As Western buffs gather this weekend for the annual film festival in Lone Pine, California—the location for hundreds of movies since the silent era—the local museum is featuring its newest donation, from Quentin Tarantino: a period-style dentist wagon featured in his upcoming movie Django Unchained. Tarantino is not only a dyed-in-the-wool film fanatic, but a great admirer of prolific B moviemaker William Witney, who shot countless Western features, serial chapters, and television episodes in Lone Pine over the years. (How much does Q. admire Mr. Witney? He included footage from Witney’s Roy Rogers feature The Golden Stallion in Kill Bill Vol. 2.)
If you’ve never visited Lone Pine, it’s a nice little town dominated by the imposing Mount Whitney, which is snow-capped many months of the year. Just outside of town are the Alabama Hills, whose unique and colorful rock formations provided backdrops for moviemakers from the 1920s onward. Several decades ago, film buffs like the late Dave Holland began exploring the rocks to determine the exact locations where everyone from Tom Mix and Hopalong Cassidy to the crew of Gunga Din set their cameras. The first time Dave drove me out to one of those sites and held up an 8x10 still against the landscape I was floored. There are movie locations everywhere you turn! Just close your eyes and you can imagine Randolph Scott or Gene Autry standing in front of you.
Another devotee, Oscar-winning sound man Ben Burtt, has recorded gunshots in Lone Pine which he has used in a number of contemporary films, giving the Alabama Hills a subtle nod in the 21st century.
If you can’t join the festivities this weekend, you can drop in anytime at the Museum of Lone Pine Film History, which offers a window into the community’s long connection with Hollywood. For more information about the festival and the museum, click HERE.