National Park Movies: Some More We Like for 1950-1979

Nicky and Tacy bought a 32-foot travel trailer, got a big car to pull it, and headed cross-country. When they got to Yosemite, the scene that unfolded before them was breathtaking.

Our Traveler’s Top Ten national park movies post was well-received, but we only scratched the surface. We’re digging deeper now. Like our previous list, this one will focus on motion pictures (not made-for-television films) with one or more scenes filmed in national parks. This time around we'll take a closer look at movies released during 1950-1979.

Traveler’s Top Ten list of movies filmed in national parks highlighted the movies listed below. If you haven’t read that post, let me suggest that you do so before continuing with this new list.

Dances with Wolves (1990)
Escape from Alcatraz (1979)
Forrest Gump(1994)
Gettysburg (1993)
Grand Canyon Adventure 3D: River at Risk(2008)
Into the Wild(2007)
North by Northwest (1959
Thelma and Louise (1991)
The New World (2006).
The Presidio(1988)

We’ve got two more film lists in the works. Later on, we’ll be working with the national park films of the 1980s and 1990s, then we’ll finish with the films of the 2000s. Right now we’ll focus exclusively on movies released in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

The three-decade stretch from 1950 through 1979 was a time of remarkable demographic, cultural, political, economic, and technological change in America, and all of it was reflected in motion pictures. If it wasn’t a revolution in Hollywood, it was certainly a swift and powerful evolution. However you might describe it, the movie industry in 1980 was very different from its 1950 counterpart.

In light of these facts, it seems only fair to list our 1950-1979 film choices in chronological order and not bother with the finer points of ranking. Some honorable mentions are also listed.

King Solomon’s Mines (1950)
Directors: Compton Bennett and Andrew Marton
Cast: Deborah Kerr (Elizabeth Curtis), Stewart Granger (Allan Quatermain)
Gist: Epic adventure—a classic “big film” -- centered on a young woman who enlists a white hunter to help find her husband somewhere in Africa.
Scenes filmed in: Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Death Valley National Park
Memorable scene (PC version): The treasure trove of sparkling diamonds finally hoves into view. Memorable scene (non-PC version): The white hunter shoots a charging elephant dead, but not before it kills a native. BTW, when we say “dead,” we mean it. This film was made in the days before you had to warrant that “no animals were harmed in the making of this movie.”
Trivia: Deborah Kerr wrote her initials in Slaughter Cave while filming King Solomon’s Mines at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. The initials are still there.

Big Sky, The (1953)
Director: Howard Hawks
Cast: Kirk Douglas (Jim Deakins), Dewey Martin (Boone Caudill), Elizabeth Threatt (Teal Eye), Arthur Hunnicutt (Zeb Calloway/Narrator), Buddy Baer (Romaine)
Gist: Fur traders travel west in the 1830s and find ruthless competitors, hostile Indians, and trouble galore.
Accolades: Academy Award nomination for (black-and-white) cinematography.
Scenes filmed in: Grand Teton National Park
Memorable scene: Having a bullet dug out of your leg, sans anesthesia, can get your attention.
Trivia: Automobiles can be seen in the prologue.

Shane (1953)
Director: George Stevens
Cast: Allen Ladd (Shane), Brandon De Wilde (Joey), Jean Arthur (Marian Starett), Van Heflin (Joe Starett); also Jack Palance and Ben Johnson
Gist: Shane, a tired gunfighter, yearns to settle down with Wyoming homesteaders, but there’s a range war going on and trouble won’t leave him alone.
Accolades: Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Color. Nominations: Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Brandon De Wilde), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Jack Palance), Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Writing, Screenplay (A.B. Guthrie, Jr.).
Scenes filmed in: Grand Teton National Park
Memorable scene: Having killed the bad guys, the wounded (how badly?) Shane rides into the sunset while the hero-worshiping kid Joey hollers “Shane! Come back!”
Trivia: The Library of Congress has preserved this film in the United States National Film Registry in view of its cultural/historical/aesthetic significance.

Long, Long Trailer, The (1954)
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Cast: Lucille Ball (Tacy), Desi Arnaz (Nicky), Marjorie Main, Keenan Wynn
Gist: A couple buys a 32-foot travel trailer and sets out on a year-long trip across America. There are, of course, misadventures galore.
Scenes filmed in: Yosemite National Park
Memorable scene: Emerging from the Wawona Tunnel, Nicky and Tacy behold the glory of Half Dome, El Capitan, and Bridalveil Falls.
Trivia: Opened in 1933, twenty years before this film was made, the Wawona Tunnel is now notoriously unsafe and has been described as a disaster waiting to happen.

