Catch a pair of films featuring our red rock scenery on TV: Firecreek (1968, filmed in Sedona) starring James Stewart and Henry Fonda; directed by Vincent McEveety. Airing on Turner Classic Movies July 31 at 12 p.m.; The Rounders (1965, filmed in Sedona and Flagstaff) starring Henry Fonda, Hope Holiday, Sue Ane Langdon, and Glenn Ford (pictured above in a scary piece of promotional art); directed by Burt Kennedy. Airing on Turner Classic Movies July 31 at 2 p.m. (Both scheduled screenings are Eastern time.)
Catch a film featuring our red rock scenery on TV: Wild Rovers (1971, filmed in Flagstaff, Sedona and Monument Valley) starring William Holden and Ryan O’Neal; directed by Blake Edwards. Airing on Encore Westerns July 30 at 12:15 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. (Scheduled screenings are Eastern Time.)
Johnny Duncan came to Sedona for the first time to play an Indian in 1954’s Drum Beat. In November 2007, Johnny, then 84 years old, returned for the first time since.
“I don’t know where I am,” he said with a laugh from his hotel. In 1954, he explains, “there were half a dozen shops and few people. There was a swing over the [creek]. Charlie [Drum Beat costar Bronson] and I swung at the [creek] with some kids. It was great.”
Johnny was born near Kansas City, Mo., in 1923. His farmer dad taught him to dance the “Irish jig” before milking cows as a way to get him up at the crack of dawn. Later, as part of a duo, Duncan and Fisher, he was dancing at Elks Lodges and community events. A talent scout saw the act and invited Johnny to California – his parents got $300 and Johnny signed a contract for $50 per week. He was 15. “I’d gone from plowing a field barefoot to wearing a sport coat in California and I loved it,” he says.
In 1949, Johnny landed the role of Robin in the 15-chapter Columbia Pictures’ serial Batman and Robin, (that’s him with Batman Robert Lowery in the photo). “It was fantastic. Little did I know it would be a classic. Kids today still love Batman and Robin – every 10 years I have a new audience.”
Johnny ultimately moved into the hotel business, though he had bit roles in the 1980s on TV’s Dallas and Dynasty. He retired for good in 2000 and currently lives in Missouri.
One of his favorite movie memories actually involves Drum Beat. In a scene where Indians are chasing star Alan Ladd, Ladd turns and fires at his pursuers. Each time he would fire a single shot, at least three of the riding extras would fall from their horses. The director, Delmer Daves, finally yelled, “cut” and had to explain that only one of them could fall from his horse per shot. “Every time Alan and I saw each other after we made that movie we would laugh and laugh about that,” Johnny says.––By Erika Ayn Finch. Originally published in the January/February 2008 issue of Sedona Monthly
It’s nothing short of amazing, and more than a little disappointing, that so many Sedona film fans have forgotten the still-standing Sedona location of Paul Mazursky’s Harry and Tonto, especially when you consider the 1974 flick is the only movie with scenes filmed in Sedona to have its star win an Academy Award for Best Actor. Art Carney, best known for his role as “subterranean sanitation engineer” (or sewer worker) Ed Norton in The Honeymooners and The Jackie Gleason Show, won the Oscar as well as a Golden Globe in 1975. In the sentimental comedy, Carney plays 72-year-old Harry, who sets out on a cross-country trip with his orange cat, Tonto, after his New York apartment is demolished. After Tonto kicks up a fuss about traveling via airplane and Greyhound Bus, Harry purchases a car (even though his driver’s license expired in 1958) and proceeds to drive to Chicago to see his daughter (played by Ellen Burstyn). When things go sour in the Windy City, he heads west and makes a brief stop in Sedona.
About one hour and 15 minutes into the movie, Harry stands by a telephone booth on SR 179 with Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte looming in the not-too-distant background while his nephew makes a phone call. The telephone booth sits in front of the Sedona Inn, a motel located in the building that now houses Minami restaurant and Indian Ink Tattoo at 6586 SR 179 in the Village of Oak Creek (stop at the commercial center and take a look at it from a different angle – it’s obvious it once housed a motel; it’s even easy to imagine a motel room while dining in Minami). In the six-minute sequence, Harry meets up with a naturopath (obviously there are some aspects of Sedona that haven’t changed in the last 35 years) named Wade (played by Arthur Hunnicutt) who attempts to cure Harry’s bursitis in a motel room. You can see views of Bell Rock from the motel room window; our best guess is the scene was filmed in the room that now houses Minami. When Wade and Harry depart Sedona’s Inn, they drive through the Village of Oak Creek during a blazing sunset. Harry and Tonto have further adventures in Flagstaff, Las Vegas (in a hilarious scene where Harry drags poor Tonto through a busy casino) and, finally, Hollywood and Venice Beach. It’s great to know a piece of Academy Award history and Sedona film history still stands.––Erika Ayn Finch. originally published in the July/August 2009 issue of Sedona Monthly
Catch a film featuring our red rock scenery on TV: Wild Rovers (1971, filmed in Flagstaff, Sedona and Monument Valley) starring William Holden, Ryan O’Neal and Karl Malden; directed by Blake Edwards. Airing July 19 at 8 p.m. and July 20 at 3 a.m. on Encore Westerns. (Both scheduled screenings are Eastern Time.)
Catch a pair of films featuring the red rock scenery on TV: Broken Arrow (1950, filmed in Sedona) starring James Stewart and Jeff Chandler; directed by Delmer Daves. Airing on Fox Movie Channel July 15 at 9 a.m.; Wild Rovers (1971, filmed in Flagstaff, Sedona, and Monument Valley) starring William Holden and Ryan O’Neal; directed by Blake Edwards. Airing on Encore Westerns July 15 at 9:30 a.m. (All screenings are Eastern Time.)
Cecilia Parker in cheesecake still promoting Universal Pictures' serial The Jungle Mystery.
“If anything should happen to make me drop out of pictures right now, I feel as though I would be much ahead of the game for the experience I’ve had. Of course, I hope to be able to carry on for some years yet. But there is no telling when one’s picture life will come to an end. And when mine comes, I won’t cry––I will be glad to have had a taste of it.
“The first thing I would do if I were forced out of pictures would be to look for a job in an office. I believe the poise and experience I have acquired in pictures would be of help to me in getting a such a job, too. Poise is just as important in an office as anywhere else, although most girls don’t seem to consider it so."––Actress Cecilia Parker quoted in a newspaper interview published on May 10, 1932, a few days after she completed Sedona location work for Fox Film’s Mystery Ranch. Ms. Parker made her credited movie debut seven months earlier in Zane Grey's The Rainbow Trail, the Grand Canyon-filmed sequel to the photographed-in-Sedona Riders of the Purple Sage. All three Westerns starred George O’Brien. In a joint TV interview fifty years later, both Parker and O’Brien recalled that the 17 year-old neophyte actress had an on-set tutor while filming Rainbow Trail. They were probably referring to Fox’s staff acting coach Minna Gombell, who was also a member of Rainbow Trail’s cast and went on location in the Grand Canyon with them.
Having played host to more than 60 Hollywood productions—from the early years of cinema through the 1970s—Sedona, Arizona’s unsung role in American film is the topic of this blog. Here, once and for all Sedona gets her due as a key location in movie history, a silent but stunning backdrop to all genres of movies including silent films, B westerns, World War II propaganda, and film noir.