A Twentieth Century Fox vice president will introduce this year’s Brigham Young University Motion Picture Archive Film Series in the Harold B. Lee Library Auditorium Friday, Sept. 10, at 7 p.m.
Schawn Belston, who specializes in film restoration at Fox, will speak about Utah’s Hollywood heritage, after which John Ford’s classic 1939 film “Drums Along the Mohawk,” costarring Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert, will be shown. Belston will also be available to answer questions after the screening.
“Belston has been a genuine supporter of the film series,” says James D’Arc, senior librarian at the Lee Library and curator of the Motion Picture Archive. “It was a Fox film that first came to Utah and jumpstarted the trail of Hollywood producers who have come here since 1924.”
Admission is free and the public is welcome, but early arrival is encouraged. The auditorium doors open at 6:30 p.m. BYU dress standards apply, and no food or drink is permitted in the auditorium. Children ages eight and over are also welcome.
D'Arc will provide a behind-the-scenes look at the making of “Drums Along the Mohawk.” D'Arc is also the author of the newly published book “When Hollywood Came to Town: A History of Moviemaking in Utah," that surveys the more than 100 years of filming history that produced more than 800 feature motion pictures, television movies and TV series episodes filmed in the Beehive State.
The Dixie National Forest around Cedar City doubles for the Mohawk Valley of upper New York state in John Ford’s adaptation of the popular Revolutionary War novel by Walter Edmonds. Filmed in Technicolor, Ford’s tale of America’s beginnings became one of the biggest hits of the decade and was his first color film.
The BYU Motion Picture Archive Film Series, now in its 12th consecutive season, will feature seven films — all shot in Utah — throughout fall semester. The series is co-sponsored by the L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Friends of the Harold B. Lee Library and Dennis & Linda Gibson.
Other films in the series include:
Buffalo Bill — Sept. 24
The legendary William F. Cody is brought to life in this popular but fanciful biographical drama, beginning with his days as an Army scout and ending with his internationally famous Wild West show. The spectacular recreation of the Battle of War Bonnet Gorge, staged in Kane County’s Paria area, was one that, according to The Hollywood Reporter, “almost defies adequate description.”
Smoky — Oct. 8
The popular Will James novel about a horse that is befriended by a cowboy drifter and then taken away from him became a stunning Technicolor feature. A strong supporting cast, including balladeer Burl Ives in his motion picture debut, made “Smoky” a top moneymaker for the studio. One of the most beautiful Technicolor films made in Utah, it was photographed on a number of Utah locations, including Duck Creek, Kanab Canyon and Zion National Park. This film is not available on DVD.
Ramrod — Oct. 22
Voted Utah’s Centennial Film by the state legislature, “Ramrod” generated considerable controversy, mostly over the ruthlessness of rancher Veronica Lake’s tactics against cattle baron Preston Foster, with foreman Joel McCrea caught in the middle. Filmed entirely on location in the Utah ghost town of Grafton and in Zion National Park, “Ramrod” is one of the most electrifying westerns of the 1940s. This film is not available on DVD.
Rio Conchos — Nov. 5
U.S. Cavalry officer Stuart Whitman enlists embittered Confederate Richard Boone to stop gunrunners to the Indians in post-Civil War Texas and Mexico. The red rocks of Professor Valley along the Colorado River near Moab and Arches National Park offer a breathtaking CinemaScope setting for this big-budget western. This film is not available on DVD.
Thunder in the Valley — Nov. 19
The popular Alfred Ollivant novel “Bob, Son of Battle” is the source for this drama about sheep dogs in the Scottish highlands, filmed in the mountains of Utah’s Garfield County. Edmund Gwen (Santa Claus in “Miracle on 34th Street,” released the same year) is a crusty shepherd whose struggling relationship with his son McCallister is complicated by a predatory animal that is attacking the flocks of local shepherds. “There is another and perhaps even more potent star in the picture,” praised Variety. “Technicolor itself and the color job here is grand.” This film is not available on DVD.
Kit Carson — Dec. 3
This western pioneering adventure, filmed among the towering sentinels of Monument Valley, was one of the few sound movies made there by someone other than John Ford. Jon Hall stars as the famous frontiersman who guides a wagon train, escorted by a small military detachment, through Indian territory. Director George B. Seitz was the first to film a Hollywood movie (Zane Grey’s “The Vanishing American”) in this famous location in 1925. This film is not available on DVD.
Writer: Philip Volmar