Vertigo (1958)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Cast: James Stewart (Scottie), Kim Novak (Madeleine), Barbara Bel Geddes (Midge)
Gist: A retired San Francisco detective with a serious case of acrophobia becomes dangerously obsessed with an old friend’s wife and investigates her odd behavior.
Scenes filmed in: Golden Gate National Recreation Area (Fort Point National Historic Site); since Fort Point NHS was not established until October 1970, there is a temporal disconnect
Memorable scene: Scottie saves Madeleine after she jumps into the bay at Fort Point under the Golden Gate Bridge.
Trivia: Alfred Hitchcock made cameo appearances in the films he directed. If you watch this one carefully, you can see him at the eleven minute mark. He’s wearing a gray suit and walking in the street.

Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)
Director: Henry Levin
Cast: James Mason (Sir Oliver S. Lindenbrook), Pat Boone (“Alec” McKuen), Arlene Dahl (Carla Göteborg)
Gist: In this Jules Verne epic, an Edinburgh geologist leads an expedition that follows an explorer's trail down an extinct Icelandic volcano and deep into a fantastic inner world. Exciting special effects for its time.
Scenes filmed in: Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Memorable scene: As the intrepid explorers’ raft begins circling the mid-oceanic whirlpool at the center of the earth, you just know they’re all going to die.
Trivia: James Mason intensely disliked Arlene Dahl (he thought she was too stuck on her herself), so he didn’t need to summon much acting skill to treat her rudely when the script called for it..

Spencer's Mountain (1963)
Director: Delmer Daves
Cast: Henry Fonda (Clay Spencer), Maureen O’Hara (Olivia Spencer), James MacArthur (Clayboy Spencer), Donald Crisp (Grandpa Spencer), Lillian Bronson (Grandma Spencer), Wally Cox (Preacher Goodman)
Gist: This film is based on Earl Hemner’s 1961 novel of the same name. Clay Spencer is the very-rough-around-the-edges patriarch of a large family struggling to earn a living and resolve difficult interpersonal issues on a Depression-era farm in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Clay longs to build a new house on Spencer’s Mountain for Olivia, while eldest son Clayboy schools up and sets his sights on college.
Scenes filmed in: Grand Teton National Park
Memorable scene: Clay shows up at church service and lends his voice to the singing. Wonders will never cease!!
Trivia: The popular TV show The Waltons (1972-1981) was also based on Hemner’s novel, but it was set in Virginia (like the novel) and considerably sanitized (eschewing the treatment of adult themes like infidelity and alcoholism). Director Delmer "To Hell With the Cost" Davis chose to make this movie with a Grand Tetons backdrop because he loved the scenery of the Jackson Hole country.

Brighty of the Grand Canyon (1967)
Director: Norman Foster
Cast: Joseph Cotten, Dick Foran, Pat Conway, Karl Swenson
Gist: A kid-friendly movie featuring the adventures of a brave little Grand Canyon burro named Brighty. It’s better than it sounds.
Scenes filmed in: Grand Canyon National Park
Memorable scene: Any scene that the cute little burro is in.
Trivia: Susan, one of our Traveler readers, told us that she was “at Phantom Ranch when the movie crews were filming…. I saw "Brighty" in the corral there and the movie crews on a sandbar near the north side of the Kaibab Suspension Bridge.” Susan, you have all the luck!
Traveler tip, no extra charge: Show this movie to your children, then take them to the downstairs lobby of the Grand Canyon Lodge on the North Rim so they can rub the shiny nose of Brighty’s bronze statue.

Planet of the Apes
Director: Franklin J. Schaffner
Cast: Charlton Heston (George Taylor), Kim Hunter (Zira), Roddey McDowell (gorilla Cornelius), James Whitmore (gorilla President of the Assembly)
Gist: Talking, human-like gorillas have taken over the planet, and perhaps understandably, they treat humans – including the future-shocked astronaut Taylor – very badly.
Scenes filmed in: Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
Memorable scene: In the final scene, Taylor discovers the partly-buried remains of the Statue of Liberty on the beach and realizes to his horror that the gorilla-dominated planet he landed on after his 2000-year sleep is Earth.
Trivia: The desert landscape footage in the movie’s early scenes were shot in northern Arizona, but the climactic statue-on-the-beach scene was shot in a cove at Malibu.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
Director: George Roy Hill
Cast: Paul Newman (Butch), Robert Redford (Sundance), Katharine Ross (Etta)
Gist: Two ethically challenged westerners buddy-up to rob banks and trains, doing it with style and charm. One of the top 100 money-making films of all time.
Scenes filmed in: Zion National Park
Memorable scene (for the guys): It’s a two-way tie). (1) The river jump, where Butch tells Sundance it doesn’t matter if he can’t swim, ‘cuz the fall is going to kill him anyway; and (2) The boys use too much dynamite to blow the safe on a train.
Memorable scene (for the girls): “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” plays while Butch gives Etta a ride on the handlebars.
Trivia: The river jump was photographed on the Animas River near Silverton, Colorado, and the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad was used for the train robbery scenes. The handlebar ride was filmed at an old house located a few miles outside Zion National Park in Grafton, a ghost town on the Virgin River two miles south of Rockville.

