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September 12, 2009:

For the next five months, as the featured Friday night movie, the Lone Pine Film History Museum will be showing a retrospective collection of films by western director Lesley Selander, all made locally in Lone Pine or Death Valley. Selander served as a prolific series director for both William Boyd playing Hopalong Cassidy, and Tim Holt. Undoubtedly, the quality of these films are partially because of the talents of Selander.
Lesley Selander was born in Los Angeles on May 26, 1900 and he had already gotten into the film business by the age of sixteen. Film historian Harry Sanford quotes Les, speaking about his work at the Harold Bell Wright Lab, “We’ get the films wet out of the tub, and drop them over wooden racks. Smelled like hell, but it was a job, and I was glad to get it.” It could also be called paying your dues.
Long before he was to actually go on location to Lone Pine, Selander had a connection with the area. He was looking for a new job. “A friend gave me a tip that they were looking for help on a new Will Rogers film, DOUBLING FOR ROMEO (1922), and I hot-footed it over to the studio. The job turned out to be an assistant cameraman.” The connect ion with Lone Pine was that part time resident Clarence Badger was directing and, of course, Rogers vacationed in Lone Pine and worked in the Owens Valley.
By 1925 he had worked himself up to an assistant director position on a Buck Jones feature, DURAND OF THE BADLANDS, that filmed in Lone Pine. Unfortunately, the film is considered lost at this time and is not available for the film series.
Les credits his friendship with Woody Van Dyke for his success. “My first job for him was as a cameraman on a serial. We did everything in those days, you know; it wasn’t at all like it is now. I did seven pictures with a producer named Neal Hart. They were all Westerns. I was the cameraman. I remember we even shot one in Mexico.”
Les describes Buck working on DURAND. “Buck was the greatest rider I ever saw.He was so good, in fact, that you could not shoot too close on tracking shots because he was so smooth in the saddle that it would look like he was on a prop horse against a process screen.”

Les followed Van Dyke over to MGM to work, then he was loaned out to Warner. When he came back to Metro, Woody told himBuck Jones was returning there to make westerns and needed a unit director. Les Selander got the job because Jones was already familiar with him, and Buck’s fifth film in the series was SANDFLOW (1937) and it was made on location in Lone Pine. The film series begins with this picture.

Les had been friends with William Boyd for years and Boyd introduced him to the Hopalong Cassidy series producer Harry Sherman. Les’s perception of Boyd was that he was an unusual person, especially to be a cowboy hero. “He hated kids. He dislikes horses. He was convinced all that he had to do to retain his popularity was smile into the camera or make use of his enchanting laugh.” There are stories in Lone Pine that Boyd was out his costume and in the café as soon as possible and, on more than one occasion, had to switch his drink with a glass of milk if a youngster happened by outside.




















Les made many Hopalong Cassidy features, often among the best according to critics and audiences a like. Sherman did not get along well with Boyd but the series was making money, so he let it all be, But he was interested in branching out and used Selander on one of these films. It did well.
In 1938 the company made six Hoppies, as was expected. Selander made many Hopalong Cassidy films during this part of his career and the ones made in Lone Pine include HOPALONG RIDES AGAIN (1937); HEART OF ARIZONA(1938); PRIDE OF THE WEST (1938); RENEGADE TRAIL (1939) THREE MEN FROM TEXAS (1940). Three films not in the series, but produced by Sherman and Directed by Selander in Lone Pine were KNIGHTS OF THE RANGE(1940) starring Russell Hayden; THE LIGHT OF WESTERN STARS(1940) with Victor Jory and THE ROUNDUP (1941) with Richard Dix. It was a remake of the first film actually made in Lone Pine that starred Roscoe Fatty Arbuckle. All of these films will be shown at the Friday retrospective.

