Mon, Feb. 24

Verde Heritagte 1972: SEDONA; "Bitter Creek" Comes To Life.

"In 1941, when Hollywood was discovering Sedona as a movie location, Columbia Studios built a western street on property then owned by Otto and Sally Hallermund where a part of Sedona West now stands. The first picture filmed there was 'The Angel and the Badman.'"

"For many years thereafter other companies came and filmed other westerns on the street. The location was also a popular 'Must See' with tourists, who used to ask for directions to it long after it had fallen victim to wind, weather, vandals, and finally the bulldozers of progress."

"Now Sedona has a new western street --- the Town of Bitter Creek --- courtesy of two Eastern TV executives, Otto Stoll and Jim Reynolds, and local photographer Bob Bradshaw."

"Bradshaw had, for many years, served as local liaison man for film companies looking for western locations. His dream had been to establish a movie location on his ranch off Red Canyon Road."

"Bradshaw met Larry Russell, who grew up in Sedona and had returned there in the summer of 1971 to live. Russell, who formerly worked in television in New York City, was a partner with Stoll, of New Jersey, in their own, independent film company. When Russell heard of Bradshaw's idea, he got in touch with Stoll. Stoll moved to Sedona in February."

"Sedona Productions, Ltd., and the Town of Bitter Creek were the result."

"Motion picture companies had found it increasingly difficult to find locations free of power poles and lines, paved roads and other hallmarks of 'civilization.' No such problem exists at the Bradshaw Ranch. Located 9 miles off the highway in a magnificent setting, it will be free of such impediments for years to come, and Stoll has leased 40 acres of the property for development as a movie location."

"The western street, now ready for use, is only the first of several planned developments. To follow, if all goes well, will be a Mexican village, a mining camp, a ranch set, and Indian villages of various kinds. These facilities will be leased for filming everything from TV commercials and magazine advertising layouts to documentaries, TV series and specials, independent productions and major studio productions."

"Stoll, who has a strong interest in Westerns, hopes to film one of his own there someday."

"'Westerns are America's cultural myth. They are never going to go away,' he says, adding that in 1971, 63 westerns were made in the United States alone, and 'in Europe they are the greatest.'"

"In the past, he says, producers and writers were inclined to romanticize the period of the Old West. 'But there wasn't much romance about it. It was a grubby, hard life, and today, with most of the old-time producers gone, nostalgia is turning into a search for authenticity."

"In a sense, authenticity is what the Town of Bitter Creek is all about. The period is 1870 to 1880, 'and we looked at thousands of pictures to ensure that the street would be authentic in every detail.'"

"Jim Reynolds, now Stoll's partner (Russell is no longer with the company), was the designer. An award-winning member of the Cowboy Artists of America, Reynolds was for 20 years an illustrator and set designer for major Hollywood studios. Among other things he did, he created the design for the Sistine Chapel for the movie 'The Agony and the Ecstasy.'"

"Sings for the streets were all done at Warner Brothers Studio by Ernie Brock, head of the sign painting department. The buildings were painted and 'aged' by LaMonte 'Tom' Thomas, who worked for major studios for 40 years. The original construction foreman was Chuck Schultheis of MGM."

"With the exception of 3 buildings, all structures in Bitter Creek are on wheels and can be moved. Sedona's western movie set can be shuffled about to create a versatile set. All structures in town are whole buildings, not false fronts, and can be photographed from any angle."

(The Verde Independent; Cottonwood; Thursday, August 31, 1972; page 6.)

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