Sun Valley Movie History: The perfect location

In the second in the Sun Valley Movie History series celebrating the Sun Valley Film Festival, guest blogger Jennifer Tuohy compiles a list of movies shot in Sun Valley. The festival opens tomorrow, for more on the event, which runs through March 17, visit sunvalleyfilmfestival.org.

Arguably the most famous movie star to shoot a film in Sun Valley, Marilyn Monroe is pictured here at the North Fork store just north of Sun Valley, where she filmed scenes for Bus Stop.

From standing in as the mountains of Europe to being celebrated as a character in its own right, Sun Valley’s role as a favorite Hollywood shooting location often had as much to do with the stars’ and producers’ wish to ski there as it did its suitability for filming. Following the opening in December 1936, a total of  32 Hollywood movies have been shot in and around Sun Valley. Over 300 have been shot across the great state of Idaho (for that list click here), but for the sake of my sanity I focused the following chronological list solely on Hollywood movies shot in Sun Valley and its surrounding mountains. I also chose to excluded TV specials (such as Lucy Goes to Sun Valley and Raquel Welch’s variety show), promotional videos, documentaries, and independent movies shot in the southern Wood River Valley. I also left out the unique genre of Ski Films, which is a whole blog in itself – for another day perhaps. The resulting list reflects the birth, intense early passion, slow burn phase, and eventual break up of Sun Valley’s relationship with Hollywood location scouts (Shredder? Really?). Hey Hollywood, maybe it’s time to make up and give it another shot?
Jennifer Tuohy

Filmography links and data courtesy of
The Internet Movie Database
 

Movies Made in Sun Valley

1937 I Met Him in Paris
Claudette Colbert, Robert Young, Melvyn Douglas. Dir:  Wesley Ruggles
The first Hollywood flick to be shot in the newly-christened Sun Valley-area was filmed at Baker Creek in the Smoky Mountains, where a Swiss village, complete with its own grand lodge, was created. Filming began as soon as Sun Valley Lodge opened, with the stars staying in Sun Valley and the crew finding lesser accommodations in the town of Ketchum. (For more on I Met Him In Paris’ Sun Valley connection click here.)

1939 Stanley and Livingston
Spencer Tracey, Walter Brennan, Nancy Kelly, Richard Greene Dir: Henry King, Otto Brower
The head of Twentieth Century Fox, Darryl F. Zanuck (also responsible for Sun Valley Serenade), was a frequent guest at Sun Valley. He arranged for the opening sequences of this movie to be shot in the Boulder Mountains just north of town.

1938 Everything Happens at Night
Sonja Henie, Ray Milland, Robert Cummings Dir: Irving Cummings
Scenic shots of the area were used in this Swiss-set comedy/drama. Ice-skating star Sonja Henie wasn’t to come to Sun Valley until her next Hollywood movie in 1941.

1940 The Mortal Storm
Margaret Sullivan, James Stewart, Robert Yong Dir: Frank Borzage
Sun Valley’s mountains stood in for those of Austria in this WWII film.

1941 Sun Valley Serenade
Glen Miller, Sonja Henie, John Payne Dir: H. Bruce Humberstone

This clip featuring the signature song of the movie, “It Happened in Sun Valley,” and showcases Sun Valley Lodge in all its 1940s glory. (Video not displaying? Click here.) While the principle sets for the movie were filmed in Hollywood, the skiing and scenery was all Sun Valley, earning this crowd-pleasing flick almost daily showings at the Sun Valley Opera House, straight through to today.

1941 A Woman’s Face
Joan Crawford, Melvyn Douglas Dir: George Cukor
Sun Valley just provided the snow for this melodrama.

1942 Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood No. 3
Hedda Hopper, Anna Boettiger, Ronald Colman, Gary Cooper, Martha Gelhorn, Ernest Hemingway Dir: Herbert Moulton
“Newsreel-style accounts of the Hollywood Dog Training School where Carl Spitz trains stars’ pets and dogs for films; a hunting party in Idaho with Ernest Hemingway hosting Gary Cooper, Anna Boettiger, poet Christopher LaFarge, and others.”

1942 Northern Pursuit
Errol Flynn, Julie Bishop, Helmut Dantine Dir: Raoul Walsh
“A Canadian Mountie of German descent feigns disaffection with his homeland in hopes of infiltrating and thwarting a Nazi sabotage plot.” The landscape around Sun Valley stands in for the Arctic. Watch the trailer here.

1946 An Old Chinese Proverb: One Picture is Worth Ten Thousand Words (Short Film)
Bob Burns, Ken Carpenter, Jerry Fairbanks

1950 Duchess of Idaho
Esther Williams, Van Johnson, John Lund Dir: Robert Z. Leonard

This trailer for Duchess showcases Sun Valley Lodge and a snippet of Connie Haines singing the praises of Idaho. (Video not playing? Click here.)