Zabriskie Point (1970)
Director: Michelangelo Antonioni
Cast: Mark Frechette (Mark), Daria Halprin (Daria)
Gist: A chance meeting in the desert brings counterculture couple Mark and Daria together, after which they find pleasure, enlightenment, and in Mark’s case, a tragic death. Mark, you really should have listened to Daria.
Scenes filmed in: Death Valley National Park
Memorable scene: Members of the Open Theater artfully stage a sex orgy to far-out music at Death Valley’s Zabriskie Point. (No actual sexual acts were performed in the making of this movie -- at least, none that were shown on the big screen.)
Trivia: If you look carefully, you can spot young Harrison Ford among the student demonstrators at the police station.

Jeremiah Johnson (1972)
Director: Sydney Pollack
Cast: Robert Redford (Jeremiah), Will Geer (“Bear Claw” Chris Lapp)
Gist: Inexperienced flatlander migrates west in the early 1800s and becomes a mountain man with extraordinary survival skills.
Scenes filmed in: Zion National Park
Memorable scene: Laughing heartily, Bear Claw tells greenhorn Jeremiah that he expects him to skin the very big, very angry grizzly that’s pursued Bear Claw into the tiny cabin the two mountain men share.
Trivia: Many Native Americans loathe this film because it’s based on the exploits of real-life trapper John “Crow Killer” Johnston, aka "Liver Eater Johnston," a man who relished killing Crow Indians and eating their livers. Johnston’s grave was in Los Angeles, but after the Jeremiah Johnson film was released his remains were exhumed and re-interred in Cody, Wyoming. Robert Redford was a pallbearer for the reburial ceremony, which was attended by several thousand people.

Godfather, Part II (1974)
Director: Francis Ford Copolla
Cast: Al Pacino (Don Michael Corleone) Robert DeNiro (young Vito Corleone), Robert Duvall (Tom Hagen), Diane Keaton (Kay Corleone), John Cazale (Fredo Corleone), Talia Shire (Connie Corleone), Lee Strasberg (Hyman Roth)
Gist: Vito Corleone founds the Corleone crime family in 1920s New York City. Son Michael takes over the operation and expands it in the late 1950s.
Accolades: Six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Robert DeNiro), Best Original Score, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction; nominated for five other Academy Awards; selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry.
Scenes filmed in: Ellis Island National Monument (component of Statue of Liberty National Monument)
Memorable scene: Immigration agent mistakenly registers Vito Andolini as Vito Corleone, thinking that the boy’s home town of Corleone is his surname. The future Don Corleone gets marked with an encircled “X.”
Trivia: Immigration agents of this era were a lot sharper than we generally give them credit for. They were very careful with names, rarely making mistakes like the one the film depicts.

Eiger Sanction, The (1975)
Director: Clint Eastwood
Cast: Clint Eastwood (Prof. Jonathan Hemlock), George Kennedy (Ben Bowman), Vonetta McGee (Jemima Brown), Jack Cassidy (Miles Mellough)
Gist: Retired government assassin is assigned to perform two more "sanctions," one of them while on an Eiger climb.
Accolades: Considered a classic spy/action thriller. Highly praised for realism of climbing scenes.
Scenes filmed in: Zion National Park
Memorable scene: Hemlock cuts his own safety line while dangling over the void.
Trivia: All of the climbing was real (no special effects), and Eastwood did all of his own stunts. They were dangerous, too. A boulder killed a stunt man occupying a position that Eastwood had vacated just moments before.
PC rating: Bigotry meter pegs out and breaks. This film manages to offend women, gays, blacks, Native Americans, dogs, etc., but runs out of time before getting to all possible categories.

Star Wars (re-titled Star Wars IV: A New Hope) (1977)
Director: George Lucas
Cast: Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Alec Guinness (Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi), Peter Cushing (Grand Moff Tarkin),
Gist: The galaxy is perturbed by civil war. Good triumphs over evil – at least for a while -- as the Rebel Alliance manages to destroy the Galactic Empire’s giant Death Star spaceship.
Accolades: Six Academy Awards (Original Score, Film Editing, Visual Effects, Costume Design, Sound-Mixing, Art Direction-Set Decoration) plus three nominations (Picture, Director, Original Screenplay).
Scenes filmed in: Death Valley National Park (see below)
Memorable scene: Too many to list. Many people consider the firefight in the opening sequence particularly memorable because the visual effects were, for that era, very impressive.
Trivia: Many Death Valley visitors want to see the Star Wars filming locations. It's tough to visit all of them (they're scattered, and some aren't precisely identified), but you can check a lot off your list by visiting Zabriskie Point, Artist’s Palette, Dante’s View, Desolation Canyon, Twenty Mule Team Canyon, and Stovepipe Wells (nearby dunes).

