Postcards From The Road

It’s hard to take a dull picture in Yosemite—though my shot of the famous granite Half Dome poses no threat to Ansel Adams.

My wife and I took advantage of my midterm break at USC and set off on a road trip last week. Having lived in Los Angeles for 27 years, we were embarrassed that we hadn’t taken in some of the great destinations in this part of the country. In May we made our first trip to the Grand Canyon and the Painted Desert, and this past week we visited Yosemite National Park. As millions of people already know, it is magnificent.

When I go away, I try to leave my workaday world behind, so I don’t bring a computer or check my e-mail (although I do leave timely movie reviews behind to post online.) Nevertheless, I find myself running into movie references wherever I go. Several hours out of Los Angeles, we started thinking about a place to stop for lunch. Then we saw a billboard for a place in Tulare called Apple Annie’s and I said, “That sounds good to me.” The reason, of course, is that I associate the name with the Damon Runyon character in—

—Frank Capra’s Lady for a Day and its remake, Pocketful of Miracles. Imagine my delight when, reading the menu, it turns out that the establishment was named after that very character. Rack up another unexpected movie tie-in moment. (By the way, the food is very good there—and don’t pass up the apple turnover.)

May Robson as the original Apple Annie, with Ned Sparks and Warren William, in Frank Capra’s Lady for a Day. (1933)

At the Grand Canyon, Alice and I were amused to see that the dining empire founded by Fred Harvey still flourishes; indeed, a display case in one of the lodges features memorabilia from the1946 MGM movie The Harvey Girls with Judy Garland. Similarly, at the historic Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite, the official souvenir book mentions some of the films that have been shot there, such as Star Trek VI and two features with Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz: The Long, Long Trailer (1953) and Forever, Darling (1956). (The Montage Hotel in Laguna Beach, California also boasts of a location point used in The Long, Long Trailer, which covered a lot of ground.) But the text of the Ahwahnee book refers to Lucy, Desi, and Judy Garland enjoying a late-night songfest in 1947, which doesn’t match up with those filming dates.

After our sojourn in Yosemite we drove through Sequoia National Park and then headed to Santa Cruz, where we took in the historic boardwalk and wharf. The boardwalk, which opened in 1907, has a very colorful history, and on the top floor of the casino building is a “historeum” that documents its ups and downs over the past century, from the time it was heralded as “the Atlantic City of the Pacific” to the present day.

A wonderful vintage advertisement on display at the Historeum in Santa Cruz.

I couldn’t resist photographing one of the more interesting pieces of ephemera which confirms that moviemakers took advantage of a wide-eyed public at every opportunity. (see photos)

When we drove to the Grand Canyon earlier this year, we hopped on and off the historic Route 66 along the way and made a significant stop in Kingman, Arizona. I learned about the Mohave Museum’s Andy Devine Room decades ago, and even did a story about it for Entertainment Tonight in the 1980s, but back then I used a freelance video crew to document the exhibit.

This is how I remember the actor when I first encountered him in my childhood.

Now, I finally had a chance to see it for myself. The beloved character actor remains Kingman’s favorite son, and if you have any affection for Andy, as I do, the museum is a must-see. Here are some photos that give you an idea of the display. (More Andy Devine)

America has many natural wonders, but our history is inexorably tied up with the movies and popular culture, and that adds an extra bit of fun to any road trip.

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May 2024