By Michelle Radison
Special to the Triplicate
The landscape of Del Norte County has been the backdrop for some Academy Award-winning films. Although the area has been featured it has never represented itself. Through movie magic Del Norte has been home to extraterrestrials and Ewoks to name a few. Some of Hollywood's brightest stars have touched down in the area, such as Spencer Tracy, Daryl Hannah and Johnny Depp.
The first of the movies filmed in the area was "The Last of the Mohicans." The filming took place in 1936 on location at Lake Earl and at the Smith River. Lake Earl was used as the backdrop of rugged mountains. Smith River was the sight of the majority of the film, including the canoe chase scene on rushing water. Twenty Yurok Native Americans played Mohicans and an additional 30 locals acted as settlers. The Lauff Hotel was the staff and actors' residence during filming. The film was released in black and white but originally the film was to be filmed in the then new art of Technicolor.
"Green Dolphin Street" began production in 1946; the location of this film was Klamath. The film setting was that of a small fishing village in New Zealand. One hundred and fifty crew members began to arrive at the Klamath River. The actors in the starring roles were Lana Turner, Spencer Tracy and Loretta Young.
Buildings soon were erected, keeping with the storyline. Klamath Glen was taken over by the cast and crew of the company. The film was nominated in the special effects category of the Academy Awards because of the tidal wave, earthquake and falling trees scenes.
Aliens in Del Norte County
Nearly 40 years later, in 1982, extraterrestrials landed on property owned by the Miller-Rellim Redwood Company.
Steven Spielberg aimed his cameras at Del Norte while filming "E.T." E.T.'s dramatic near death scene was filmed at Little Creek Mill. Locals played the roles of alien hunters in the opening five minutes of the film.
Producers were concerned about the drenching rains, but Spielberg was pleased with the sight of breath, mist, and the winter's cold haze. The filming caused some confusion among residents. A local man traveling home after a late night at the local bowling alley entered his home white faced and swore to his bewildered wife that he had just seen a UFO lifting off into the night sky near U.S. Hwy. 101.
During the same year, Imperial Storm Troopers and Ewoks invaded the area with the filming of "Return of the Jedi." Actors Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill were among the stars. More than 100 Del Norte residents were used as extras in the film, the majority as storm troopers. The Ship Ashore Restaurant was the headquarters for the film. Ewoks and Imperial Military soon invaded the redwood forests of Del Norte. Scenes filmed in the area were the air scooter chase and the capture of the Ewoks.
The producers of the film felt the forest floor needed some changes, so they went about digging up ferns and replanting them in the preferred areas.
The year 1994 brought terror to the area with "Dead Man," starring Johnny Depp. The film was set in the Old West in the year 1875, and was filmed along Walker Road and the mouth of the Klamath River at the sight of Dad's Camp. Among the scenes filmed in the area was the last shot, with Johnny Depp floating out to sea in a canoe. The rain threatened to dampen the production until the producers used it to their advantage and re-wrote the parting shot.
A little bit country
Country western star Tim McGraw visited Crescent City. Filming of his music video took place at Battery Point Lighthouse. Thirty studio workers arrived in the area, along with their equipment, one of which being a fog machine. Local citizens were used as scouts and caterers during the video shoot. The song, "Not a Moment too Soon," became a hit on the country music charts.
Del Norte County has been featured in several films, and with the beautiful landscape there are sure to be more. What sort of creature, alien or mysterious vehicle will arrive next?