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
To promote Indian Uprising (released in 1951, long before the dawn of political correctness), Columbia Pictures flacks suggested theater owners should “see if you can get a local Indian to act as your special press agent. If so, dress him in ceremonial Indian costume, and have him make personal appearances on local television and radio shows.”
(hopefully not too soon after his buttermilk and cornbread lunch)
Now all grown up, actress Karolyn Grimes, Albuquerque’s little “Myrtle Walton,” tells us how much fun she had in the film’s “runaway” stagecoach, and really only got scared by “Gabby” Hayes’ lunch.
SM: As a child actor, were there different directors who would take the time to work with you a lot?
KAROLYN GRIMES: Oh yeah, uh-huh. But some of them were scary. I mean John Ford (Rio Grande, 1950) was. [Laughing]
He was intimidating?
Oh, yeah! Yeah, yeah, yeah!
He didn’t have a lot of time for child actors?
No, no, no, no. And he had a big temper. He didn’t care who was there, whether there was a kid there or not; the words flew. But Leslie Fenton (Pardon My Past, 1945) was a very nice director, I remember him. Henry Koster on The Bishop’s Wife (1947) was super. He’d get on the floor and tell me what to do. Of course, Frank Capra (It’s a Wonderful Life, 1946) was just delightful.
What are your memories of “Gabby” Hayes?
He was fun to be around. When he was off camera he acted totally different [than his screen persona]. He was a very capable man, very smart. One thing I will never, ever forget is his lunch. They had all the food catered, tables and tables of all this delicious food. But every single day, he ate the same thing: buttermilk with cornbread in a glass, and I thought it was the sickest stuff I’d ever seen! It stunk, it was awful, it would get in his beard. [Laughs] And I remember he did not want to ride in that stagecoach. He did not ride in that stagecoach. He had a stunt double, he didn’t get up there. And he thought it was dangerous for me and Catherine Craig to do it. But he didn’t win; we did it.
And you had fun doing it!
I had a blast, I didn’t think of it as dangerous at all. I thought it was great. But anything could have happened. Horses stumble, fall. It wouldn’t have passed today. They had a [prop] stagecoach, with a thing that the men pushed and pulled on either side to make it jump around. They told me the horses were running away with me and I was supposed to hang out the window. They tell you everything you’re supposed to do. So it was fun; I mean, everything I did on that whole set was fun. I loved the western town and all the horses. And to ride on a stagecoach with all those horses? Wow, for goodness sakes! And what’s really funny is there’s [supposed to be] a dead man in the back of that stagecoach. [Laughing] When you think about the whole thing, [Myrtle is] sitting in this stagecoach, just saw this man shot dead – and it didn’t bother me one bit! ––Originally published in the October 2006 issue of Sedona Monthly
During the mid- to late 1940s, Karolyn Grimes was one of Hollywood’s busiest child actors. She made her movie debut at age four and achieved pop culture immortality two years later as “Zuzu” in Frank Capra’s 1946 classic It’s a Wonderful Life when she delivered the picture’s unforgettable closing line, “Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.” A year later, she appeared in Albuquerque, which had some second unit action filmed in Sedona. We chatted with her at the Memphis Film Festival in June 2006. For more on Karolyn's life and career, visit her Website at www.zuzu.net.
SM: Prior to the DVD, had it been a while since you had seen Albuquerque?
KAROLYN GRIMES: I made appointments at UCLA; I saw it maybe four times. I kept trying to figure out who really had the rights and how I could pursue them to get it out again. I wrote to Paramount and all different places. Well, nothing I did did any good. And then it was a miracle. Somebody wrote to me and then I got about ten calls: ‘Did you know...?!’ And I was so thrilled, oh my gosh, it’s out!
It sounds like the movie meant a lot to you.
Well, after seeing it I remembered so much and I loved it! The color is so gorgeous and I just love my part –– I’m hilarious! [Repeating lines from the film] “I’ll be a-knittin’ and a-sittin’”! [Laughs] “Whoa, horses! Whoa!”
What was a typical day like on Albuquerque?
The limo would come and get me at 5 in the morning – it would still be dark – and they’d drive us up to the ranch [outside L.A.]. And there was this one building with a room for makeup and wardrobe and hair, with a big wood stove. And we’d have to spend a long time in makeup. I remember one day I got superheated, I think, and as a little girl I fainted a lot. So they’d done my hair, I had wardrobe on, I was ready to go. I was just walking to go outside and [indicating a fall] right on the floor. Randolph Scott carried me out into the cool air. I think he realized I was overheated. When I woke up, he was looking down into my eyes, saying ‘Are you alright, Karolyn?’ He was so tall. A bit aloof, but he was kind. He was good to me, very easy to work with.
What was Lon Chaney Jr. like?
You know, Lon Chaney was probably friendlier and more personable than any of the rest. He kind of stayed to himself and was so grouchy and grumpy-looking that he fascinated me as a little kid. And the fact that he was The Wolfman and all that stuff, he just scared me. But he seemed so mean that I couldn’t help...it’s like when I did Rio Grande. They told me to stay away from the Indians. Naturally, I just peeked and spied and was there all the time; you know, the opposite of anything they tell you. So you get the impression that Lon Chaney doesn’t want you around and, naturally, I’m going to be around. So I approached him and he turned out to be really nice. But he would try to scare me, in a way. He wanted to be stern and see what he... he loved to play with people. He told me I was very ugly. When I asked why, he said ‘Because you have freckles.’ Well, I felt freckles really were ugly, so I liked that he told me the truth. He was a straight-shooter, and I liked that. We were friends from then on.
He and Randolph Scott have this fight in the film, an unbelievable battle. [Laughing] He took me aside, because everybody was going to watch, and he said, ‘I just want you to know that I’m going to bleed, and I want to show you how I’m going to do this.’ So he had this capsule and he said ‘It’s just like ketchup. I’m going to slip it in my mouth, nobody’s going to know, and I’m going to break it and then I’m going to bleed all over my face. It’s going to run down, but I’m not hurt.’ I watched that fight with eyes peeled, and it went very well!
And how about Catherine Craig?
This was the second movie I’d done with her; we were in The Private Affairs of Bel Ami (1947). She’s very sweet. She married Robert Preston and sort of gave up her career. She told me years later there was a scene cut out [of Albuquerque]; my line was, [perkily] ‘And I’ll help too!’ For the rest of their married life, she and Robert used that phrase. She said they always remembered me because of that. That was kind of neat.––Originally published in the October 2006 issue of Sedona Monthly
Having played host to more than 60 Hollywood productions—from the early years of cinema through the 1970s—Sedona, Arizona’s unsung role in American film is the topic of this blog. Here, once and for all Sedona gets her due as a key location in movie history, a silent but stunning backdrop to all genres of movies including silent films, B westerns, World War II propaganda, and film noir.