24 December 2023

Paria UT, USA

The film THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES is set during the American Civil War (1861-1865). Josey Wales (Clint Eastwood), a Missouri farmer, becomes involved in the war when his wife and son are killed by Northern soldiers. He swears revenge and joins a group of southern soldiers. He makes a name for himself as a feared gunfighter and becomes the outlaw of the title.

The Outlaw Josey Wales, 1:42:53
Filming started on 6 October 1975 and would last for two months at various locations in the states of California, Arizona and Utah. In the latter state is the former town of Paria, near the Nevada border and part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Kane County. The town was founded in 1865 by Mormons. After several years of growth, more and more residents left Paria due to frequent floodings.

Paria, Grand Staircase-Escalante NM, 10 July 2023
The last resident was a lone bachelor who left in 1929. After the fast-growing film industry discovered the ghost town with its canyon vista background, numerous films, mostly westerns, were shot here from the 1930s onwards. Over the years, the village fell into disrepair. New sets were built but no more films were made after The Outlaw Josey Wales. Volunteers built a new set in the late 1990s, which was destroyed in a fire in 2006.

All that remains of Paria now is the graveyard and a faded information sign.

In the film Paria is seen as Santa Rio. Wales arrives in this town when he and Little Moonlight (Geraldine Keams), a young Navajo woman, have freed three people from the hands of a marauding gang.

The Outlaw Josey Wales, 1:42:53
Paria, Grand Staircase-Escalante NM, 10 July 2023
The Outlaw Josey Wales, 1:29:31
Paria, Grand Staircase-Escalante NM, 10 July 2023
The Outlaw Josey Wales, 1:29:36
Paria, Grand Staircase-Escalante NM, 10 July 2023
The Outlaw Josey Wales, 1:29:37
Paria, Grand Staircase-Escalante NM, 10 July 2023

At the end of the film, Josey Wales returns briefly to Santa Rio.

The Outlaw Josey Wales, 2:13:30
Paria, Grand Staircase-Escalante NM, 10 July 2023

Paria, Grand Staircase-Escalante NM, 10 July 2023

Screenshots © Warner Bros. Inc.

26 November 2023

Paramount Studios CA, USA

In the film SUNSET BLVD. (also written as Sunset Boulevard), fact and fiction intertwine. The title refers to the 35-kilometre-long (22 miles) street in Los Angeles where many stars from the silent film era lived in the late 1940s but were now no longer part of the movie industry. Director and screenwriter Billy Wilder wondered how they spent the day and coped with fading fame.

Sunset Blvd., 1:49:33
Together with Charles Brackett and D.M. Marshman Jr. he came up with the story of unsuccessful screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) who by chance meets former movie star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson, who herself became famous during the silent film era). She lives as a recluse in her mansion on Sunset Blvd. with her butler Max (played by director and actor Erich von Stroheim, also from the silent era). She hosts bridge nights with former colleagues Buster Keaton, Anna Q. Nilsson and H.B. Warner, all playing themselves.

Norma Desmond's house actually stood on South Irving Boulevard and was demolished in 1957. The building where Joe Gillis lives in Hollywood still exists. It is the Chateau Alto Nido Apartments at 1851 Ivar Ave. Filming took place in May and June 1949. A new opening scene was filmed in January 1950.

Paramount Studios, Melrose Avenue, 19 July 2023
The film was released by Paramount Pictures, so it is no coincidence that Joe Gilles goes to this film studio hoping to sell one of his stories. He walks along Bronson Avenue towards the main gate on Marathon Drive. The gate was built in 1926 and is known as Bronson Gate.
Over the years the studio complex has expanded. A fountain has been placed in front of the entrance and a large car park has been added, shielded since 1978 by a second, double gate at 5555 Melrose Avenue.

For this reason, the original entrance can only be visited as part of the Paramount Pictures Studio Tour. During our visit, actors were picketing  in front of the entrance for better working conditions. The strike began on 14 July and would eventually last 118 days.

Sunset Blvd., 0:05:12
Bronson Gate, Paramount Studios, 19 July 2023

Later in the film, Norma Desmond hopes for a comeback with a script she wrote herself and sent to Cecil B. DeMille. Because the famous director, playing himself, does not respond, Norma goes to Paramount Studios herself and takes Joe with her. Max drives her 1929 Isotta Fraschini. An elderly doorman (Robert Emmett O'Connor) recognizes the once famous actress and lets the car in.

Sunset Blvd., 1:04:41
Bronson Gate, Paramount Studios, 19 July 2023
Sunset Blvd., 1:05:27
Bronson Gate, Paramount Studios, 19 July 2023
Sunset Blvd., 1:05:35
Bronson Gate, Paramount Studios, 19 July 2023

The car drives to Stage 18 where Cecil B. DeMille was shooting the film Samson and Delilah, in the movie as well as in reality. The same studio would also host the indoor filming of Sunset Blvd. as well as Stage 17. Each studio has a plaque listing the most famous films and television series shot here. Cecil B. DeMille and Gloria Swanson were old acquaintances, he directed her several times during the silent film era. He died in 1959 and is buried at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, a graveyard within walking distance of Paramount.