Harry Sherman finally abandoned the Hoppy series in 1944, and William Boyd himself made 12 more. The Lone Pine pictures directed by Lesley Selander were: PIRATES ON HORSEBACK(1941); WIDE OPEN TOWN(1941); COLT COMRADES (1943); BAR 20(1943) and RIDERS OF THE DEADLINE(1943). Altogether, Lesley made twenty-nine Hoppy Features, four Zane Greys and seven other western features for Harry Sherman.

tim-holt-richard-martin.jpgSelander explained, “My contract with ‘Pop’ (Harry Sherman) ended. I was out on my own after nearly eight years. I had to find work and I started looking around.” Sherman almost got him a job directing BUFFALO BILL at Fox but the studio balked. He did get to be assistant director for William Wellman.

Eventually, Selander landed at Republic and worked actively with many of their western stars. It was there that he directed the serial JUNGLE RAIDERS here in Lone Pine. Why they came to Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills to shoot a jungle picture is anyone’s guess. Much of Selander’s work was done down at the river where at least their were lots of bushes and enough trees to seem like a jungle. They also brought four (probably artificial) palm trees that look rather sad out in the rocks.
Selander directed Gene Autry in two pictures. Selander summed up Autry. “Gene was a funny guy. Whenever he wasn’t before the camera, he’d be on the phone to his broker.” One time he heard Autry buying a radio station when he walked into his dressing room. Selander compared Autry to J.P. Morgan, but added, “When it came to his lines, he learned the wrong script.”Selander went on to join Monogram, which had renamed itself Allied Artists and directed PANHANDLE(1947) with Rod Cameron with scenes on location in Lone Pine. “We ran out of money. A really big budget ha, it cost $100,000 and we still tapped out near the end. We had Cameron, as gunfighter John Sands, killed during the final shoot-out in the rain. But the studio wanted a happy ending, so he lived and was seen walking out of town in the rain, singing ‘The Deacon Went Down to the Cellar to Pray’ at the fade.” So if you want to see a dead man singing, be sure to check out this film and its happy rewrite.

RKO contracted with Selander and he started making Tim Holt westerns, many of them of high caliber. Four in the series were made in Lone Pine. They are GUNS OF HATE(1948); INDIAN AGENT (1948); THE MYSTERIOUS DESPERADO (1949) and RIDER FROM TUCSON(1950). Working at United Artists, Selander directed WAR PAINT(1953) almost entirely in Death Valley.
Harry Sanders described the film as a “grim drama of taut suspense…and concerned itself with a cavalry detachment led by Robert Stack and menaced from within and without.” The Boxoffice critic praised the film, writing “The veteran hand of Lesley Selander shows in the able direction which packs in many vivid action panels and holds attention constantly and a basic purpose to the plot that further bulwarks the developing drama.”

Harry Sanders described the film as a “grim drama of taut suspense…and concerned itself with a cavalry detachment led by Robert Stack and menaced from within and without.” The Boxoffice critic praised the film, writing “The veteran hand of Lesley Selander shows in the able direction which packs in many vivid action panels and holds attention constantly and a basic purpose to the plot that further bulwarks the developing drama.”

Selander’s final Lone Pine film was WAR PARTY (1965) made for Twentieth Century-Fox. Selander made five more films, some for Museum Board of Directors member A.C. Lyles at Paramount, and then he retired, having completed a wonderful diverse and interesting career of filmmaking. He retired to a well-earned rest in 1968 and passed away on December 5, 1979 at the age of 79.


OCTOBER 2: THE ROUNDUP 1941 Richard Dix
OCTOBER 23: WIDE OPEN TOWN 1941 William Boyd
OCTOBER 30: COLT COMRADES 1943 William Boyd
NOVEMBER 6: BAR 20 1943 William Boyd
NOVEMBER 20: PANHANDLE 1948 Rod Cameron
**JUNGLE RAIDERS 1945 KANE RICHMOND Chapters shown during series.


Contact Info

The Museum of Western Film History
701 S. Main Street
Lone Pine, CA 93545