1949 Mrs. Mike
Dick Powell, Evelyn Keyes, J.M. Kerrigan Dir: Louis King
A Canadian Mountie marries a Boston-bred heiress, uniquely unprepared for the hardships of life in the Great White North. Mrs. Mike nonetheless perseveres through minor inconveniences and major tragedies. Based on a true story and a bestselling book. Sun Valley pretends to be the “Great White North” in this biopic.

1948 That Wonderful Urge
Tyrone Power, Gene Tierney, Reginald Gardiner Dir: Robert B. Sinclair
“When an heiress finds out that the friendly young man she’s met at Sun Valley is really an investigative reporter, she ruins his career by falsely claiming they’re married.” Another Darryl F. Zanuck movie, shot in his favorite ski locale.

1952 The Wild North
Stewart Granger, Wendell Corey, Cyd Charisse Dir: Andrew Marton
Filmed in the Boulder Mountains, along Trail Creek and on Galena Summit.

1952 The Big Sky
Kirk Douglas, Dewey Martin, Elizabeth Threatt Dir: Howard Hawks
Rock Hudson, Marcia Henderson, Steve Cochran Dir: Joseph Pevney
“In a small village in the icy wilderness of Alaska Captain Peter Keith has to defend himself against two especially mean villains, who are after his wife Dolores and a boatload of precious hides.” Background shooting took place in the mountains around Sun Valley.

1953 How to Marry A Millionaire
Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall, Betty Grable Dir: Jean Negulesco

Sun Valley stands in for Maine in minute 2 of this trailer. (Video not playing? Click here.)

1954 Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Howard Keel, Jane Powell, Jeff Richards Dir: Stanley Donen
An avalanche scene in the movie was shot at Corral Creek Canyon near Sun Valley.

1955 The Tall Men
Clark Gable, Jane Russell, Robert Ryan Dir: Raoul Walsh
Once again, Sun Valley provided the scenic snow shots for this flick.

1955 Storm Fear
Jean Wallace, Cornel Wilde, Dan Duryea Dir: Cornel Wilde
The movie was shot on location in Sun Valley.

1956 The Miracle of Todd-AO
“A short film demonstrating the new 70mm widescreen Todd-AO system. After a prologue that shows all that the eye can see through the Todd-AO wide angle lens, we take a ride in a roller-coaster, fly over the canyons of the Grand Teton Mountains, ski in Sun Valley, and follow a motorcycle chase through the San Francisco.” Catch scenic shots of the Sawtooths and the Wood River Valley in this clip.

1956 Bus Stop
Marilyn Monroe, Don Murray, Arthur O’Connell Dir: Joshua Logan
“A naive but stubborn cowboy falls in love with a saloon singer and tries to take her away against her will to get married and live on his ranch in Montana.” The scenes of the couple stranded at a bus stop in a blizzard were shot at the North Fork store, north of Sun Valley, which still stands. Watch the trailer here.

1957 Ten North Frederick
Gary Cooper, Diane Varsi, Suzy Parker Dir: Philip Dunne
Location shots only for Sun Valley in this Cooper vehicle.

1965 Ski Party
Frankie Avalon, Dwayne Hickman, Deborah Walley Dir: Alan Rafkin

Great shots of Baldy and Dollar mountains to be found in the trailer for this raucous ski flick. (Click here for the video.)

1977 The Deadly Triangle (TV movie)
Dale Robinette, Taylor Lacher, Geoffrey Lewis Dir: Charles S. Dubin
“A former Olympic ski champion, now the sheriff of a ski-resort town, investigates the murder of the member of a skiing team that came to the resort to train.” Filmed entirely in Sun Valley.

1978 Crisis in Sun Valley (TV movie)
Dale Robinette, Taylor Lacher, Bo Hopkins Dir: Paul Stanley
“Semi-follow up to “The Deadly Triangle” dealing with a sheriff and his deputy in a sleepy ski town involved with a group of urbanites planning a dangerous mountain climb as well as investigating sabotage in a condominium development.” Filmed entirely in Sun Valley

1980 Swan Song (TV movie)
David Soul, Bo Brundin, Jill Eikenberry Dir: Jerry London
“A champion skier who pulled out of the Olympic games because of a mysterious illness decides to make a comeback.”

1980 Powder Heads
David Ferry, Catherine Mary Stewart, William Samples Dir: John Anderson, Michael French
Filmed in Sun Valley, Edmonton and Jasper.

