Story of An Anchorage Filmmaker

This Story of An Anchorage Filmmaker gives you a closer look at the films of Bob Pendleton, including Tayaru and Sourdough.

Remember the Alaskan produced movie "Sourdough" and the bow hunting film "Tayaru?"

Anchorage filmmaker Bob Pendleton made Tayaru and was a major part of the team that produced the movie Sourdough.

Although Bob is no longer with us, Anchorage Memories exchanged emails with his wife, Cindy Pendleton who told us about Bob and his passion for filmmaking in Alaska,


Anchorage Memories - Mike and Mary:

Cindy, when did Bob first arrive in Anchorage?

Cindy:


Bob flew to Anchorage in the summer of 1962.

He had always loved the outdoors, the woodlands, and wildlife in Pennsylvania. For him, Alaska was the ultimate wilderness, so he hopped on a plane and headed north.

Bob arrived in Anchorage not knowing a soul. He found a room to rent from the Strutz family, at the west end of the park strip, and immediately started looking for work.



Anchorage Memories - Mike and Mary:

When he worked Stewart's Photo Shop, what did he do there?



Cindy:

Bob's search found him making friends with Ivan and Oro Stewart. The Stewarts were known to take young newcomers under their wing, and Bob was no exception.


Ivan hired Bob to help up at his homestead on the outskirts of Anchorage. Bob bought his first camera from Stewart's Photo, followed by his first 8mm movie camera a year or so later.

Bob was a totally self taught photographer, learning his creative trade in his free time and working full time at Stewart's Photo, then Jack's Grocery (not sure of the name) and then at the Elmendorf BX as a butcher.


Bob (on the left) shooting Tayaru



Anchorage Memories - Mike and Mary:

When did Bob start working on his feature-length documentary "Tayaru" and what was that film about?



Cindy:

Sometime in the mid sixties, Bob met Dan Jordan, the 1962 Alaska State Champion archer. Dan had been working on a bow and arrow film, along the lines of Howard Hill's archery classic "Tembo".

Dan was out of money and was looking for investors and a new photographer to finish the film. By this time, Bob had gained considerable experience as a cinematographer for hunters. He was also an expert archer.

Bob quit his job, sold his trailer, cabin and property to buy into the film. Then Bob and Dan formed Rodan Productions and set out to finish the partially done film. Dan had a loosely written plot meant to showcase Dan's archery ability.

"Tayaru" is the Athabascan word for men who traveled a mythical south to north Alaska waterway by canoe, in search of adventure. All of the major Alaska animal life was taken by bow and arrow during the course of their travels - including the taking of a Beluga whale in Cook Inlet.


I recall picking up an Anchorage newspaper while onboard the MV Taku, which was taking me on my own adventure north to Alaska. The sports page headline was "Bowman Bags Beluga Whale in Cook Inlet". I showed it to my travel buddy, saying to her "they're still using bows and arrows! And this is where we're going?!"

Little did I know how I was to become linked to that newspaper article.


I came on the scene when I met Bob at my neighbor's trailer the first month I was in Anchorage. Lynn D. Machamer was a film editor who also did camera repair at Stewart's Photo. Bob was working with him to learn more about editing.

I became a full fledged member of the team when I married Bob the following February. I served as Artistic Director and general advisor. I take credit for making the film family friendly by insisting that the kill scenes were free of gory death throes and blood. Because of that, the film appealed to a wider audiance than a bunch of archery buffs.

Tayaru premiered in the Westward Hotel ballroom in October of 1968 to a packed audience.

Cindy Pendleton with KENI news anchor Daryl Comstock



Anchorage Memories - Mike and Mary:

You and Bob had a business partnership that involved KENI news anchor Daryl Comstock and his wife KENI weather girl and talk show host Theda Comstock. What kind of films were you producing at that time?



Cindy:

Because of the  success of "Tayaru" Bob's name quickly linked with quality cinematography in Alaska.

I'm guessing that the salaries of TV newscasters and weather girls on Anchorage TV were not very high back in the 1960s. So Daryl wanted to moonlite in television advertising and needed a good cinematographer. So Bob and Daryl formed Cinesound.


With some hard work and the addition of Lew Turner as a script writer, it wasn't long before Cinesound had a "sound" reputation for good work.

During that time they did some great commercials for Weaver Brothers Trucking, Carrs, the Captain Cook and Westward hotels and political campaigns for Walter Hickel, Ted Stevens and others.


BONUS


One day while Cinesound was shooting a TV commercial, Theda Comstock thought something had happened to the advertiser's ring.


Check out Theda Comstock and the Emerald Ring right now.


Anchorage Memories - Mike and Mary:

How did Bob and his partner George Lukens meet?



Cindy:

We met George Lukens in 1969 while on a road trip showing our film, "Tayaru" at Sportsman Shows and Archery Clubs in Pennsylvania.

George was also an excellent archer and highly creative guy with a sound sense of the business world.

