Monday, April 25, 2011

Total Pre-Call, Part 11

Paramount Pictures went on to make 52 more films based on Zane Grey stories over the next 17 years, but To the Last Man, unlike The Vanishing American and the recently rediscovered The Call of the Canyon, is among the missing; however, some of its footage has survived. Paramount-Publix, another of the later manifestations of Famous Players-Lasky, saved a few dollars during the Great Depression by recycling some of its Payson location scenes as stock footage for its 1933 talkie remake with Randolph Scott. This version, filmed mostly at Big Bear Lake, Calif., is easy to find on DVD and was one of the early directorial efforts of Henry Hathaway, who’d worked as prop man in 1923 on both To the Last Man and The Call of  the Canyon; he would later direct John Wayne’s Oscar-winning performance in True Grit (1969). To the Last Man was remade one more time – so loosely that its plot was almost unrecognizable – by RKO Radio Pictures as Thunder Mountain. This 1947 B Western starred Tim Holt and Martha Hyer and was shot on location in Lone Pine, Calif.

Richard Dix (center) and Lois Wilson in Zane Grey's The Vanishing American.

Barring the discovery of a print someday (it’s still not known if  Gosfilmofond, the Russian film archive that surrendered the only existing copy of Call to the Library of Congress, has one), modern audiences will never get to see Victor Fleming’s original To the Last Man and its imagery of the virgin Mogollon Rim landscape. Lois Wilson may have summed up the loss best when she lamented to Filmograph that To the Last Man was “shot in northern Arizona, beautiful country and at that time quite wild. I am sorry to hear that, what with a railroad and new roads, it is no longer so wildly beautiful.”–––Joe McNeill © 2011 Bar 225 Media Ltd.

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