Mavis and I followed U.S. Route 395 on our way to Death Valley. I chose Death Valley because I knew that it would be warmer this time of year to camp than most anything else on my route as it was now the beginning of December. We went over the Eastern Sierra Mountains via Walker Pass, named after Joseph Rutherford Walker who located it in 1834. I tipped my baseball cap to the fellow explorer, took my pictures for the Historical Marker Page and we moved on. The scenery became more rustic, more western. It should have tipped me off that we were indeed moving into an area of the state that Hollywood used frequently for western and more recently science fiction locations. I only wanted to get to Death Valley, but the light was failing and it was going to be too cold to camp anywhere else. I drove into the town of Lone Pine for the night and stayed in a motel, (good thing too, for it had dipped to 21 degrees that night).
The next morning the clear, cold air revealed the peak of Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States. It was simply beautiful. At breakfast I acquired a map of the surrounding area. Evidently the nearby Alabama Hills was the location of countless television shows and films ranging from Rawhide to Gunga Din to Iron Man. I packed up and drove into town, towards the Hills, but not before checking to see if the local library was open. Nope. It was closed. On a Monday. I took a picture of the library for good measure. The Alabama Hills, on the other hand, didn’t disappoint as they are made up of some truly unique geologic formations. I followed the map as best I could but eventually gave up as the washboarding on the roads took its toll on the van’s suspension as well as my bladder (and Mavis was none too happy either). So, I set my compass towards The Museum of Western Film History.
The museum was quite a surprise. I was expecting some sort of roadside attraction affair, but this was a professional establishment with some genuine articles of Hollywood film history. I’ve always had a soft spot for film and film nostalgia, (I have even created a librarian's finding aid for film) but honestly, the western genre was never one of my favorites. The museum's displays range from the earliest days of movie making to recent productions, both in film and television, and particularly those shot in and around Lone Pine. (See below for my extensive collection of photos I took.) I learned a lot and now have a new found respect for westerns. After spending a lovely afternoon there, I climbed back into the van and Mavis and I drove east towards the Valley floor.
Pictures listed below. I am posting a lot today, so get your popcorn and strap in! A.-B.) Two maps of the Alabama Hills, one focused on the movies produced there and another of the geologic formations. C.-F.) Some of those geologic formations. G.) Inyo County Lone Pine Branch, closed. H.) Exterior shot of the Museum of Western Film History. I.-M.) Some equipment and rigging used in outdoor film production. N.) The Lone Ranger’s costume from the television series. O.) Cardboard cutouts of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans in their gallery. P.-Q.) Richard Davis Thunderbird a.k.a. Chief Thunderbird display case with Native American headdress. Chief Thunderbird was a pioneer native actor in Hollywood movies. R.) Errol Flynn’s costume from Kim; he was actually a pretty slim guy. S.) Russell Crowe’s costume from Gladiator. T.) Robert Downey Jr.’s costume from Iron Man. U.) The John Wayne exhibit. V.) The dentist’s wagon from Django Unchained. W.) A western stage coach used in various western genre productions. X.-Y.) A 1941 Buick Eight Roadmaster used in the production of Trail to San Antone. Z.-AA.) A 1937 Plymouth Coupe used in High Sierra, complete with Humphrey Bogart cutout. BB.) A Republic Pictures film still with signatures by Roy Rogers and Slim Pickens, among others. CC.) Poster from Trail to San Antone. DD.) Poster from The Gunfighter with Gregory Peck. I love the tag line: “His only friend was his gun, his only refuge…a woman’s heart!” EE.) A display featuring Roy Rogers, Tex Ritter, and other singin’ cowboys. FF.) Randolph Scott! GG.) Lobby card from I Died a Thousand Times featuring Jack Palance and Shelley Winters. HH.) Bad Day at Black Rock display. II.) Gunga Din poster. JJ.) Kim poster. KK.) Le Sheik D’Arabie (The Flame of Araby) poster. LL.) Samson et Dalila (Samson and Delilah) poster. MM.) The Charge of the Light Brigade poster. NN.) Clint Eastwood display. OO.) Joe Kidd Japanese poster. PP.) Rocketship X-M poster. That one is for the MSTies out there. QQ.) Cherry 2000 poster. That movie takes place in 2017, by the way. RR.) Director William Wellman display. SS.) The Enchanted Hill poster. TT.) Columbia Pictures film still featuring signatures by Clayton Moore, Pat Buttram and Hugh O’Brien. UU.) Gunga Din film still. VV.) Hopalong Cassidy Savings Club display. (An early television program loyalty club where members got tchotchkes for continued viewing.) WW.-YY.) Django Unchained display, script and photo taken of cast members Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz, plus James Russo and director Quentin Tarantino. They attended an event at the museum during filming. ZZ.-AAA.) Two latex models of the "worms" used in the film Tremors.