Arizona's LIttle Hollywood

Sedona and Northern Arizona forgotten film history

60 FILMS. 680 PAGES.







California has an ambitious wagon
train scene filmed on Sedona’s
Schnebly Hill that took six days
and hundreds of local extras-––the
most spectacular choreography a
Hollywood film crew ever pulled off
in Red Rock Country



      Imagine retrieving your daily mail, and among the catalogs and bills, you open a carefully wrapped package containing an original letter from Zane Grey recommending filming locations for Riders of the Purple Sage. Or maybe it’s the cinema program for Der Kaiser von Kalifornien from Nazi Germany, or Jane Russell’s haystack pinup skirt from The Outlaw. Those are just a few of the items that have arrived at Joe McNeill’s doorstep over the past five years. Joe, Sedona Monthly’s creative director, began collecting memorabilia from movies associated with Red Rock Country while writing Arizona’s Little Hollywood: Sedona and Northern Arizona’s Forgotten Film History 1923-1973, and he’s amassed quite the collection. So what’s a movie buff to do with clothing worn by Glenn Ford in The Redhead and the Cowboy, billboard-sized movie posters, almost a thousand pages of period newspaper clippings and recordings of filmmaker interviews? Why, create a museum, of course.
       Joe and his wife, Sedona Monthly’s publisher Deb Weinkauff, recently disclosed their plans to a select group of Sedona movers and shakers for Arizona’s Little Hollywood Museum. While a permanent location for the museum has yet to be decided, the couple are currently working on creating a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, and they are looking for a temporary site where they can showcase a portion of the thousands of items Joe has collected and preserved.
       While gathering photos for Sedona Monthly’s movie series (which would eventually morph into Arizona’s Little Hollywood), Joe started coming across props and other film items for sale. He really hit the jackpot when he purchased a shirt worn by Elvis in the movie Stay Away, Joe. “At the time it was just for fun,” says Joe. “I had no conscious plan of collecting. I thought photos of the objects would wind up as illustrations in the book, interspersed with movie stills.”

As Joe became more serious – and more curious – he started scanning auction catalogs and auction Web sites. He also started contacting memorabilia collectors and dealers. He says he tried to buy everything he could get his hands on, but authenticity was always concern No. 1. When he purchased what was thought to be the button-down tunic John Wayne wore in Stagecoach, he wound up returning it to the auction house after several historians cast doubt on the shirt’s provenance. But there’s no doubt about the legitimacy of Joe’s favorite item: the hat James Stewart wore in Broken Arrow.
       Joe considered donating the collection to the Autry National Center of the American West in Los Angeles, but Deb came up with a better idea: establishing a museum in Sedona. Joe and Deb envision a serious museum preserving Sedona’s film legacy – not a kitschy tourist trap – that will serve as a “cultural hub” for Sedona locals and visitors. They hope their initial gift will eventually expand to include a research library; concerts; movie screenings; an annual archival film festival; movie location tours; a restaurant and gift shop; and kids’ learning activities. “I expect Arizona’s Little Hollywood Museum will quickly become Sedona’s most popular visitor destination, second only to the red rocks themselves,” says Joe. All the profits from the museum will be used to fund arts education programs for students in the Verde Valley.
       So what are some of the items Joe and Deb will endow to Arizona’s Little Hollywood Museum? This list is too long to name in its entirety but highlights include props from Station West and The Rounders; original costume design sketches for Stagecoach, California and Copper Canyon; local film coordinator Lee Doyle’s business files; original scripts, production documents and contracts, including Zane Grey’s agreement assigning The Call of the Canyon film rights to Famous Players-Lasky; vintage B Western fan club ephemera; movie theater lobby displays; hundreds of fully restored movie posters; original documents from the House Committee on Un-American Activities; autographs; toys; and hundreds of VHS tapes, 16mm film, laserdiscs and DVDs.
       While Joe and Deb realize it’s going to take time to pull everything together, they say they want a temporary museum to open ASAP in order to immediately benefit Sedona culturally and financially. In the meantime, Joe says the preservation of Sedona’s film history has already begun with the publication of Arizona’s Little Hollywood, the content of which will be used for the timeline in the museum’s permanent exhibit. –– By Erika Ayn Finch; originally published in the April 2010 issue of Sedona Monthly.

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