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Richard Dryfuss (Roy Neary), Teri Garr (Ronnie Neary), François Truffaut (Claude Lecombe), Melinda Dillon (Jillian Guiler)
Gist: After encountering UFOs, an Indiana man is mysteriously drawn to an unusual landform in a remote western place. There, at Devils Tower, he participates in a close encounter of the third kind – actual contact with alien beings.
Scenes filmed in: Devils Tower National Monument
Memorable scene: Atop Devil’s Tower, the ramp of the enormous alien mother ship is lowered and out come the little aliens. So that’s what they look like!
Trivia: Local girls aged 8 to 12 were chosen to portray the diminutive aliens. Director Steven Spielberg insisted on using girls because he believed they move more gracefully than boys.

Electric Horseman, The (1979)
Director: Sydney Pollack
Cast: Robert Redford (Norman “Sonny” Steele), Jane Fonda (Alice “Hallie” Martin), Valerie Perrine (Charlotta Steele), and Willie Nelson in his film debut (as Wendell Hickson)
Gist: An ex- rodeo star who does advertising for a breakfast cereal company balks at a gig that calls for him to wear a suit covered with electric lights. Fed up with it all, he steals a horse named Rising Star and rides off into the desert, bent on setting it free with a wild herd.
Scenes filmed in: Zion National Park
Memorable scene: Wild horses graze below the Watchman at the south end of Zion Canyon.
Trivia: After the filming was over, Redford (who did all of his own riding stunts) bought "Rising Star." He owned the horse (real name "Let’s Merge") for 18 years before it died.


Caine Mutiny, The (1954)
Director: Edward Dmytryk
Cast: Humphrey Bogart (Lt. Commander Queeg), José Ferrer (Lt. Greenwald), E.G. Marshall (Lt. Commander Challee), Van Johnson (Lt. Maryk), Fred MacMurray (Lt. Keefer), May Wynn (May Wynn), Lee Marvin (“Meatball”), Clause Akins (“Horrible”)
Scenes filmed in: Yosemite National Park (Ahwahnee Hotel, Glacier Point Firefall)

Forever, Darling (1956)
Director: Alexander Hall
Cast: Lucille Ball (Susan Vega), Desi Arnaz (Lorenzo Xavier Vega), James Mason (The Guardian Angel)
Scenes filmed in: Yosemite National Park

One-Eyed Jacks (1961)
Director: Marlon Brando
Cast: Marlon Brando , Karl Malden
Scenes filmed in: Death Valley National Park

How the West Was Won (1962)
Director: Henry Hathaway, John Ford, George Marshall, Richard Thorpe (uncredited).
Cast: John Wayne, Debbie Reynolds, James Stewart, Richard Widmark, others
Scenes filmed in: Badlands National Park, Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site (pre-renovation)

Mackenna's Gold (1969)
Director: J. Lee Thompson,
Cast: Gregory Peck, Omar Sharif, Julie Newmar, Telly Savalas
Scenes filmed in: Canyon de Chelly National Monument

My Name is Nobody (1973)
Director: Tonino Valerii
Cast: Henry Fonda, Terrance Hill, Leo Gordon
Scenes filmed in: White Sands National Monument

Mountain Men, The (1974)
Director: Richard Lang
Cast: Charleton Heston, Brian Keith
Scenes filmed in: Grand Teton National Park

Man Who Fell to Earth, The (1976)
Director: Nicolas Roeg
Cast: David Bowie (Thomas Jerome Newton), Rip Torn (Nathan Bryce), Candy Clark (Mary-Lou), Buck Henry (Oliver Frnsworth)
Scenes filmed in: White Sands National Monument

Man Who Would Be King, The
Director: John Huston
Cast: Sean Connery, Michael Caine, Christopher Plummer
Scenes filmed in: Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Rocky II (1979)
Director: Sylvester Stallone
Cast: Sylvester Stallone (Rocky Balboa), Talia Shire (Adrian), Burt Young (Paulie), Carl Weathers (Apollo Creed)
Scenes filmed in: Independence National Historical Park


Was "Spencer's Mountain" with Henry Fonda and Maureen O'Hara filmed in the Grand Tetons?
Connie Hopkins

That was a very nice catch, Connie. Of course Spencer's Mountain belongs on the list, and not as just an honorable mention. Watch for me to fix that omission soon. I expect that other readers will soon be yanking my chain about obvious omissions or honorable mentions that deserve promotion to the top-choices list. I'll wager that the current dozen top choices will increase to around twenty. With the addition of Spencer's Mountain we've already got a baker's dozen.

