Monday, April 4, 2011

Total Pre-Call, Part 8

Last Man mountain girl Ellen Jorth (Lois Wilson) gets a kick out of store-bought footwear.

Working in the great outdoors can be hazardous to the health of city slickers, as Lois Wilson achingly discovered on To the Last Man. On one occasion a sturdy tree saved her from being thrown from her horse while riding to a location. The close call was the result of an unsecured saddle cinch. As Wilson felt the saddle slipping sideways, she grabbed a willow branch above her head, which broke her fall, and she escaped with just a few nicks and bruises. Later on, she received some minor scratches on her face and neck while playing with a bear cub in a scene.

Richard Dix suffered a bad case of bruised ego working on Last Man, dishing to Los Angeles Times columnist Grace Kingsley in 1928, “I got a spill off a horse for fair. I wasn’t much of a horseman but I wanted to make sure I made a good impression on the director, Victor Fleming. He gave me a half-broken horse off the range. He was a photographic horse, black and white spots. And what else, quoth he, mattered? I had to run the animal around in a circle and there was a ditch a foot deep. About the fourth time around the horse stuck a foot in a bush and I went with him. I had more than 8,000 thorns in me. I got up and laughed it off, because I wanted to impress the director.”

Besides the minor risks (which generated a steady stream of human interest items like the ones repeated above for Sunday newspapers), there were a few moments of real white-knuckle danger during the Last Man shoot. One brave crewman had to scale the dizzyingly high face of the Mogollon Rim to set explosive charges for the cliff dynamiting sequence. The mountain face was blown away by the force of the explosion and the blast dropped thousands of tons of rocks, trees and debris nearly 1,000 feet. Cameramen filmed the explosion from below before running for their lives away from flying rubble.–––Joe McNeill © 2011 Bar 225 Media Ltd.

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