Lone Pine Film History Museum...

For the last ten years, every time we traverse Highway 395, I have been drawn to stop at this museum. Today, we planned our travels to allow me to do just that. Wow!

The Museum initially was envisioned to represent the Western films that were made in Lone Pine and the Eastern Sierra, (400 in the Alabama Hills, another 300 in the Eastern Sierra including Death Valley and over 1000 commercials). As every Western Director, producer, actor and actress made films in this area, the Museum’s name was changed in 2015 to The Museum of Western Film History and its exhibits pay tribute to ALL Western films, highlighting for visitors those made in this region. The new mission provides the museum a broader range of genre films and an opportunity to reach a wider audience. The Museum also recognizes a number of high profile non-westerns made in the area which include - High Sierra, Iron Man, Tremors, scenes from two Star Trek and Star Wars films,Gladiator, and episodes of Twilight Zone, to name a few. So cool!
After watching the film, From Real life to REEL Life, I embarked on a cinematic history lesson that was pretty darn incredible. The Museum had been searching for a vintage camera car for many months to add to their exhibit that explores filming technology as used in movies and of course, that supported an era of Western film making. Once owned by Hollywood Studio, RKO, the 1928 Lincoln has been in the possession of collectors for many years and is now here and pretty awesome. Many camera cars were used in filming from the 1930s - Similar cars were used along Movie Road in filming Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy and many other films shot in the Alabama Hills.

The movie memorabilia was varied and so interesting. These were John Wayne's boots.
I had to join in the "Singing Cowboy" exhibit. Did I mention my mom was a huge fan of Tex Ritter? Around the campfire, the original cowboys sang of life on the trail with all the challenges, hardships, and dangers encountered while pushing cattle for miles up the trails and across the prairies. While much of what is included in the genre of "cowboy music" is "traditional," a number of songs have been written and made famous by groups like the Sons of the Pioneers and individual performers such as Gene Autry and other "singing cowboys." Singing in the wrangler style, these entertainers have served to preserve the cowboy as a unique American hero.
While I was never a fan, I had to appreciate the Lone Ranger Canyon exhibit. The Lone Ranger's film premiere occurred in the Republic Studio's 1938 serial. There are over 400 items documenting the phenomenon that was this masked man of justice.
One of the most important characters associated with Lone Pine is Clarence E. Mulford’s Hopalong Cassidy. On the page he was a hard drinking, tobacco chewing, rough talking character with a limp that made him “Hop-a-long.” When he was brought to the screen in 1935, as interpreted by William Boyd, he became a respectable cowboy hero who did not smoke, drink or swear. Although Boyd came to the silver screen in the early 1920s and was a matinee idol, he became indelibly associated with the Hopalong Cassidy character while making 66 "Hoppy" films, 31 of which were filmed in and around Lone Pine.

The Museum's updated Hopalong Cassidy exhibit has an extensive range of memorabilia including original film posters, comic books, plates, lunch boxes, clothes, toy guns, milk cartons, watches, games, table lights and much, much more. I was especially fond of the roller skates.
I loved this Django Unchained Dentist Wagon, driven by Christophe Waltz in the film.  It was donated by Quentin Tarantino. Mr. Tarantino filmed much of Django Unchained around the Alabama Hills. He used the Film Museum’s theater to screen and share his love of old westerns with the rest of the crew. Oh man, I wish I was here then!
Filmed here in the summer and fall of 1938, Gunga Din remains to this day the largest production ever filmed in the Lone Pine area. The production company created huge sets, hired over a thousand extras, and built a tent city to house the cast and crew. It is recognized as one of the rare films of its era to stand up well to modern sensitivities. The film is about three British sergeants and Gunga Din, their native bhisti (water bearer), who fight the Thuggee, a cult of murderous Indians in colonial British India. It took 104 days of shooting in the intense desert heat. That was twice what most pictures took at the time.

According to the Museum's website, when discussing the movie Tremors, "When we talk about monster movies we don’t mean intelligent, visceral examinations of things that can destroy us – we mean great, big, silly films where we see the monsters gambolling about in broad daylight, gleefully munching up extras. The best example of a “killer B” film is a low budget horror-comedy gem named Tremors (1990)." While it has been almost 30 years since seeing this film, I am happy I'm not one of the extras getting munch up. The 'star' is pretty scary!

Okay, how cool is Robert Downey, Jr as Tony Stark or Iron Man? Super cool. And there he is, in all his awesomeness, standing in the Alabama Hills. Wow. Next stop for us to spend the night in the Hills that are so immortalized on film and to walk in the footsteps of many of our most admired actors and directors!
"Every time I go to a movie,
it's magic, no matter what the movie's about."
- Steven Spielberg

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