Where are the Alabama Hills? Why are they called “Alabama Hills? The Alabama Hills are located just west of Lone Pine and almost directly at the base of the highest peaks in the Sierra Nevada mountains. They represent 25,000 acres of primarily Bureau of Land Management public land and are considered one of the unique geographical regions of the world. The eroded granite rock formations in undulated clumps form canyons and steep mounds that rise from the desert to create an epic landscape of the West that attracted early movie directors and producers. Filming of contemporary movies, TV shows and commercials continues in these extraordinary hills. They were named during the Civil War, by southern sympathizers mining in the area, after the CSS Alabama, a legendary Confederate warship.
How many total movies were filmed in Lone Pine? Over 800 films have been made in the Eastern Sierra, with over 400 filmed just outside of Lone Pine, in the Alabama Hills.
Are there movie sets still visible in the area? A stipulation of filming on public lands requires that no permanent changes can be made to the landscape. All sets and equipment must be removed at the conclusion of filming. Fortunately, this policy preserves the land and the environment for future generations. The museum exhibits and archives the set pieces, scripts, props, costumes and other film making materials donated to its collection.
One of the largest productions ever filmed in Lone Pine was Gunga Din (1939), starring Cary Grant. The Alabama Hills were converted in the film to represent Northern India with elaborate sets including a large village, tent city and a swinging bridge.
After principal photography was completed, Russell Spainhower, a rancher and local liaison to the studios, disassembled the production’s large Tantrapur village set, plus the fort and the temple. He moved all the massive remnants back down to his own Anchor Ranch using the materials to construct a western town, a large Spanish mission, hacienda, and ranch house as a single, integrated, standing set for moviemaking. The western town was torn down in the 1950’s and the mission in 1975.
Note: Every October, on Columbus Day weekend, the Museum sponsors the Annual Lone Pine Film Festival. Over 20 “on location” movie tours are scheduled for these weekends, with tour guides sharing specific movie scene information along the tour routes. Lone Pine Film Festival and on location movie tour tickets go on sale in July, and most tours sell out quickly.
What is the “101 Ranch”? The Miller Brothers 101 Ranch was a 110,000- ranch in the Indian Territory of Oklahoma before statehood. In 1905, it was the birthplace of the 101 Ranch Wild West Show featuring Major W. Lillie, who performed as Pawnee Bill. The show was an expansion of the yearly rodeos that featured roping, riding, bulldogging, Indian dancers, trick roping, riding and shooting. The Wild West Show drew about 80,000 people to the ranch opening day. Many performers in the Wild West Show became stars as silent film cowboys when Western movies became popular in the early 1900’s. Recognizable stars that started at the 101 Ranch include Buffalo Bill, Hoot Gibson, Pawnee Bill, Tom Mix, Ken Maynard, Will Rogers, Tex McLeod, Tex Ritter, Cowboy Art Accord, and Bill Pickett. The ranch remained in the family for almost 60 years. In 1932, during the Great Depression, 101 Ranch filed for bankruptcy. and closed completely after the New York World’s Fair in 1939. A surviving 82-acre area of the ranch is a National Historic Landmark.
Is everything in this museum filmed in Lone Pine? While most of our collection and exhibits feature movies, TV series, documentaries and commercials filmed in and around the Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, the Eastern Sierra, Owens Valley and Death Valley, we have recently expanded our mission to include a growing collection of archives and artifacts documenting the broader Western movie genre.
Do you show old Westerns in the theater? The museum schedules free ‘movie nights’ in the theater. Most often, these movies are shown every other Saturday evening throughout the summer. Check the marquee on the front of the building for dates and times of upcoming movie nights.
The museum has an extensive collection of Western movies in its library archives for research purposes.
Note: Every October, on Columbus Day weekend, the Museum sponsors the Annual Lone Pine Film Festival. Over 20 classic Western films are screened throughout the weekend as part of this festival.
What was the last big movie filmed in Lone Pine? The most recent big movie filmed in Lone Pine was Django Unchained in 2012. Director Quentin Tarantino and crew spent about three months in and out of the Eastern Sierra with Django Unchained. Many of the scenes were filmed at night, with huge lights held and hoisted by local rock climbers atop rock outcroppings. Walt Disney’s The Lone Ranger was shot on Owens Lake and the playa east of Lone Pine in 2013.
