Lone Pine's Alabama Hills: Filming location seen in "Frontier Days" (photo by Don Kelsen)
Photographer and movie location researcher Don Kelsen has been tracking down filming locations around Lone Pine, Calif., for more than 20 years, and offered to share some of his favorite finds with readers of this blog.
"Frontier Days" (Spectrum Films, 1934)
Don's photo above matches this shot from the Bill Cody Western "Frontier Days." Notice the tiny figure of early cowboy hero Cody near the bottom of the frame, which gives an idea of the scale of the rocks.
Bill Cody keeps an eye on the bad guys in "Frontier Days"
Here's another shot from "Frontier Days" — which, incidentally, is the focus of a tour that Don will be conducting in connection with this year's Lone Pine Film Festival, running Oct. 5-8. Don's movie tours are typically one of the hottest tickets at the festival.
The same spot as it appears today — tracked down and photographed by Don Kelsen
Don learned the ropes at Lone Pine under the tutelage of the late Dave Holland, who was a heck of a rock detective himself. Dave remains a legendary figure among film location historians, especially for his work in Lone Pine, where he was a founder and longtime director of the Lone Pine Film Festival.
"In Old Colorado" (Hopalong Cassidy, 1941)
Don learned his lessons well, and today possesses a depth of knowledge of Lone Pine and its historic Alabama Hills that enables him to find almost any rock in the sprawling landscape.
The same scene in modern times (Don Kelsen)
Hopalong Cassidy is a big part of Lone Pine's film history, with almost all of William Boyd's beloved Hoppy movies filmed in and around the Alabama Hills.
"In Old Colorado": Morris Ankrum uses the rock to steady his aim
Another shot from the same sequence in the movie shows a little more of the background, particularly the area at the right of the frame.
"In Old Colorado" (1941)
In this shot from "In Old Colorado," Morris Ankrum, strolling across an unusual rock formation, shouts down orders to his henchmen James Seay, left, and Weldon Heyburn.
Errol Flynn in "The Charge of the Light Brigade" (1936)
The svelte Errol Flynn, as Maj. Geoffrey Vickers, leaned on a certain acorn-shaped rock when he struck a pose for Warner Bros.' "The Charge of the Light Brigade."
The same rock today
Don was able to find the same giant acorn that provided a resting spot for Flynn.
Don Kelsen visits a shooting location for MGM's "The Firefly" (1937)
To explore a shooting location used in the 1937 Jeanette MacDonald movie "The Firefly," let's start with Don's wide shot of the area — which includes a shot of Don himself. The Eastern Sierra rises in the distance.
"The Firefly" (1937): Allan Jones' horse stops at the same rock
Here's the same spot as it appears in the movie — although with all those rocks, you may want a little help matching it up. As a starting point, the horse is standing near the same rock where Don stands in the recent shot.
"Strange Gamble" (1948): William Boyd as Hopalong Cassidy in the Alabama Hills
Another movie tour Don will be conducting at this year's festival spotlights filming locations for the Hopalong Cassidy movie "Strange Gamble."
The same location in modern times (Don Kelsen photo)
"Strange Gamble" was the last of 66 Hopalong Cassidy feature films. While almost all of the Cassidy movies were filmed in the Lone Pine area, a number of them also filmed on the Iverson Ranch.
"Mystery Man" (1944): Hoppy at the "basin rock" on the Iverson Movie Ranch
Don and I joined forces two years ago to track down Iverson Ranch locations for the Hopalong Cassidy movie "Mystery Man." During our search for this spot we started calling it the "basin rock" because of the distinctive basin-shaped indentation in the rock.
The "basin rock" as it appears today, in the Garden of the Gods
We were able to find the basin rock hidden deep in the Garden of the Gods on the Iverson Ranch. You can click here to read about the location of the basin rock and our search for the other Iverson Movie Ranch locations seen in the climactic shootout.
"The Last Posse" (Columbia, 1953)
This screen shot from the Broderick Crawford/John Derek Western "The Last Posse" captures some striking Alabama Hills rock towers.
"Have Gun Will Travel" TV episode "The Marshal's Boy" (1960)
Ken Lynch looks over his shoulder on a Lone Pine shoot for the "Have Gun Will Travel" season four episode "The Marshal's Boy," which premiered Nov. 26, 1960.
The same location in recent years
Don captured a photo of the same spot on a recent visit, matching the TV episode's original black-and-white look, but bringing out much more of the detail in the rocks.
"The Lives of a Bengal Lancer" (1934): Matte painting of "Mogala," set in Lone Pine's Alabama Hills
For a recent blog post I published about the Mogala set built in the Iverson Gorge for "The Lives of a Bengal Lancer," Don was able to find the exact spot in the Alabama Hills where this shot was taken for the matte painting.
Location used for the Mogala matte shot (photo by Don Kelsen)
By matching the above two photos, you should be able to see where the painted version of the Mogala set was inserted into the middle of the Alabama Hills location setting.
The real-world Mogala set, built on the Iverson Ranch
If you caught that post back in May, you may recall that the physical set for Mogala — the mountain stronghold of rebel leader Mohammed Khan — was built in the Iverson Gorge.
click here to see the full post about Mogala and "The Lives of a Bengal Lancer."