August 08, 2004:
Joy Anderson of Lone Pine, daughter of Russ Spainhower who worked with so many early films in Lone Pine, recently presented the Beverly and Jim Rogers Museum of Lone Pine Film History with a very special gift, a belt used by Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle here in his first feature film, The Round Up.
Film historians are certain that filming began in Lone Pine in 1919 although it appears movie companies had been coming to Inyo County for a few years before.
The Fatty Arbuckle feature film The Round Up began work on the streets and hills around Lone Pine in December of 1919 and finished at the end of January 1920. The belt present by Mrs. Anderson is tooled leather and quite wide with patterns of flowers worked into the pattern. She received the belt from her mother Jean who identified it as one used by Arbuckle. Although Russ Spainhower was in town at the time, Joy thinks someone else actually served as liaison for the movie company locally. There are several candid shots of the star working in Lone Pine in the family album however.
The town newspaper at the time stated on January 3, 1920 " The Roscoe (Fatty) Arbuckle Motion Picture Company is in Lone Pine where big preparations are underway for the production of pictures. The hotel and lodging house accommodations in Lone Pine will be taxed to their utmost when all the company shall have arrived."
One of the great pieces of film history luck is that the film has survived in a 16 mm negative held at the Library of Congress Film Archive. A print was struck from this negative, funded by Jim Rogers of Sunbelt Communications and it well be screened during the Festival this coming October. An actual 35 mm, tinted nitrate copy was at the UCLA Archive twenty years ago, but it decomposed before it could be restored, an expensive process. This is why preservation of our film heritage is a job that cannot wait.
The film was actually screened on its first run at the end of 1920 in the Independence Theater at Christmas time. Expecting a large crowd of interested local residents, the theater had scheduled two showings at 7 pm and 8:30.
The local newspaper was enthusiastic in its praise of the film. "The Roundup is best described as six reels of undiluted laughs and hair raising thrills, for it shows the corpulent comedian in comedy situations that characterized his former short funfests, as well as dramatic portrayer extraordinary."
The film was based on a famous stage play that was actually turned into a novel before the film was made. The Museum owns a copy of the original novel by the same name published in 1905. It uses the standby plot of two pals in love with the same gal. The reporter explains further, "How one man double-crosses his chum, and married the girl, then seeks to atone for his misdeeds, forms the theme of the story."
Arbuckle's character is named William Henry Harrington Hoover, better known as "Slim," the sheriff. Tom Forman, Wallace Beery, Irving Cummings and Mabel Julienne Scott are in the supporting cast. Tom Forman would return three years later to direct The Virginian screened recently at the Mt. Whitney Film Fest. He also has ranch outside of Bishop and many friends in the valley.
Clarence Badger would have known Fatty Arbuckle well since both of them worked at the Keystone Studios under Mack Sennett and since Badger bought property in the area as early as 1917, he probably was the one who encouraged the film company to come to Lone Pine for most of the location work on this movie.
The Arbuckle belt will be on display in the silent film section of the Museum when it opens next year.