Where was Star Wars filmed? The original Star Wars movie did much of its location filming in Tunisia, but when weather conditions became prohibitive, the company returned to California and filmed in Death Valley. They filmed at Furnace Creek, Artist Palette, Dante’s View and some other areas. The Bantha, Jawas and speeder scenes were shot locally. They also shot some footage at Owens Lake. Many of the areas in Death Valley are now off limits for filming but can be visited for matching shots.
Where was Tremors filmed? Tremors was filmed in 1990 in the Alabama Hills. The museum has developed a special ‘on location’ guided tour for groups to visit the sites of many of the Tremor’s scenes. This special guided tour is available only with advanced reservations. The 30th anniversary of Tremors was celebrated in 2020!
Was True Grit filmed here? John Wayne did 13 films in the local area. While True Grit was not filmed in Lone Pine, according to the International Movie Database (IMDb) some scenes were shot in Inyo and Mono counties including Bishop, Hot Creek, (outlaw cabin) and Sherwin Summit, Inyo National Forest.
What does “B” Western mean? The “B” movie, whose roots trace to the silent film era, was a significant contributor to Hollywood’s Golden Age of the 1930s and 1940s. As the Hollywood studios made the transition to sound film in the late 1920s, many independent exhibitors began adopting a new programming format: the double feature. The popularity of the twin bill required the production of relatively short, inexpensive movies to occupy the bottom half of the program. The double feature was the predominant presentation model at American theaters throughout Hollywood’s Golden Age, with the major studio release movie presented first.
Who are Jim & Beverly Rogers? And is he related to Roy Rogers? Jim Rogers, (1938 – 2014) was a philanthropist, education advocate and owner of KSNV-TV, the NBC television affiliate for Southern Nevada. Through Rogers’ interest in Western and cowboy movie history he discovered the California town of Lone Pine, which has been used as a venue for movies since the era of Hollywood silent filmmaking. Rogers financed The Museum of Western Film History (aka “The Beverly and Jim Rogers Lone Pine Film History Museum”) that celebrates and preserves Western film history and highlights the diverse movie history of Lone Pine, Death Valley and the Eastern Sierra. Many of the museum objects and memorabilia were donated by Rogers and his wife Beverly. Both Jim and Beverly Rogers were active supporters of education and left a substantial legacy of philanthropy. Despite the coincidence of the sur-name, Jim was not related to Roy Rogers.
Are the cars in the exhibits original? The cars in the museum collection are all original. The 1941 Buick Eight Roadmaster is similar to the same model Buick used in Trail to San Antonne, a 1947 movie starring Gene Autry and Peggy Stewart. The 1937 Plymouth was used in the 1941 Humphrey Bogart movie, High Sierra. Both cars were donated by Jim Rogers. The RKO Camera Car, originally a 1928 Lincoln four-door sedan, was converted in the 1930’s to the camera car on display in the museum gallery.
Do they still film in the area? Filming continues as a vibrant activity in the area. The Inyo Film Commission estimates about 70-80 permits per year result in filming somewhere in Inyo County. Many local residents have their own stories of working as extras or encountering Hollywood stars in Lone Pine. While occasionally large film companies still stage productions here, many small and independent narrative features,
Who is the film commissioner and how do you obtain permits to film? Jesse Steele is the Inyo Film Commissioner who facilitates film project inquiries and all film permit applications for all of Inyo County. While the second largest county in California, less than two percent of Inyo County property is privately owned. The first step for obtaining a filming permit is for the organizers of a prospective project to identify which locations they want included in the project. Then the Film Commissioner can help identify who controls permits for that site and provide guidance on timing, protocols and restrictions that may need to be addressed. Many locations are managed by the LA Department of Water and Power, Bureau of Land Management, National Forest Service, State Parks, National Park Service, or Inyo County. Project applicants should expect a minimum of ten working days to get the permit completed. The Inyo Film Commissioner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org 760-920-8035.