Sunset Blvd., 1:07:35
Stage 18, Paramount Studios, 19 July 2023
Plaques Stage 17 en 18, Paramount Studios, 19 July 2023

Paramount Studios, 19 July 2023
Opposite Stage 18 are the offices of the screenwriters, seen in the film when Joe and Max are waiting outside. Little has changed here over the years which can be said of the entire studio complex.
Paramount is the only studio still based in Hollywood. The famous Hollywood sign is visible from the studio.
The tour we did lasted two hours. We stopped regularly and had enough time to take photos, filming is not allowed.
Highly recommend!

Sunset Blvd., 1:11:56
Paramount Studios, 19 July 2023
Sunset Blvd., 1:12:09
Paramount Studios, 19 July 2023

Screenshots © Paramount Pictures Corporation

15 October 2023

Death Valley CA, USA

With STAR WARS (since 1981 with the addition Episode IV: A New Hope) one of the most financially successful film series was launched in 1977. To date, 12 feature films, 23 series and three television specials have been released. The franchise is still going strong as no less than seven new films have been announced. Each film begins with the phrase "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..." but exactly how long ago and in which galaxy is not known. 

Star Wars, 0:42:45
Besides shooting at England's Elstree Studios, several locations in Tunisia were chosen for the first film to depict the desert planet Tatooine. On 22 March 1976 in Tunisia production began where filming was to take place for two-and-a-half weeks. Due to technical problems and an unexpected rainstorm, production was delayed and not all the planned shots could be made.

In early 1977, extra funding was released to film the missing scenes in Tikal National Park in Guatemala and in Death Valley and China Lake Acres in California.

Furnace Creek Visitor
Center, Death Valley,
12 July 2023
At the time of filming Death Valley was a National Monument, since 1994 it is a National Park. It is a desert valley with mountains, rocks, salt flats and dunes. Located below sea level, it is one of the hottest places in the world in the summer. At the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, which by the way is airconditioned, is a thermometer outside showing the temperature in both Celsius and Fahrenheit. During our visit it was 'only' 44 °C (111 °F); a few days later the temperature would rise to over 50 °C (122 °F). At the parking lots were signs with warnings not to hike after 10 am, an advice that some people neglected. It should be clear that in the summer visitors should prepare well by bringing enough drinking water and dress according to the extreme weather conditions. At the time of writing this blog post the entire area is closed due to flooding caused by Hurricane Hilary. Up-to-date information can be found on the website of the Death Valley National Park.

The planet Tatooine is introduced when the droids C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) have landed there in a capsule. They have been sent by Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) with a message for Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness). They argue which way to go and each droid goes its own way. The scene where R2-D2 moves across the sand was shot at the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, an area with dunes named after the trees that grow here, the mesquite. This location is next to a car park so I did not have to walk far to take the photo.

Star Wars, 0:10:24
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Death Valley, 12 July 2023

As night falls, R2-D2 finds himself in a rocky area where the droid is taken by Jawa's, the pint-sized inhabitants of Tatooine. These scenes were filmed at Artist's Palette. This area gets its name from the coloured rocks and is easily accessible by car. Note the digitally changed background in the first screenshot.

Star Wars, 0:11:23
Artist's Palette, Death Valley, 12 July 2023
Star Wars, 0:11:31
Artist's Palette, Death Valley, 12 July 2023

Artist's Drive, the road to Artist's Palette, can also be seen briefly when the Jawa's take R2-D2 to their vehicle. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo here. Because of the heat we did not visit two locations in Death Valley also featured in the film, Desolation Canyon and Golden Canyon. We did however visit Dante's View. At this viewpoint, Obi-Wan Kenobi points out the spaceport Mos Eisley to Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). In reality, there are no buildings here.

Star Wars, 0:42:36
Dante's View, Death Valley, 12 July 2023

For RETURN OF THE JEDI production returned to Death Valley. The film is Episode VI in the original series and the third film made, after Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. Filming began on 11 January and ended on 20 May 1982.

Return of the Jedi, 1:28:37
Once again, filming took place at Elstree Studios in England. According to the end credits, shooting on location was in Buttercup Valley, Death Valley and Smith River, all in California. Several websites report that the Yuma Desert in Arizona is also seen in the film as the planet Tatooine. This desert is adjacent to Buttercup Valley, chances are that filming took place in both states.

The scene filmed in Death Valley lasts less than 30 seconds and, according to the book The Making of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, was made on 11 December 1982, six months after the official filming period.

C-3PO and R2-D2 are on Tatooine on their way to Jabba the Hutt. His palace was digitally added. They walk through Twenty Mule Team Canyon, an unpaved road of about 2.5 miles (4 kilometers). Its name dates back to the late 19th century when mules were used for mining. It took us a while to find the exact location. The mudstone hills have remained largely the same despite erosion but the road running through the area has changed over the years.

Return of the Jedi, 0:04:59
Twenty Mule Team Canyon, Death Valley, 12 July 2023
Return of the Jedi, 0:05:21
Twenty Mule Team Canyon, Death Valley, 12 July 2023

Screenshots © Lucasfilm