Monday, October 24, 2011

Quiet on the Set!

James Stewart confers with Italian-American “Indian” Iron Eyes Cody in Sedona.
Suspicious PR item from the pressbook for Broken Arrow, filmed in Sedona in 1949: 

Broken Arrow star Jimmy Stewart was known as a nice guy throughout his life, but he was never much of a talker. While on location in the Coconino National Forest near Sedona, the tall, gangling actor stopped for a moment to admire the magnificent view. An uncredited Apache player, Phillip Sky Bird, sidled up to gaze in the same direction.

Minutes passed and not a word was exchanged between the two. Finally, Stewart, feeling the awkward silence, let himself go and came up with an observation.

“Nice country,” he ventured.

“Yes,” replied Sky Bird, “but don’t spoil it by your idle chatter.”

Monday, October 17, 2011

Crystal Ball

Silent movie star Richard Dix listens to the radio––still a technological marvel at the time––while filming Redskin on northern Arizona’s remote Navajo reservation in November 1928. Ironically, Redskin sputtered at the box office due to the rising clamor for talkies and was one of Paramount Famous Lasky Corporation’s last completely silent productions.––Joe McNeill

Monday, October 10, 2011

Paid Sedona Vacation

Ernest Borgnine, Ben Cooper, Frank Marlowe, Royal Dano, Joan Crawford, and Scott Brady in Johnny Guitar (1954).

An unpublished pearl of wisdom from Johnny Guitar co-star Ben Cooper, from a 2004 interview for my book Arizona’s Little Hollywood:

Joe McNeill: “Johnny Guitar may be the greatest film ever made in Sedona, but it was a rather unhappy set – did you think it would turn out so well?”

Ben Cooper: “I was just 20 years old. I had my own horse when I was 12 and didn’t know they had stuntmen in movies. So I used to practice so I could do some of the crazy things they did on horses. Now here I was, 20 years old, working on a Western movie, riding the same horse that Alan Ladd rode in the movie Shane – and they were paying me! Can you picture this kid being unhappy? Not a bit!”––Joe McNeill

Monday, October 3, 2011

'Kingdom of the Spiders' Reunion

In 1977, spiders – and William Shatner – invaded Camp Verde, Arizona, for the filming of the B horror movie Kingdom of the Spiders. It’s a claim to fame the town embraces, so on Oct. 29, the Second Annual Kingdom of the Spiders Reunion takes place at the ball field behind Camp Verde Town Hall. The fun starts at 3 p.m. with music and a barbecue. At 6:30 p.m., the movie will be shown on a 30-foot screen. Admission is free.

“It’s a really good bad movie,” says Steve Goetting, who organized the reunion along with his wife, Barbara. “It’s very dated, but downtown Camp Verde is recognizable. The scenery is recognizable and the buildings are recognizable. There are even scenes filmed in Sedona, though Sedona is referred to as Camp Verde. This really is a part of the Verde Valley’s history.”

Last year, more than 700 people showed up for the reunion including dozens who were extras in the film. Since Kingdom never played in Camp Verde, many people were seeing themselves on the big screen for the first time. “There was lots of cheering – the crowd was thrilled,” says Steve, who also organizes the Camp Verde Pecan, Wine and Antique Festival and who owns The Horn Fine Wines and Craft Brews. “There were kids from the high school in the movie and now they are adults, but they recognized themselves.”

Though Steve extended invitations to the movie’s stars, including Shatner and Tiffany Bolling, don’t expect any big names at the event. You can, however, expect a mini museum featuring Kingdom memorabilia such as photos, newspaper clippings, stencils used to paint larger-than-life spiders on building walls and plastic spiders. An arachnid-lover will also be on hand with a collection of live spiders. Bring your lawn chair, snacks (no alcohol) and a sweater for the movie screening (popcorn and soda will also be sold). Look for a Kingdom of the Spiders float in this year’s Fort Verde Days Parade on Oct. 8. – Erika Ayn Finch. Originally published in the October 2011 issue of Sedona Monthly

Second Annual Kingdom of the Spiders Reunion, Oct. 29 at the ball field behind Camp Verde Town Hall (395 S. Main St. in Camp Verde). The fun starts at 3 p.m. with a movie screening scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Free. For more info, call 800-827-1160 or visit