The Museum of Western Film History in Lone Pine, CA is an attraction on Highway 395 that was established in 2006. It may not be around for long. It depends on a steady stream of older visitors who grew up in the early TV era and are still interested in westerns. As long as they pay to be admitted and are interested enough to book a tour of old movie sets in the Alabama Hills, the Museum of Western Film History will probably survive.
Here’s a test. Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Gabby Hayes, Hopalong Cassidy, Randolph Scott, Fatty Arbuckle, and Tom Mix. If you reacted favorably to any of these names seen in this museum, then head for Lone Pine. If you repeatedly said, “Who?”, you will probably wonder why you paid the admission price to see the Museum of Western Film History. All of the names above were once movie stars with successful, long-term careers. Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and William Boyd who played Hopalong, were early TV personalities with major career wattage. Gabby Hayes was what fans called a sidekick. He was a humorous, somewhat grungy co-star to Hopalong, Roy Rogers, and Gene Autry, the original singer of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” who had a substantial hit recording of this Christmas favorite. Gabby made more than 40 movies with Roy Rogers. Scott had a major Hollywood career making mostly western movies. His last film, Ride the High Country, was a nostalgic western co-starring Joel McCrea. Randolph Scott retired from films after making it. Fatty Arbuckle had a major career in silent films but made few westerns. One of the exceptions was a satire about such films called Out West. Arbuckle never recovered from a rape accusation that led to 3 trials. He disliked his nickname Fatty, which was used to promote his movies, and he much preferred to be addressed by his given name Roscoe. Tom Mix was Hollywood’s first Western star. He made 291 films before dying as the result of a car accident in Arizona.
This museum has gathered an extensive collection of western related artifacts, costumes, props, and many fine posters. Seen in this museum are period projectors and cameras, and visitors can watch old TV westerns from the 1950s and 1960s. They can also arrange a movie site tour up in the Alabama Hills where more than 400 movies and TV shows were shot. Out Movie Road are a Gunga Din bridge site and other places where films such as Tremors and Django Unchained were shot. Gunga Din was one of the few non-western movies that were made almost entirely here in this area. It filmed in the shadow of major mountains and was released successfully in 1939. If you miss such a tour, be advised that a major tribute to Tremors is part of the Museum of Western Film History experience. Tremors was a successful Kevin Bacon film released in 1990. It was a science fiction, horror, and comedy film that caught on and did very well. Django Unchained is one of the few westerns made fairly recently. In fact, it was the last western made and is often described as revisionist. There is a tribute to this Quentin Tarantino movie released in 2012 in this museum, and some artifacts used in its making in the Alabama Hills are on display.
After seeing this attraction Ruth and I continued south on Highway 395. Shortly after leaving Lone Pine from which Mount Whitney can be seen on a clear day we descended into the Mojave Desert. It was quite a contrast to the rest of this highway that passes some of the highest elevations in this state including Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 states. Beautiful Highway 395 continues on to its termination point at Hesperia, CA, but it is not said to be scenic beyond Inyokern, CA. That’s why we spent the night in fast-growing Ridgecrest before traveling north again on 395 to see what we had missed.