Six films from the Blackstone River Valley NHC:

"A Civil Action" with John Travolta and Robert Duvall among other good actors, included themes shot in the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor. The theme of the movie, the effort to restore environmental quality in despoiled cultural landscapes, is also a main theme of the very good movie. The other other main theme: 'those big corporations will eat you alive !' is also a theme (sort of) of the NHC.

"Ah, Wilderness !" the film version of Eugene O'Neill's comic play, with Wallace Beery, Lionel Barrymore and Mickey Rooney, also was filmed within the boundaries of the Blackstone River Valley NHC, although the area had not been designated way back then. The Folly prominent in the middle of the Town Common was actually built by the film company as a set. However, the people of Grafton, MA liked it so much, they incorporated it into the Common, where it still sits today. Surprisingly, it is not tacky at all, looks great, and fits right in this beautiful and archetypal Town Common.

In perhaps a less-successful effort, but again consistent with the historic themes of the Valley, the sequel to "Love Story," or "Oliver's Story," with Candice Bergen and Ryan O'Neal, Oiliver goes to the Blackstone Valley to rediscover his lost love Jenny's (Ali MacGraw from the first movie) working-class roots.

Many films have Providence RI locations within the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, among them:

"Armistad" the famous film about the revolt aboard a slave ship, with Morgan Freeman, Matthew McConaughey, Stellan Skarsgard and Anthony Hopkins, includes scenes of John Adams shot in the Rhode Island State House.

"Federal Hill" as a film about Providence RI, has of course numerous places within the Blackstone River Valley NHC, most notably Waterplace Park in downtown Providence.

"There's Something About Mary," a romp, with of course Cameron Dias, Matt Dillon and Ben Stiller.

-- Bob, don't forget that when Shane rode away, he was wounded, adding to the ambiguity at the end. Did he die in the Tetons?

"Men In Black" with Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones has several fabulous shots of the Governors Island National Monument, especially the giant pan at the end of the movie. Another great shot has Will Smith sitting next to Castle Clinton National Monument looking across New York Harbor at Governors Island. That Castle Clinton location has been used by numerous movies

Another Governors Island movie is "Working Girl" by the great Mike Nichols, starring Melanie Griffith, Sigourney Weaver and Harrison Ford. Sigourney has this great view of Governors Island National Monument right outside her palatial office window.

You've listed some fine movies with scenes shot in the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, Anon, but I'm afraid that I can't expand this particular list to include any of them unless you can show that they have scenes that were filmed on National Park System property. Although the National Park Service does provide technical assistance and some limited financial assistance to National Heritage Areas, NHAs aren’t part of the National Park System.

For the benefit of Traveler readers who may not have heard of the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor (established 1986), here is a capsule description from the current NPS Index appendix:

This area is composed of 24 cities and towns on 454 square miles of land in the watershed of the Blackstone River. Beginning in the 1700s, the Blackstone Valley provided the setting for a remarkable transformation from farm to factory, a local story that became the model for a national phenomenon— the American Industrial Revolution.

For me, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) gets first place for scenery and backdrops in Zion National Park, as well as outstanding acting and a story very well told on film. That's also the summer when I had the pleasure and priviledge to work in Zion as a park ranger-naturalist.

Memorable scene: "I can't do that, can you do that?" "Who are those guys?"

Owen Hoffman
Oak Ridge, TN 37830

A short part of the 1954 film "Caine Mutiny" was filmed in Yosemite National Park and featured the famous firefall from the top of Glacier Point.

Thanks, Owen. As you may have seen, while compiling this new list I have shamelessly stolen ideas from you, MRC, d-2, and others who commented on the last list. I cannot attribute each and every one of the ideas/suggestions because that would take up too much space and also tie my brain into knots. BTW, I do not precisely recall the scene you refer to, although I do recall the lines. Was that where Butch expressed astonishment at the skill of the guys tracking them?

Yes indeed! They had just abandoned their horses in the dead of night, hoping the posse tracking them with torches would follow the trail left by the horses. It almost worked, but only for a few minutes, then the posse begins to double back and head towards the rocks where Butch and Sundance are observing in shock.

Owen Hoffman
Oak Ridge, TN 37830

Shicks49 is correct, but let's also mention the Caine Mutiny scene shot at the Ahwahnee Hotel. I'm going to give Caine Mutiny an honorable mention listing.

Bob, I don't recall Henry Fonda having a role in the Spaghetti Western, "My Name is Nobody" with Terrence Hill and Bud Spencer, but it's likely you've gotten this comedy confused with the more serious "Once Upon A Time in the West" which included scenes from Monument Valley, UT (a tribal park but not part of the NPS. There may have been other NPS units included that I'm unaware of).

Owen Hoffman
Oak Ridge, TN 37830

Thanks for the info, d-2. Governors Island National Monument is a super filming location (or backdrop, for that matter). BTW, don't forget that Working Girl also had footage shot at Statue of Liberty National Monument.