The following year, George and his wife came up to Alaska to hunt and experience our wild and wonderful. It didn't take much time for all of us to realize that a partnership with Bob and George would be a great idea. And it was!

Together, they brought home prestigious national and international awards for their outstanding and memorable documentaries on Alaska.

My personal favorite is "Mt. McKinley, The Land Eternal" produced for the National Park Service. That film served as the official tourist film for Denali Park for 10 years.

Pendleton Productions, as the production company was called, also served as the official documenters for the Alyeska Pipeline project in the mid 1970s. Their film "Pipeline" was shown for many years at the Anchorage Museum of Art and History.



Anchorage Memories - Mike and Mary:

What was the basic story for the movie "Sourdough"?



Cindy:

The story was developed after much of the footage had already been shot.


According to George Lukens, who was the producer, along with Bob - Rod Perry and his brother, Alan had been shooting short scenes of their father Gil Perry for a few years, with only a vague idea to turn the footage into a movie some day.


The family would bring their exposed film footage to George and Bob, who would then send the footage off to a processing lab. Once the processed film came back, George and Bob would screen the film footage for the family at the Pendleton Productions offices.

Eventually, Bob and George were able to convince Rod that he needed to go ahead and make a movie.

This was a cart-before-the-horse way of doing things.

But with the help of gifted writer and public relations man, Lew Turner, the gang created a story that was to become a cult film, that even now, fascinates it's viewers.

"Sourdough" is the story of one man's attempt to find his solitary place of wilderness, as far as possible from civilization of any kind.

His trek across Alaska, accompanied by only his two Great Pyrenees companions, is both thrilling and dangerous.

What he finds at his final destination tells it all and is most likely why the film remains a classic.



Filming a flashback scene

Rod Perry as a young Perry Cutler Colson


Anchorage Memories - Mike and Mary:

Cindy, tell us about the production of the movie.



Cindy:

Because so many terrific scenes were already in the can, piecing together a cohesive plot was a story boarding nightmare, with many hours spent swapping stills pinned to the wall.

Once the script was agreed upon, additional scenes were added and shot on location.


The old sourdough and his dog in Six Mile Creek


Most memorable was the scene of the old sourdough and his dogs attempting to float a raft down Six Mile Creek (in the Turnagain Pass area) through one of the most treacherous rapids in Alaska.

The scene took 3 takes.

Gil Perry did the first 2 takes, then his son Rod doubled for Gil on the 3rd take.

The crew constructed 2 rafts for the scene and 5 cameramen were used to capture all  the action.

One of those cinematographers was George Lukens, who was shooting footage from a bridge over the creek.



In my opinion, the credit for all the movie, except the music, should be given to only the Alaska crew:

Originators

Rod Perry

Alan Perry

Gil Perry


Producers

Bob Pendleton

George Lukens


Screenplay

Lewis N. Turner


Sound Production

G. Neal Thomas


Graphic Art

Thomas Hughes



The original narration was done by Jerry Eagle, who was living in Anchorage at the time and the original musical score was done by Milan Kymlicka from Canada.

Both the narration and the music score were changed down in Hollywood when the movie was made into a 35mm print from it's original 16mm film print.

Hollywood actor Gene Evans ended up as the movie's narrator.


Anchorage Memories - Mike and Mary:

Where did Sourdough have it's premiere?


At the Sourdough movie premiere

left to right

Bob and Cindy Pendleton, George and Susan Lukens and Charles Pendleton


Cindy:

George Lukens tells me that Sourdough had it's world premiere at the University of Alaska Anchorage auditorium.


Anchorage Memories - Mike and Mary:

Can our readers get a copy of the movie?



Cindy:

The bad news is that there are Sourdough VHS tapes out there - but few and far between. The last one I came across was on eBay for $75 dollars.

The good news is that it can be viewed on YouTube.


Sourdough on YouTube

Click the picture above to see the entire movie


Are you short on time?

You can also see the Sourdough Movie Trailer on YouTube.


Click on the image above to see the Sourdough movie trailer


Anchorage Memories - Mike and Mary:

Cindy, is there anything else you'd like to say about the movie Sourdough?



Cindy:

Only that people often come up to me and say how great it must be to just go out in the great Alaska wilderness and make movies all the time.

As is true with most things well done, all the blood, sweat and tears are invisible on the surface.

I loved being involved in filmmaking with Bob and all his cohorts.

It was a great time in my life.


Anchorage Memories - Mike and Mary:

We want to thank Cindy Pendleton for taking the time to answer our flood of email questions and for the wonderful and nostalgic pictures she shared with us for this story.

Bob Pendleton had a passion for making films about Alaska, the place he loved.

While Bob and Cindy called Anchorage home, they really loved being out there in the beauty and majesty of Alaska.

Because of that, Bob Pendleton put his heart up there on the screen - and all of us get to enjoy what he saw through his camera lens and his heart.


Thank you Cindy for all the great memories.


BONUS



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