The First Film Commissioner

March 09’s Vanity Fair has a great feature on Harry Goulding, the pioneering Colorado-born rancher who, it could be argued, did the work of the world’s first film commissioner…..

It’s worth reading the whole article to be once again reminded of how the movies can impact so forcefully on how we see the world, but the bit where Harry goes to Hollywood in 1938, armed with a book of location pics of Monument Valley, is particularly priceless……

The way the story goes, Harry learned that United Artists was looking to film a Western on location. Harry went to work, enlisting the help of Josef Muench, a superb photographer who had first seen Monument Valley in 1935 and, during the course of some 350-odd trips there, would shoot some of the most memorable photographs of the place ever taken. At Harry’s request, Muench made up an album of 8-by-10 scenes of the valley. Then Harry and his wife loaded the “bedroll, coffee pot, grub,” as Harry later put it, and drove to Hollywood. 

……Harry said. “I’m going to get in there or go to jail. I know I’ve got something they need.… You show me the right door to go in down there, their main door, and I’ll go on from there.”

So Harry went over to United Artists with his wife, who waited in the car and knitted. He made it to a receptionist, and he told her he wanted to talk to someone about a new Western that was going to be made. She looked at him as if he were crazy and told him he couldn’t see anybody without an appointment. Harry said he didn’t have an appointment, and she reiterated that there was no way he was going to see anyone. Harry said that was fine, then went to get his bedroll from the car, because he had no intention of leaving and figured he might as well be comfortable. At that point the receptionist called someone.

The location manager for the Western Stagecoach, which was about to be shot, came out all indignant and riled. He was livid at Harry Goulding for wasting his time, this dumb-ass western son of a bitch thinking he knew anything about the movie business, until he got a glimpse of the pictures that Harry had with him. Then he wanted to know where they had come from. Then the director John Ford looked at the pictures. And it wasn’t long after that that Ford decided to use Monument Valley as a backdrop for Stagecoach…..

The Out-of-Towners

Comedy, tragedy or cultural delusion? In January’s Vanity Fair, AA Gill ponders the meaning of a Sex and the City bus tour that takes in some of the New York locations of the movie and the tv series. Sounds truly too ghastly for words.

We’re going to have a Military Coup…..

A great story from Peter Biskind in March’s Vanity Fair; during the filming of The Deer Hunter in Thailand, producer Barry Spikings’ chief Thai liaison was General Kriangsak Chomanan, at the time the supreme commander of the Thai military. The producer simply called him “K.” Spikings recalls;

“We needed lots of weapons, helicopters, armored personnel carriers—and he provided them all.” But one day Kriangsak told the producer, “What’s going to happen this weekend: we’re going to play some martial music, and we’re going to have a military coup. That means we need all the weapons back, the helicopters back, and all the armored personnel carriers back.”

“K! We’re making a movie here! You can’t do that! We’ve got an agreement—we’ve shaken hands!”

“Barry, Barry—please, please. You’re making a movie—I have a military coup. But it won’t take long. There’ll be a few people who’ll get shot on Sunday, and then you can have the stuff back.”