Star Trek V starts off with the crew camping at Yosemite and Captain Kirk climbing El Capitan without any equipment. I'd note that the location of Star Fleet Academy would also be right in the Presidio.

Henry Fonda was indeed in that 1973 spaghetti western ("My Name is Nobody"), Owen. He played an aging gunfighter. Must have really needed the money.

"The Big Sky" gets only an honorable mention, I am appalled...
A great film (first not to use stock NPS footage) by one of the greatest directors of all times.
The black-and-white cinematography (Russell Harlan) received an Oscar nomination.

"...adventure without regard to prudence, profit, self-improvement,
learning or any other serious thing" -Aldo Leopold-

@y_p_w: Star Trek V was released in 1989, which puts it outside the purview of this particular listing. I'll be sure to put it in the 1980s and 1990s list, which is next.

OK, Random Walker, you've convinced me. I'm going to invent a new category entitled "Marvelous National Park Films that Were Filmed in Black & White When the Cheapskates Should have Shot the Damn Things in Color (What Were They Thinking, for Crying Out Loud?!)" In all seriousness, it's a great flick, and I do need to promote it to the first rank. Keep 'em coming. I love it.

LOL! You nailed it Bob, that was the critic's main complaint. When asked about it Howard Hawks said that color film could not show the dirt, the grittiness of life on the american frontier, or something to that effect (I do not remember the exact quote.)

This is a great list...but I would also include The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), starring David Bowie, for an honorable mention for the scenes filmed in White Sands national monument.

I had that one in the first go-around, kb, but I scrubbed it when I couldn't determine if there was footage actually shot at White Sands National Monument and not just in the vicinity. I've dug deeper, and you are quite correct. Nice catch.

While I enjoyed "The Long, Long Trailer" very much and it probably showed more park views, my favorite "Lucy" film was "Forever, Darling" with them camping in Yosemite National Park late 50's style.

Thanks, Random Walker. I've added Forever, Darling to Honorable Mention.

Sorry - I brain-cramped on the years in question. I got stuck on the top 10 list of movies filmed in national parks.

And does it really count if a site wasn't part of the NPS at the time it was used? My reading is that Fort Point didn't enter the NPS until 1970 while Vertigo was released in 1958. From what I understand, the actual filming of the Fort Point scene in Vertigo was done on a sound stage while the background used was filmed. That was a common Hitchcock technique. However - reading the earlier list, it doesn't sound as if that was a criteria.

However - if you're working on a list of movies after 1979, I'd note the 1996 movie The Rock was filmed at Alcatraz. It even featured a park ranger in several scenes. And of course 1989's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade starts of in what's now Arches National Park, although the period in question would not have been when it was a national park/monument. That movie prominently features Balanced Rock.

What about The Shining? Wasn't the hotel used from Glacier, not sure about any other outdoor scenes.

The Shining was a 1980 release, Dave, so it's outside the purview of this particular list. Moreover, although a little panorama/exterior footage of that film was shot in America (including at Glacier National Park), almost the entire film was shot on sets in England.

I have to admit, j_p_w, I didn't remember that Fort Point (estab. 1970) wasn't yet an NPS property when Vertigo was released in 1958. We probably shouldn't let that bother us, though.

I'm not sure exactly what the status of Fort Point was during the filming of Vertigo. The best that I can tell, it was an abandoned US Army fort at the time with lots of backing for preservation efforts. It might have still been part of the Presidio at the time of filming and one had to get there through the Presidio when it became a National Historic Site. I do remember entering the Presidio at times when it was still an active Army installation. For an active military base, it was incredibly easy to get into. The US Army wanted it to be a bridge between them and the City of San Francisco. You could just drive/walk in without passing through any checkpoint like I'd seen at most military bases. My father (a civilian) once took me there for lunch. Still - they had signs all over the place stating that it was a military base and any visitors were subject to search or detention. It took the NPS a while to take down those signs when they took over the Presidio.

This has been fun!
Connie Hopkins

I beg to differ with you the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor is a part of the National Park System. We have National Park Service staff that work out of a former working depot in Woonsocket RI, which was recently the setting for the recent movie "Hachiko" with Richard Gere.

The staff includes four National Park Rangers that lead guided tours throughout the Blackstone River Valley from Worcester to Pawtucket. Pawtucket has also been the site for several movies including American Buffalo with Dustin Hoffman.

If you have any question about the role National Heritage Corridor plays within the National Park System visit

Patti, being employed where you are, you know as well as anybody that the Corridor staff has many National Park Service professionals -- 16, to put a finer point on it, and that includes "interpretive rangers, planners, managers, and administrative specialists that provide expertise in historic and natural resource preservation, interpretation, education, and recreation development to carry out work as directed by [a 19-member] Commission....". Alas, the presence of NPS employees at a site, uniformed or not, does not confirm that the site is part of the National Park System. (Just to cite you a "for instance," there are uniformed national park rangers at Oklahoma City National Memorial, which was abolished -- that is, deleted from the National Park System by Congress -- in 2004.)

