Monday, August 14, 2017

Arizona Bound Along the Apache Trail

August 7, 2017 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

This image was captured along a portion of the old Goldfield-Mesa City Trail, c. 1915. Photo is from the Southern Pacific Railroad’s “Apache Trail” album.

It was on February 13, 1927, a special train with five cars arrived in Phoenix from Los Angeles. The purpose of the special train was to carry a company of fifty famous Player-Lasky players who were filming a western movie for Paramount Films.

The title of the picture they were filming was Arizona Bound. The director of this western motion picture was John Waters. His assistant director was Richard Blayton. The company motored along the Apache Trail to Fish Creek Canyon where they planned to film several takes of Arizona Bound.

The film centered on the stagecoach days of early Arizona, back in the 1890s.

Betty Jewel played the feminine lead, while Gary Cooper, Jack Dougherty and Christian Frank interpreted the important male parts. The scenes are centered on a picturesque stagecoach and twenty-two-head of horses negotiating Fish Creek Hill. The location managers couldn’t have picked a better site for filming, based on the dramatic and scenic backdrop Fish Creek Canyon provided for the cameras; however, the area was quite remote. It was more than fifty miles from Phoenix.

The story, Arizona Bound, was written by Paul Gangelin. The cameraman for the project was Charlie Schoenbaum, one of the best known cameramen on the coast. Schoenbaum was really impressed with the filming opportunities that he found in this area. Betty Jewel was the only star brought from the coast for the filming. At the time Gary Cooper wasn’t a major star in Hollywood.

The crew motored in a large bus from the Adams Hotel and the Arizona Hotel to their filming site daily. The filming involved extremely long days for the crew under quite primitive conditions.

The storyline of Arizona Bound was woven around the transportation of a particular gold shipment from New Mexico to Arizona in the early 1890s. The entire film was built around Arizona life and scenes.

John Waters directed many of Zane Grey’s stories, turning them into very popular motion pictures. Waters returned to Arizona to film other productions along the Apache Trail. Waters was one of the leading directors in the moving picture industry in the late 1920s. His success focused around new film techniques, new stars and innovations. One important attribute of his films was on “location,” no matter where.

Gary Cooper appeared in this film, and this was one of his first trips to Arizona for the purpose of filmmaking. For any of you who were fans of this legendary actor: yes, Gary Cooper rode the Apache Trail.

The Apache Trail was an enormous attraction to the directors of film in Hollywood. Arizona encouraged film companies to film in Arizona during this period. I served on the Apache Junction Film Commission for ten years, and during my involvement, we had a lot of success attracting films to the Apache Junction region. We had an excellent film commission here in Apache Junction with Cindy Bushboom, Eric Sundt, Ann Cole, Sandie Smith, Sissy Young, Roger Young, Rosemary Shearer and many more. Apache Junction was well represented on the local and national scene. Our members were invited to Hollywood and other California film centers and we prepared dossiers on several film sites in and around the central mountain region and Apache Junction. We sponsored big shows at Apache Land called “Elvis Lives.” We had a large turnout for these programs.

Film in Apache Junction was very active between 1986-1998; another interesting part of Apache Junction history I can relate to. I do apologize for leaving any names off the film commission list. My memory is not what it used to be.