.

Where did you live while he was here? 

We lived by the creek off Doodlebug Road until it flooded, and we were evacuated. It was such drama. After that, we moved to Sky Mountain Ranch to be as far away from the creek as possible. As much as we liked the creek, Sky Mountain was safer. We lived on Sycamore Road.

So what year did your family move to Sedona? 

Early 1977, and then we moved away at the end of 1978. He really loved it – moving away had nothing to do with not liking Sedona. He didn’t get two or three weeks off. It would be two days, and it just didn’t work. We ended up going to Las Vegas, which we all hated. But it was 40 minutes by plane – he could do turnarounds if he had to. I only stayed there less than a year, and then I came rushing back here. When we first moved to Sedona, I was bored out of my mind. I came from London, and I was having a very heavy social life with lots to do. Every night there was an opening or a concert or something you wanted to go to. I was in Sedona writing letters to everybody and thinking I had never written so much in my life.

What did Orson do while he was in Sedona? 

Nothing. When he came home, the doors closed, the bathrobe was put on, and it was nothing. He watched TV incessantly. It was the first time we had a remote. In England, he would sit in front of the TV and change channels over and over. And he worked. Even when he was home, he was writing – there would be a table full of papers and a typewriter. He was always working on something. He wasn’t on the phone; it was all creative. He couldn’t stop. He spent time with us, but he wasn’t into the outdoors.

During the period he lived here, there was a thin, locally produced magazine called Sedona Life, and he was listed on its masthead as a member of its board of advisors. How did he come to be involved in the publication?

It was my fault. I knew the woman who ran it, and I asked him to be involved as a favor to her. He didn’t do anything for it. He didn’t write for it. I was always asking him horrible favors for my friends, and he always said yes.

We know you’re an animal lover. Did your family have pets while you lived here? 

My parents were huge animal lovers. My dad had Kiki. She was this tiny black teacup poodle. He invented a story that it belonged to a cutter, and he didn’t want it so my dad wound up with the poodle. Of course that isn’t true. He bought the poodle. He refused to admit it. So he and Kiki were inseparable. They went everywhere together. When he arrived home, Kiki was with him. It was bizarre, this large man with this tiny dog. He was mostly a dog person, but he liked cats, too. At the time, we had Kiki and my little Jack Russell terrier, who was 15 by then – she lived to be 22. And there was a Pekinese my mother had. Then there was the dog we got from the humane society here. At the time, it was outdoors where the dog park is now located. This dog was huge. I don’t know what he was – we got him as a puppy. He became so big we had to have a collar made for him. That was our ménage when we were here.

I have this great photo of my dad with a cigar in his mouth, and he’s holding Kiki. He hated to have his photo taken. He didn’t like how he looked, ever. Hence all the false noses while he was making movies. He was always hiding behind makeup. You could never take a picture at home. I have so few pictures because he hated it. But this one time, it was about Kiki.

Do you think of your father as an international globetrotter? 

I’d say he was international, but that’s not even right because he was so American. He traveled frequently because he had to. I think you get very used to that way of life, and you like it. I know I do. I miss it terribly. It’s lovely to have a place to come home to, which we didn’t have really. We were living in hotels and rentals – we lived in rentals in Sedona. We had a house in Italy and Spain, but it was mostly hotels. He was a true American, though. He was born in the Midwest. People don’t think of him that way. They think he was English. He traveled to China when he was young. His father was an inventor – quite crazy – and his mother was a suffragist. She died when he was 9, which devastated him. She was the one who brought out his artistic side.

Do you have any great memories of your father in Sedona? 

I have a very funny one. When we were in Sky Mountain, we had a pool. That was rare in Sedona, and it was lovely. We were surrounded by national forest, so you felt like you were swimming off a cliff. So I directed a melodrama here in town – it was a huge success. He came to opening night – to my horror – and he brought Burt Reynolds. I got so nervous that I lost my voice. Burt Reynolds was a megastar, and I didn’t know him. Anyway, after this thing, [dad] decided to take a swim. It was pitch dark. Suddenly we hear him roaring, screaming. My mother thought he was drowning. At the time, there was a security service in town. It was the days before alarm systems. A security guard would come check every two hours with a flashlight. So here comes this guy with a flashlight, flashing on my dad who was stark naked because he always went swimming naked. This poor security guard…I thought he was going to die.–– Interview by Erika Ayn Finch and Joe McNeill

Monday, December 26, 2011

Selective Short Subject

MGM sent a film film crew to Sedona—its last to make the trip to Red Rock Country for twenty years—in May 1943 to photograph scenes for Roaming Through Arizona, a one-reel “Traveltalks” short released in 1944 that included Technicolor views of Oak Creek Canyon. An entry in the long-running series produced by James A. FitzPatrick, Roaming Through Arizona is a simple travelogue that extolls the virtues of various state attractions, although the Grand Canyon, filmed during FitzPatrick’s visit to Arizona, isn’t included here; that footage was saved for use in a separate Traveltalk, Grand Canyon, Pride of Creation (1943).

The nine-minute Roaming Through Arizona, silent with a voice-over narration and music, does offer pleasing postcard views of the Mission of San Xavier, south of Tucson, as well as the statues of World War I aviator Frank Luke (on the grounds of the state capitol building in Phoenix) and Captain William “Bucky O’Neill” (organizer of the Arizona unit of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders) in Prescott, along with Prescott’s Granite Dells. It tells the histories of the cliffside mining town of Jerome, the Petrified Forest National Monument, and Wickenburg’s Hassayampa Well, Rodeo, and wedding chapels.

However, Sedona is the only location visited in Roaming Through Arizona that’s not identified by name, despite the beautiful views of Bell Rock, Capitol Butte, and Gibraltar Rock (near Lee Mountain). The intimidating switchbacks of Oak Creek Canyon are mentioned by name in passing, but FitzPatrick mistakenly gives credit to Mayhew’s Oak Creek Lodge as the place “where Zane Grey wrote his famous book The Call of the Canyon.” The film fades to black as the camera offers a sweeping panoramic shot of Sedona’s anonymous terrain while an offscreen chorus warbles “Home on the Range.”––Joe McNeill