cowboy

Throwback Thursday: The Majestic Beauty of the Alabama Hills

The Alabama Hills shot by Beth Ann Gallagher

An example of how photogenic the Alabama Hills are. I captured this shot with an iPhone.

 

The Alabama Hills are a photographer’s delight. When I visited, no matter what direction I looked in, I was surrounded by majestic and extremely photogenic beauty. All around me were rock formations that varied in shape and height, even within clusters. As morning turned into afternoon and the sun changed its angle in the sky, light slid across the landscape and highlighted formations in new ways. A formerly familiar spot could feel like a fresh discovery.

It’s no wonder filmmakers from the silent era to the present have been enchanted by the hills. They’re a gorgeous, natural backdrop that requires no painting or CGI. They are scene ready. Nearby spots can bear little resemblance to each other. What looks like a long journey onscreen might only have required careful editing after a cinematographer’s camera was moved mere yards and pointed in another direction.

Because the hills are a protected habitat, they remain unchanged, except by the light and the elements. That gives the place a feeling of timelessness. If you’ve ever seen a movie shot there, it’s very easy to recognize locations. You simply have to go in search of them. If you let your imagination run while you wander, you could expect to see cowboys on horseback or hear a gun battle or stumble upon a temple.

If you ever get a chance to visit the Alabama Hills, especially during the Lone Pine Film Festival, you must! You’ll find yourself somewhere beautiful and full of film history.

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Back from the Rodeo & Will Rogers’ The Ropin’ Fool

Yesterday I went to my first rodeo at the Stanislaus County Fair. Keeping today’s post in a cowboy theme, here’s an excerpt of Will RogersThe Ropin’ Fool.

This novelty, silent short from 1922 was written and produced by Rogers and directed by Clarence G. Badger. There is a slight plot that provides the frame for Rogers’ roping tricks. It’s when those tricks supersede the plot, that the film takes us to a delightfully surreal place. That’s when his character “Ropes” Reilly shows off his talents in the town square. Rogers looks joyful as he slings his rope around and performs the types of tricks that made him famous at the Follies.

His ropes painted white show up well against his dark horse Dopey, but it’s a cinematic convention that makes those roping scenes amazing–slow-motion photography. We get to see all the details of the tricks that go by too quickly for our eyes normally, and their slowed down speed not only gives us a greater appreciation of how difficult these tricks were, but also makes these moments have a mesmerizing dreamlike quality.

The above clips comes from a video promoting Reelclassicdvd.Com’s edition featuring a musical score by Ben Model. If you’d like to see some more scenes minus any plot, but full of roping Turner Classic Movies has an excerpt of outtakes with narration.


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