1985 Pale Rider
Clint Eastwood, Michael Moriarty, Carrie Snodgress Dir: Clint Eastwood

Pale Rider revived the both classic Western and Hollywood’s romance with the majestic mountains surrounding Sun Valley. The film crew constructed an entire mining village in the Boulder Mountains, and the opening credits capture the drama of the Sawtooth Mountains. (Video not displaying? Click here)

1996 Champions on Ice
Scott Hamilton, Nicole Bobek, Surya Bonaly Dir: Paul Miller

2001 Hemingway, The Hunter of Death
Albert Finney, Paul Guilfoyle, Fele Martinez Dir: Sergio Dow
“During the Kenyan struggle for independence from the British in the late 1950′s, a scientific safari led by Ernest Hemingway undertakes the ascent of Mount Kenya.” Filmed on location in Sun Valley and Kenya.

2001 Town & Country
Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Nastassja Kinski Dir: Peter Chelsom
The last big budget movie to be made in Sun Valley  provides plenty of glimpses of town and slopes. Unfortunately, when the crews arrived there was no snow on the ground and several scenes were filmed with manmade snow. As luck would have it, a foot of the real white stuff arrived the next day, so some of the scenes were re-shot using the “natural” background. But the movie was cursed with bad luck from the get-go and went on to be one of the biggest box office disasters of all time.

2003 Shredder
Scott Weinger, Lindsey McKeon, Juleach Weikel Dir: Greg Hudson
The Tamarack Lodge on Sun Valley Road in Ketchum provides some interior scenes in this ski horror flick set in Kellog, Idaho.

Read the first post in the Sun Valley Movie History series “The Hollywood Connection” here. Coming next, a look at Sun Valley’s Hollywood Godfather, David O. Selznick.

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  • David Butterfield

    Missing from this summary is 1990′s “Dark Horse”  starring Ed Begley, Jr,, Ari Meyers, and Natasha Richardson.  Locals Rip Sewell, Corey Simpson, and Judge James May and others had speaking roles.  Still others worked behind the scenes on the film shot primarily in Hailey and at the Susie Q Ranch near Picabo.  It also should be pointed out that Hollywood location scouts have never soured on this area.  A major Tom Cruise movie, “Oblivion” scouted less than a year ago.  What changed was the convenience of transportation.  Loading a film company on a train and going directly from L.A. to Sun Valley made for very easy logistics.  Another negative factor today is our lack of location production incentives.  Our Film Office keeps trying but we have been unable to fund incentives for shooting in Idaho.  The upside, we have a phenomenal variety of locations within one hour of a luxury resort.  We’ll be back.

  • jp2e

    @David Butterfield Thanks so much for the background on Hollywood’s lack of filming in recent years. I’d heard about Oblivion – shame they didn’t go for it, could’ve been the start of a renaissance… Do you know if Dark Horse was shot in Sun Valley as well? I read it was shot in Hailey, but as I was focusing just on films shot in Sun Valley/Ketchum area and surrounding mountains, I left it out. I’d be happy to add it in if it fits the bill. Thanks again for your input. For anyone who wants more on Sun Valley’s history be sure to check out David’s great documentary The Sun Valley Story, which was featured on this blog not too long ago - http://blog.sunvalley.com/tag/david-butterfield/

  • jp2e

    Thanks so much for the background on Hollywood’s lack of filming in recent years David. I’d heard about Oblivion – shame they didn’t go for it, could’ve been the start of a renaissance… Do you know if Dark Horse was shot in Sun Valley as well? I read it was shot in Hailey, and I was focusing just on films shot in Sun Valley/Ketchum area and surrounding mountains. But I’d be happy to add it in if it fits the bill. Thanks again for your input. For anyone who wants more on Sun Valley’s history be sure to check out David’s great documentary The Sun Valley Story, which was featured on this blog not too long ago - http://blog.sunvalley.com/tag/david-butterfield/ @David Butterfield

  • David Butterfield

    @jp2e Yes,” Dark Horse” had several SV/Ketchum locations.  Most memorable for Ketchum was the transformation of Louie’s Pizza into the exterior of a teen club.  The interior was Creekside.  A key stunt was filmed up on Trail Creek Summit.  A horse truck and  trailer jack-knifed and the trailer rolled off TC road (allegedly with the horse inside.)  It was our worst nightmare from every trip over that road brought to life on film.  Key facilitators on the Louie’s/Creekside set were Prudence Hemmings, Louie Mallane and John Wells.  Key to the Trail Creek stunt were Ken Corrock, and Steve Garman.  The film was directed by David Hemmings.  His executive assistant was Marcus Beresford.  Location Manager, yours truly.  There are many other films and national commercials that shot here but didn’t fit your “Hollywood” criteria.  And it’s not over.  We’re still open for business.