Arizona's LIttle Hollywood

Sedona and Northern Arizona forgotten film history

60 FILMS. 680 PAGES.
175 PHOTOS, MANY NEVER
PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED

SIGNED COPY $60

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3:10 to Yuma was originally made in
1957 with Glenn Ford. It included a
quick stop in Sedona, but by the time
that train left the station, it was clear
housing development was making Hollywood
feel less at home with Red Rock
Country as a feature-film location.

HEAR FRANKIE LAINE
SING THE THEME
FROM 3:10 TO YUMA

 

 

HISTORY REMADE
Part II

      EAF: What do you think readers will find most shocking or surprising about Sedona’s movie history? What did you find most shocking while doing your research?
       JM: I have to say my own biggest surprise was Der Kaiser von Kalifornien, and I think people are going to be shocked when they learn of its existence. The second biggest surprise was finding that some filming for Stagecoach took place in Sedona and that it had its world premiere engagement in Flagstaff, not LA. With all the books written about John Ford and Stagecoach, it’s incredible to me that these facts have eluded researchers for so long.
       EAF: Were you reluctant to shine a spotlight on Der Kaiser von Kalifornien?
       JM: I did worry about how people would react to the news and considered not disclosing it, but I felt if I suppressed the truth, I’d be no better than Joseph Goebbels [the Nazi minister of propaganda who played a role in Der Kaiser’s production] because that’s exactly what he would have done.
       One of the cornerstones of Nazi doctrine was the need for?Lebensraum – “living space” for the German people – which was the major motivation behind Hitler’s territorial aggression. Lebensraum is at the root of Der Kaiser’s plot, and Sedona is specifically shown in the film as the promised land.
       To deny anything that happened in Sedona, no matter how repugnant, would be a mistake, especially because the film still exists and is readily available in Germany on DVD. Whether we like it or not, Der Kaiser von Kalifornien is a part of Sedona’s history.
       This is important to keep in mind because even though the town assumes everybody knows about Sedona’s film history, in fact, the average person is not aware of it. Sedona was never really known to the world at large [as a filming location], even in its prime. Studio PR hardly ever mentioned Sedona by name, and on the very rare occasion it was credited it was usually incorrectly. In one instance, Sedona was even misidentified in the main credits of a B movie as Monument Valley! So the town is dead wrong to take for granted its movie history––the true place of importance Sedona should hold in mainstream American culture.
       You see, the one advantage Sedona has over most other Western movie locations is the history. Monument Valley has the cachet of its association with John Ford. Lone Pine in California has the numbers – over 400 films have been made there. But Sedona is American film in microcosm, from silent movies to early talkies to B Westerns to World War II propaganda to film noir to 3-D movies to rock ’n’ roll to ’70s road pictures. Sedona was even the background for an Oscar-winning performance – Art Carney’s in Harry and Tonto. So even though there were only 60 movies filmed here in those 50 years, taken as a body of work they make up a visual record of 20th-century popular culture.

      EAF: Did you think twice about pointing out the fact that William Boyd, who played the beloved character Hopalong Cassidy, may have hidden in Flagstaff to evade the draft in World War I?
      JM: Of all the B Westerns, the Hoppys are my favorites. They are well-made films with really likeable characters. Boyd himself was a very likeable man who never hid the fact that in his younger days he was a party boy and ladies’ man. But according to an oral history project the Flagstaff Public Library conducted in the ’70s, one man who knew him before he became famous claimed Boyd was also a draft evader. Apparently there were a whole bunch of draft evaders that hid in Flagstaff during the first world war. It was a very isolated place back then, but it was a railroad stop, so they could get out of town easily if they had to. Was Boyd really a draft evader? A century later, who can say for sure what’s true?
       EAF: You practically rewrite the history of the filming of Stagecoach and the involvement of Goulding’s Lodge in Monument Valley. Tell us about those revelations.
       JM: From day one the biggest problem was determining exactly what was filmed in Sedona because wild claims for titles are all over the place. The old Coconino Sun was a weekly paper published in Flagstaff and a good resource. It took years, but we searched through every single issue from 1923 into the early ’50s. That was the best way to establish a timeline and how I discovered that Kit Carson was the first Western to shoot scenes in Sedona – the Sun covered its production around the area for weeks during 1928. This one came as a total surprise because nobody anywhere had ever mentioned Kit Carson or its star, [silent movie cowboy] Fred Thomson, in relation to Sedona. It was basically detective work. But this was how we stumbled upon the information that some filming took place in Sedona for Stagecoach. In three separate reports published in the Coconino Sun before, during and after shooting, it was stated that Stagecoach locations in Arizona were at Monument Valley, Cameron, Oak Creek Canyon, Schnebly Hill and areas down south near Phoenix.The accepted back-story about the making of Stagecoach is that [Indian trader] Harry Goulding drove to Hollywood with snapshots of Monument Valley and talked John Ford into going there to shoot. But the first Sun report states that about a month before shooting began, the film company contacted Lee Doyle, the local movie coordinator, who drove John Ford around northern Arizona for a few days to scout locations––standard operating procedure for a film company planning to shoot in the area. I was able to later confirm this by locating a copy of the telegram that was sent to Doyle to alert him of Ford’s imminent arrival in Flagstaff. This challenges accepted film history.
       EAF: Your source listings in the back of the book are quite extensive.
       JM: I’m just a messenger delivering the facts, but I know I’m going to be challenged on a lot of what’s here, so everything in the book is sourced. It has close to 40 pages of notes and bibliography. I list every newspaper and magazine article, every book, every document that I consulted and every interview that I quoted. So anybody who wants to challenge me can check these sources themselves to see that I didn’t make any of this up. –– Originally published in the March 2010 issue of Sedona Monthly.

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