September 13, 2005:
We take for granted the annual picking of the Best Picture of the Year by the Academy of Arts and Sciences at the annual Oscars. It all began with the award being given to the film Wings, starring Gary Cooper, and Clara Bow that was directed by the master William A. Wellman.
Actor and producer William Wellman Jr., son of director William A. Wellman, will be the guest speaker at the dinner following the celebration of the completion of the Beverly and Jim Rogers building to house the Lone Pine Film History Museum.
While much work remains, the Museum is a dream come true for Lone Pine and the entire County of Inyo, for the museum, besides inheriting the mantel of the home of the B Western, will also celebrate and preserve the film heritage of the entire area from Bishop to Pearsonville, from the Sierra through Death Valley to Shoshone.
"While historically the Film Festival has focused on the area immediately around Lone Pine, the Museum's purview is wider," Chris Langley, Executive Director of the Museum commented. "We will widen our focus to include such films as Fritz Lang's classic western The Return of Frank James, which filmed outside of Bishop to Cecil B. DeMille's early film Chimmie Fadden Out West which we think filmed in Death Valley in 1915. That date makes it the first film to work in Inyo County as far as we know."
The ceremony will be at four o'clock on October 6 followed by a cocktail party and a dinner at the Museum site. Mr. Wellman will focus his talk on his book The First Best Picture, which is the story of his father's film Wings which won the very first Best Picture Oscar.
Bill Wellman will also talk about his dad's early career during which he worked with Clarence Badger , Will Rogers and Big Boy Guinn Williams, paying his dues as a prop man ultimately to take the helm for a western entitled The Man Who Won starring Dustin Farnum. The film was made on location in Lone Pine in 1923. Mr. Wellman returned to work here briefly for his film A Star Is Born in 1938.
In 1948, Wellman returned with Gregory Pecks, Richard Widmark and Anne Baxter during the heat of the summer to film the western Yellow Sky, one of the classic Lone Pine westerns. A very popular bus location tour is run each October at the Festival that highlights the sets and arastra from the film. A second unit for the Wellman film The Ox Bow Incident starring Henry Fonda and Anthony Quinn came on location to the Alabama Hills as well. In fact Wellman made over thirty westerns, but this aspect of his filmography is often overlooked because of his award winning non-western films.
A frequent visitor to Lone Pine and an enthusiastic supporter of the Festival, Bill Wellman Jr. actually spent the summer of his eleventh year on location with his dad in Lone Pine and has many interest memories of that time: of Peck, Baxter and the events surrounding the shoot which he recalled in an interview published in the Museum newsletter, Reel Stuff. The newsletter is mailed to all museum members.