The gist of it is this: Congress has decided that National Heritage Areas/Corridors, like Affiliated Areas, are to be treated as "miscellaneous areas" administered in connection with the National Park System. (Another name for this category is "related area"; that's the term used in the official National Park Index.)

Here is the legalese, as cited in the National Park Index:

In an Act** of August 18, 1970, the National Park System was defined in law as “any area of land and water now or hereafter administered by the Secretary of the Interior through the National Park Service for park, monument, historic, parkway, recreational or other purposes.” The same law specifically excludes miscellaneous areas administered in connection therewith,' that is, those properties that are neither federally owned nor directly administered by the National Park Service but that the National Park Service assists."
[italics are mine]

** An Act to Improve the Administration of the National Park System by the Secretary of the Interior, and to Clarify the Authorities Applicable to the System, and for Other Purposes, 1970 (84 Stat. 825)

Please don't interpret anything I've said as disrespect for the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor. It's a fine entity, I really mean that, and I wish you the best of luck with that sunset law that's ticking toward 2011.

Bob, you are right, of course, that the Blackstone River Valley NHC is not a "unit" of the National Park System, and it would be distressing indeed if employees there were not fully aware of this. It seems for a few years now, no one has investigated more than you, the different kinds of designations of the NPS.

On the other hand, it really is time to recognize that this kind of heritage area, with a federal commission, appointed by the Secretary of the Interior, able to hire federal employees and decide on budgets, and determined to be nationally significant, are the equal to "National Park System Areas" in many ways. The legislation even says the heritage area is "administered" by the Secretary's commission, whose executive director is in the NPS. It is time for the USA, for Congress, to include qualifying heritage sites in the National Park System, as they are in England.

Many have identified Blackstone as a model of the best, and that may be because the historic resources are clearly nationally significant, or it may be because it has the closest relationship of all the heritage areas to the National Park Service, or it may be because the citizens of the region really support this heritage area. But the National Park System is missing something when the System does not include living and working landscapes, as are included in England, where the way people continue to live and work is a critical part of what makes the area important to the nation.

Of course, I am completely sympathetic with the size of your self-imposed task of just trying to identify the great movies of the National Parks ! So, you are off the hook.

But it is time for the NPS and the Congress to rethink the somewhat arbitrary line it has drawn between those federal, nationally significant heritage areas, and the "Units" of the NPS. These areas tell key stories of America often not told by the parks themselves.

Bob, you somehow got the date wrong (1970) for "Eiger Sanction." The book came out in 1972, and the film was released in May, 1975. I was stationed at Canyonlands and in Zion for some kind of training (Search & Rescue?) in 1974. A group of us were at dinner in a Springdale restaurant when Clint Eastwood, George Kennedy, and a few others with the "Eiger" filming came in for dinner too.

Nice catch, Tom. I went back and fixed it. Here's the weaselspeak. I originally had the The Eiger Sanction listed in the top rank and the correct date (1975) was there too. Then I made two stupid mistakes. The first was to move this film to the Honorable Mention category, and the second was to foul-up the date while doing that. I have already fixed both errors (see below). Thanks for the prompting. I appreciate all of the help I'm receiving in compiling and editing these lists. Keep up the good work, everybody. We'll get this thing right yet.

Eiger Sanction, The (1975)
Director: Clint Eastwood
Cast: Clint Eastwood (Prof. Jonathan Hemlock), George Kennedy (Ben Bowman), Vonetta McGee (Jemima Brown), Jack Cassidy (Miles Mellough)
Gist: Retired government assassin is assigned to perform two more "sanctions," one of them while on an Eiger climb.
Accolades: Considered a classic spy/action thriller. Highly praised for realism of climbing scenes.
Scenes filmed in: Zion National Park
Memorable scene: Hemlock cuts his own safety line while dangling over the void.
Trivia: All of the climbing was real (no special effects), and Eastwood did all of his own stunts. They were dangerous, too. A boulder killed a stunt man occupying a position that Eastwood had vacated just moments before.
PC rating: Bigotry meter pegs out and breaks. This film manages to offend women, gays, blacks, Native Americans, dogs, etc., but runs out of time before getting to all possible categories.

