Hollywood North - Alaskan Produced Movies

by Michael R Dougherty
(California)

An Alaska Produced Movie

An Alaska Produced Movie

An Alaska Produced Movie





Scroll down to view clips from some of these movies.


Alaska is a long way from Hollywood, but Alaskan movie makers don't let that keep them from producing movies in the 49th state.


"The Cheechakos" 1924

A silent movie, this was the first full-length, feature movie produced in Alaska.

Captain (Cap) Austin E. Lathrop who built the 4th Avenue Theater, the Impress and the Denali theater, wanted to produce movies in Alaska. So he put together the Alaska Moving Pictures Corp. and even built a studio in downtown Anchorage. That building later became the Anchorage Community Center.

The Alaska Moving Pictures Corp only ended up producing one movie -

"The Cheechakos" was shot in 1923 with a budget of $75,000, which wouldn't pay for catering on a big budget Hollywood movie these days.

Shot on location in Denali Park, and Girdwood, Alaska, where they used Bartlett Glacier to recreate the Chilkoot Pass Gold Rush trail. Alaskan artist Sydney Laurence apparently created some of the movies titles.

The movie's plot centered around two Gold Rush prospectors who take in a young girl and strike it rich.

The silent movie stars William Dills, Albert Van Antwerp and Eva Gordon.

"The Cheechakos was written and directed by Lewis Moomaw.

From time-to-time, the movie is shown in Anchorage.


Joniko and the Kush Ta Ka 1969

Later re-titled Wilderness Journey

This movie was produced by Chuck D. Keen and Alaska Pictures out of Juneau. Chuck was an excellent cinematographer and photographed all of the Alaska Pictures movies.

The movie was directed by Hollywood director, Ford Beebe and was written, produced and photographed in 16mm by Chuck D. Keen.


Mad Trapper 1975

Later re-titled Challenge to be Free

This is also an Alaska Pictures movie.

The film is based on a true story about a manhunt of 1,000 miles across Alaska wilderness.

The movie was played on television as an ABC television Network special movie presentation. Challenge to be Free was directed by legendary Hollywood director Tay Garnet and Ford Beebe Jr. It was written by Anne Bosworth and Chuck D. Keen and starred Mike Mazurki, Vic Christy and Fritz Ford.

Here's a clip from the movie -




Timber Tramps 1975

This ambitious movie featured an all-star cast including Claude Akins, Leon Ames, Tab Hunter, Joseph Cotten, Cesar Romero and football great Roosevelt Grier just to name a few.

Shot in 16mm by Chuck D. Keen, Timber Tramps was also an Alaska Pictures production.

The plot centers around a group of Alaskan loggers who come together to help save a widows lumber camp.

The movie was directed by Tay Garnett and written by Chuck D. Keen who had been a lumberjack in his early days.


Claws 1977

Originally titled "Devil Bear", the title was changed to cash in on the block buster movie success of "Jaws."

This Alaska Pictures movie was written by Chuck D Keen and Brian Russell.

Hunters illegally shoot and wound a grizzly bear in a National Forest in Alaska. The bear escapes and takes out it's revenge.

Claws was directed by Richard Bansback and Robert E. Pearson, it starred Jason Evers, Leon Ames, Anthony Caruso and introduced Carla Layton.

Chuck D. Keen produced and photographed the movie that premiered in Anchorage at a small movie theater in Muldoon.

Here's a clip from this 1977 movie "Claws"




Spirit of the Wind 1979

Based on the life of famed Alaska dog sled racer George Attla, this movie was shot in 35mm in both Alaska and in the lower 48 where the small town of Ely, Minnesota stood in for Anchorage.

Spirit of the Wind was produced and directed by Ralph Liddle, with cinematography by John Logue.

The movie stars Pius Savage, George Clutesi, Slim Pickens, Chief Dan George and Rose Attla Ambros.

Spirit of the Wind also features a music track by Buffie Sainte-Marie.

Here is a clip from the movie that features Buffie Sainte-Marie's song. By the way, you can purchase the movie at the Rondy Store Purchase Spirit of the Wind




Sourdough 1981

Anchorage film producers Robert Pendleton and George E. Lukens Jr. put this movie together.

An Alaska Sourdough feels like he's being hemmed in by civilization.

One scene in Sourdough is a television talk show. The scene was shot at the studios of KHAR-TV (later KIMO and now KYUR). The actor playing the talk show host was Dean Berg. Dean first came to Anchorage as news anchor for KTVA channel 11. Dean had a background as an actor in several Hollywood movies including "Experiment in Terror" and Steve McQueen's movie "Bullitt." Dean also starred in a television series in the 1950's called "Harbor Patrol."

Sourdough was written by Lewis M. Turner and directed by Martin J Spinelli.

The movie starred Charles Brock, Gene Evans, Philip Oksoktarul and Gil Perry.

Hollywood actor Gene Evans provided the movie's narration.

Here's the movie trailer for "Sourdough"




As you can see, Alaskan's have produced a lot of movies right here in Alaska.

There are a few I haven't included here. "Hot Foot to Nome", the story of an Iditarod lead dog and a few more that are out there.

Producing movies in Alaska isn't easy, but the pioneer filmmakers mentioned in this story had a vision and they brought that vision from script to screen in Alaska.

So here's a big "thank you" to those movie makers. Thank you for bringing your Alaska stories to life and for the entertainment you gave us as we watched Alaska up there on the big screen.

Comments for Hollywood North - Alaskan Produced Movies

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Enjoyed the trailer for Sourdough
by: Cindy Pendleton

Michael, I really enjoyed this look back at those early movies. I had never seen the trailer for "Sourdough" before!

Bob, George, and Rod never saw a penny from the distributors. They did all the hard work, basically for the reward of a pretty good little film.

Sourdough was the brainchild of Rod Perry and his Dad, Gil, who starred in it.

They were out of resources halfway through, which is when Pendleton Productions stepped in and helped with the financing and finishing.

Martin Spinelli was brought up from NYC to help polish the final scenes.

Lew Turner was mostly responsible for the screenplay rewrite.

I personally preferred the first 16 mm version, which had a fabulous musical score by Milan Kimlika (sp?) of Canada.

When Bob went to Hollywood to have the film blown to 35mm for general distribution, he fought to keep it close to its original form.

The minute he left Hollywood to come home, the distributor changed it, dropped the original score and dumped some key scenes under the guise of " tightening it up".

By the time this was found out it was to late to change it back.

So the distributed copy is the Hollywood version, not the original.

A Note from Anchorage Memories

Thank you for the valuable insight into the creation and behind-the-scenes issues associated with the movie "Sourdough."

Interestingly, the IMDB (Internet Movie Data Base) lists Martin J. Spinelli as the main writer of the movie. But because of your information, I removed his name from that creative function in the story above.

Over my many years in television and motion picture production I can't tell you how many producers told me about how their distributor basically took their movie away from them in one way or another.

"Sourdough" certainly should have been seen by a much larger audience, and Bob and company should have received the credit and rewards they deserved for creating this precious Alaskan movie.

Thank you
Mike


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