Movies Made in Alaska

Alaska adventures brought to the screen with Movies Made in Alaska by moviemakers from the 49th state.

movies made in alaskaSome scenes were shot in a movie studio in Anchorage

Scroll down to view clips from some of these movies

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


“The Chechahcos” 1924

Chechahcos

When it comes to movies made in Alaska, “The Chechahcos” is a silent movie and 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 in Anchorage, 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.

Alaska Moving Pictures Corp. only ended up producing one movie.

The 1923 budget for “The Chechahcos” came in at $75,000, which wouldn't pay for catering on a big budget Hollywood movie these days.

Shot on location in Denali Park, Girdwood, Alaska, where they used Bartlett Glacier to recreate the Chilkoot Pass Gold Rush trail.

A sound stage built by Cap Lathrop at the east end of 4th Avenue in Anchorage, Alaska is where they filmed interior scenes.

Alaskan artist Sydney Laurence apparently created some of the movie's 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.

Lewis Moomaw wrote and directed “The Chechahcos”.

From time-to-time, they show the film in Anchorage.


“Wilderness Journey” 1969

Originally titled, “Joniko and the Kush Ta Ka”

wilderness journey movieMovie poster

Chuck D. Keen and Alaska Pictures out of Juneau certainly made their mark by producing several movies made in Alaska for a world-wide audience.

Chuck was an excellent cinematographer and photographed all the Alaska Pictures movies, plus documentaries. He also built an extensive stock footage library. He once told me that he always took a 16mm camera with him when he traveled the state, because you never know what you'll see.

Ford Beebe, a Hollywood director, brought Jonico and the Kush Ta Ka (Wilderness Journey) to the screen. Chuck D. Keen wrote, produced and photographed the movie. To save money, he also shot the movie using 16mm film and camera equipment.


BONUS

He played Joniko in the movie “Joniko and the Kush Ta Ka”


Take a look at our interview with Tony Tucker Williams, and enjoy his "behind the scenes" stories.


Movies Made in Alaska


"Challenge to be Free" 1975

Originally titled
“Mad Trapper”

original movie poster challenge to be freeRan as an ABC television movie presentation

This is also an Alaska Pictures movie.

And it's the film version of a true story about a 1,000 mile manhunt across the Alaskan wilderness.

The ABC Television Network showed this movie as a special presentation.

Legendary Hollywood directors Tay Garnet and Ford Beebe Jr. directed the movie. Both Anne Bosworth and Chuck D. Keen wrote the screenplay. Mike Mazurki, Vic Christy and Fritz Ford were the stars.

Now turn up the sound,

click on the video

and enjoy the movie trailer



“Timber Tramps” 1975

movie poster for timber trampsShot on location in Juneau, Alaska

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 widow's lumber camp.

Tay Garnett directed from a screenplay by Chuck D. Keen, who had been a lumberjack in his early days.


“Claws” 1977

Originally titled, “Devil Bear”

movie poster for clawsAn Alaska adventure movie

Originally called “Devil Bear”, they changed the title to cash in on the blockbuster movie success of “Jaws.”

Chuck D. Keen and Brian Russell wrote the screenplay for Alaska Pictures.

The plot centers on hunters who illegally shoot and wound a grizzly bear somewhere in a National Forest in Alaska. The bear escapes and goes on a revenge rampage.

Richard Bansback and Robert E. Pearson directed “Claws”. The picture stars Jason Evers, Leon Ames and Anthony Caruso. This was the only movie for the female lead, Carla Layton.

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



Movies Made in Alaska



“Spirit of the Wind” 1979

movie poster for the george attla movie

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

Ralph Liddle directed “Spirit of the Wind” 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 an original music track by Buffie Sainte-Marie.


Here is a clip from the movie that features the title song.


“Sourdough” 1981

sourdough is filled with beautiful alaska sceneryThe story of a true Alaskan

Movies made in Alaska include this one by Anchorage film producers Robert Pendleton and George E. Lukens Jr., who put together the movie “Sourdough”.

The plot follows an Alaskan Sourdough who feels like civilization is hemming him in.

One scene in “Sourdough” is a television talk show. The scene takes place at the studios of KHAR-TV (later KIMO and now KYUR). The actor playing the talk show host is Dean Berg. Dean first came to Anchorage as the 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 1950s called “Harbor Patrol.”

Martin J. Spinelli directed “Sourdough” from a screenplay by Lewis M. Turner.

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

Hollywood actor Gene Evans provided the movie's narration.


BONUS

Read more about Anchorage filmmaker Bob Pendleton and see the entire Sourdough Movie, it's a real Alaska treat.


Enjoyed the trailer for “Sourdough”

by: Cindy Pendleton

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 for the movie “Sourdough”. 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 too 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 making of the movie “Sourdough.”

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. And these movies made in Alaska are no exception.

“Sourdough” certainly should have enjoyed 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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