Attending the Lone Pine Film Festival

If there’s one thing I’ve learned after attending three consecutive TCM Film Fests is the fact that I do enjoy a good film festival! To spend the weekend with like-minded folks and indulge in film appreciation is my idea of fun. Since the TCM one only happens once a year I did a little research and discovered there are lots of other classic film fests spread all over the country. Whether it’s silents, Buster Keaton, Humphrey Bogart or Westerns there’s a festival for any film fan. And it turns out one of them, the Lone Pine Film Festival, is practically in my backyard.

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Lone Pine is a small town in the Easter Sierras that just so happens to be the filming location of countless movies and its annual film festival has been celebrating this fact for the past 27 years. The town had long been on my list of places to visit thanks to its Museum of Western Film History but attending the festival had never occurred to me. Then I heard good things from fellow bloggers Laura of Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings and Beth of Spellbound by Movies  and decided it was time to attend. Shannon and my mom were also interested so we decided to make a vacation of it and spent a week traveling around the state with the festival as our final stop.

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We got into town Friday afternoon and checked into our room at the Best Western Plus Frontier Motel. The quaint motel embraces Lone Pine’s film history and each room is named after a star or character connected to the area. As fate would have it, we were booked in the Barbara Stanwyck room which was decorated with images pertaining to her career.

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The spotlessly clean, comfortable room was the perfect spot for our stay but I must admit I didn’t spend much time in it. That evening Shannon and I headed to a screening of the John Ford silent Western 3 Bad Men.

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All films shown at the festival were filmed in Lone Pine and 3 Bad Men was one of the earliest entries. Released in 1926 and starring George O’Brien and Olive Borden it tells the tale of 3 outlaws who run into a young settler whose influence proves there’s still good in their hearts. Going in I wasn’t sure if the film would hold my attention – when it comes to silents I’m partial to straight comedy. But the strong acting, beautiful imagery, bittersweet story and live accompaniment by Jay C. Munns made for a memorable screening. I absolutely loved the film.

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Afterward, we enjoyed a panel moderated by Ed Hulse and featuring Ben Mankiewicz, Dan Ford and William Wellman, Jr. who discussed the legacy of their famous ancestors. They were full of interesting stories and it was fascinating to get a glimpse into the lives of Hollywood royalty.

The next morning we woke up bright and early for a Sunrise Tour in the Alabama Hills. Located just outside of town the hills are the setting of countless film scenes. With the Sierras as a backdrop they’re beautiful to see, especially as the sun is rising.

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While we noshed on breakfast we saw an incredible sunrise and explored the unique rock formations.

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Throughout the hills are markers identifying specific film scenes and Shannon and I couldn’t help by act one out.

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After the tour we headed back into town and headed to the museum. The Museum of Western Film History was founded 10 years ago and is a treasure trove of film artifacts.

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It’s so chock full of items that we spent a good deal of time wandering around and admiring everything leaving only to catch another film screening. This time we watched Stagecoach Kid starring Tim Holt.

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I’d long heard about Tim Holt from the Warner Archive podcast and this was my first chance to catch one of his films. He was one of the leading men of B-Westerns and Stagecoach Kid is a prime example of one. Running around 1 hour with a paper thin plot it still was fun and entertaining. Plus, we got several glimpses of the Alabama Hills that we had just wandered that morning!

After the screening we split up and Shannon and my mom caught some rodeo action while I attended a panel of Hollywood offspring featuring Wyatt McCrea, Petrine Mitchum, Cheryl Rogers-Barnett and Melinda Carey. All panelists told fun stories of growing up in their famous families and listening to them was a true delight. Afterwards they signed books and I was able to meet Petrine and pick up a copy of her book Hollywood Hoofbeats: The Fascinating Story of Horses in Movies and Television which had long been on my wish list.

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After a quick stroll through town and a shopping spree in the museum gift shop we headed home thoroughly exhausted after our week on the road. We all had a wonderful time at the festival and fell in love with the Alabama Hills. I can’t wait to return and am excited to see what the 2017 festival brings.

Comments

  1. Great writeup and excellent choice of pictures! It’s always nice to hear from first-time Festival attendees — a high percentage of which become regulars. Lone Pine tends to promote that kind of enthusiasm. Hope we’ll see you back next year!

  2. Ross Schnioffsky says:

    A very enjoyable article – I am so glad you got to the Lone Pine Film Festival, which is always a hoot! I have been an irregular visitor since 2006 and enjoyed 5 or 6 wonderful festivals. I would have been to more if it were not for the fact that I live in Melbourne, Australia. But hopefully we will both be back for 2017 festival! You may be interested in this little video about one of the festival tours that I conduct with my pal Warren Davey:

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