Sorry for the tardy reply, d-2. I heartily agree that the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor (is that an awkward title, or what?) is a project well worth salvaging. And salvaging is the correct word here. After the initial 10-year run provided by the enabling legislation, JHCBRVNHC first got a 10 year extension and then a 5-year reprieve with a drop-dead date (in 2011) if 25 years proves not to be enough to get the project standing on its own two feet. It is reasonable to ask a simple question: If the JHCBRVNHC is such a great idea, why has it taken the project nearly a quarter of a century to get to where it is? Understand that I am very sympathetic to the idea of bringing this unusual entity into the warm embrace of the National Park System. I had classical training as a historical geographer (my mentor was John Jakle at U. Illinois), and I wrote my dissertation on the topic of tourism development focused on rural relic landscape. I will tell you in all candor, d-2: If the JHCBRVNHC Commission had run their operation with half the imagination, creativity, flexibility, and just plain "git 'er done" attitude I saw in that little Indiana community I studied back in 1971, we would not be having this conversation.

My goodness, Bob, as loyal as you are to your little Indiana Community, it seems to me Blackstone's success at reauthorizations has been extraordinary.

Remember that the thrust of the program was that at the time of its creation, the Reagan administration was opposing ALL new park designations, and nearly all land acquisition and stronger regulation as well. Programs like National Natural Landmarks, Natural Historic Landmarks, National Trails and the Historic Preservation Fund were de-funded and hanging in tatters. The task was to find alternative ways to alternative ways to meet the mission of the parks and programs of the National Park Service. In effect, ways to slip things past the extremely hostile Reagan staff in the Department of the Interior, in OMB, and their republican compatriots on the Hill. The method was partnership. But this was never a slam dunk, not just because of the above, but because Liberals, transfixed by the 'way we have always done it' were hostile to anything not completely funded by the federal government.

I worked on the passage of the first national heritage corridor, in Illinois, and it was the first time the Reagan Administration supported a new designation by congress. It happened because the President's own constituency supported the new area, and Reagan pulled the rug out from under his attack dogs, and supported and signed the bill. That is the way to get something done for the NPS in the face of these staffers hostile to conservation, you capture the President's own constituency. That is how most of the heritage areas got passed. This was at a time when the newspapers and news mags were full of hostile relationships between the traditional national parks and their local (and Presidential) constituencies. Blackstone was the second, and even after 5 years one of the Reagan political appointees deliberately "lost" the extension papers. This was saved, again, because powerful congressional Republicans rolled the hacks, and went to the top. This took a stupendous amount of time and energy, but happened.

In this climate many partnership federal commissions, including the far better known and better funded Lowell Commission and the Southwest PA Commission, were NOT reauthorized. There were several overt attempts from the Left and Right to kill Blackstone because it was seen as the bellweather, but because of the Merits, and perhaps because of the legislative skill of the congressional advocates, perhaps because of the support across the political and business spectrum in MA and RI, Blackstone was several times even in the face of the determined opposition of the Chairman of the Senate Energy Committee (the committee with jurisdiction). These people maintained, as you seem to, that the point of the Sunset clause was to "get the area on its own two feet" by deauthorization of federal support. But no one usually says national parks should get on their own feet and be deauthorized, why inevitably should nationally significant cultural landscapes, especially when unlike national parks, federal funds were often being leveraged to the tune of $100 to $1.00 at Blackstone? Many laws, like clean air, clean water, endangered species have Sunset clauses, and no one seriously thinks it means federal support of clean air, clean water or endangered species should just STOP.

The point of the Sunset should be to assess if it is working, and to reauthorize -- perhaps with tweaks -- if it qualifies. Partnership areas in particular are good places to require reauthorization every 5 or 10 years, because it is an opportunity for the federal government to challenge the local people to recommit their contributions to the partnership. Because, you do not want the public to ever get the idea they should just wait for the federal government to do it all: that way is doom.

There are pros and cons of the heritage areas flying just below the radar, and one con is the NPS never really advocates or investigates the value of these things. They see them as "external assistance" as you do. The NPS tends to place program coordinators in charge of heritage areas who never worked in the field on one, and would fail if they were to. The NPS therefore never learns the critical skill sets being accumulated by heritage areas, and many heritage area executives see the NPS as a problem and the NPS representatives as dull and lacking imagination. In places, however where, on the ground, the NPS has a close relationship with the heritage area -- places like Blackstone, like Ohio & Erie, and to some extent like Essex -- the quality of the work and the value of the selected projects is extremely strong.

Right now, congress is requiring a study to determine if Blackstone in some way should be designated as a national park. This undermines the value of a national heritage corridor as the equal of a national park, but at least it gets the continual death threats behind the area. Perhaps, if the magic of the entire heritage area was retained, but designated a national park with some small federal landownership or administration, that would not kill the magic.

This is different from your delightful Indiana Community, because the issue is not just a self sustained cultural landscape, but the permanent inclusion in a national system of the key stories and places. I believe the federal government would be smart to offer assistance to those who are telling america's story, protecting america's resources, and successfully leveraging america's resources. Most federal programs just spend the money, they don't multiply it. Most federal programs that succeed are not the first on the list for extinction.

Darn it, d-2, I just knew I should have thrown my hat into that room before I walked in! Now look at me -- shot full of holes and wondering what hit me.