by Gwilym Owen
September 4, 2006
The rounded, weather eroded contours of the Alabamas and their rich brown colours form a sharp contrast between the sharply sculptured granite edges of the High Sierra mountains. Against this backdrop, the Alabamas look almost antique in nature as if they have been filmed in the sepia tones of old picture stock.
It is precisely their haunting and otherworldly nature that has made them such a compelling film location...
The Alabama Hills have also had their own share of real life drama as it was here that the Owens Valley Indian wars were fought to a bloody end in 1861-62, forcing the exile of the Paiute Nation.
The Alabama Hills also got their slightly incongruous name at about the same time as they were named after the Confederate warship responsible for wreaking havoc to northern shipping during the Civil War.
Prospectors sympathetic to the Southern cause named their mining claims after the 'Alabama', which eventually stuck to these unique hills.
Interestingly, the Northern steamsailer, 'Kearsarge' sunk the Alabama in 1864, prompting northern sympathetic miners to naming a nearby mining district, mountain pass, peak and a town, 'Kearsarge'...
Hollywood first came to the Alabama Hills in Lone Pine in 1920, to use the unique scenery in more than 300 feature films since that time...
Old Movie stars such as Tom Mix, Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry and the Lone Ranger, used to shoot it out with outlaws here. Classics such as 'Gunga Din', 'Springfield Rifle', and 'How the West Was Won', were filmed on sites now known as 'Movie Flats' and Movie Flat Rd (pictured). The area has been used for current movies such as Speilbergs 'Tremors' shot in the 80's and in 1992, 'Joshua Tree'.
The Alabama Hills, the Sierra Nevadas and the Owens Valley are still being used in movies and countless car commercials - perhaps you will remember them?
Such is the volume of work filmed here that if you watch films or the TV at all, you cannot hope but have seen this location at some time or other! Some of the most recent include the 'Mask of Zorro' and 'Gladiator'...
It is a perfect backdrop that will be used for many years into the future...
The best thing about coming here was being able to retrace the steps of some of my favourite movie stars with a map that I bought at the Indian Trading Post which marked each of the most famous areas, which movies were filmed where and who the different movie stars were...
List of movies shot at Lone Pine
From journal Lone Pine - Land of the Western