Sun Valley Mayor Dewayne Briscoe gives Jodie Foster the Key to the City (photo courtesy of SVFF)
On Sunday night, following the Awards Ceremony, the second Sun Valley Film Festival was, as they say in the movie biz, a wrap. Filmmakers, producers, screenwriters and fans gathered at Ketchum’s nexStage Theatre for the presentation of awards including the Vision Award, recognizing “the producer’s ability to keep a feature length narrative in focus during the journey of the project.”
Starlet’s Sean Baker was the deserving winner of the Vision Award and not only got to take home bragging rights and a lovely engraved award, but he also got to share the stage with two-time Academy Award wining actress, director and producer Jodie Foster. Foster graciously presented the award, keeping the attention on Baker, and was heading off stage when the Festival’s Marketing and Publicity Director, Candice Pate, summoned her back.
SVFF founder Teddy Grennan and Marketing & Publicity Director Candice Pate hand over the mic to Jodie Foster at the Awards Ceremony Sunday evening
“Ms. Foster,” Candice laughed, “we’re not quite through with you!”
Back in the spotlight, Foster was introduced to Sun Valley Mayor Dewayne Briscoe who presented her with the Key to the City. Mayor Briscoe thanked Foster for lending her support, credibility and star quality to the Festival.
Party central -- the nexStage Theatre
But the focus really remained on the films at the awards ‘closing ceremony.’ The winner of the Gem State Award was Craters of the Moon by Jesse Millward and Stuck by Stuart Acher nabbed approval with the Audience Award. A full list of award winners is available here. Congratulations to all the award recipients, as well as the lucky audience winner of two round-trip tickets on Alaska Airlines, one of the Festival’s primary sponsors.
The mood at nexStage was celebratory and festive throughout the evening, as Master of Ceremonies Mat Gershater kept the event moving along — no need for music from Jaws to get these winners to cut short their thank you speeches. Optimism and exuberance were the key words of the night and of the Festival, in general, as it stands poised on the brink of greatness.
In fact, Trevor Groth, Programming Directorfor the well-established Sundance Film Festival and a judge for the Sun Valley Film Festival, said the vibe and energy in Ketchum and Sun Valley over the weekend evoked a nascent Sundance. Ted Grennan, Executive Director of the Sun Valley Film Festival, was positively delighted with the weekend as he and Candice thanked their loyal and overworked staff, dedicated volunteers, the filmmakers, production crews, screenwriters and everyone else for stepping up to put on such a terrific event.
A large, enthusiastic crowd turned out for the Awards Ceremony
Caspar von Winterfeldt, SVFF board member and judge concluded, “The Film Festival has undoubtedly reinvigorated the incredible Hollywood legacy here in Sun Valley. It is drawing talented filmmakers to the valley and that to me is special. I look forward to many more festivals ahead!”
As I looked around the casual gathering of talented film folk and film buffs alike, I took a moment to think, remember this right now. It isn’t going to last. Chances are, the Sun Valley Film Festival, with the backing of our wonderful community and the amazing talent it attracts, will grow into something truly substantial, truly fabulous. It is exciting to see the beginning of the next chapter of filmmaking, and making film history, in Sun Valley.
Congratulations to everyone who played a part in creating this seamless event. The image of Sun Valley that is inextricably linked with Hollywood and filmmaking is finding a new incarnation, indeed.
The very charming Caspar von Winterfeldt presented an award and said he was pleased to see Sun Valley's Hollywood tradition continue
This week the second annual Sun Valley Film Festival comes to town. In honor of the event and the enduring bond between Hollywood and Sun Valley it represents, The Valley Sun blog is running a series of movie history posts by guest blogger Jennifer Tuohy. For more on the festival, which ends tomorrow, March 17, visit sunvalleyfilmfestival.org.
“Sorry to hear you are still set on ‘Sun Valley.’ I am not sure whether Irene wired you her latest suggestion – ‘Ski Haven.’” David O. Selznick to Averell Harriman, November 4, 1936
David O. Selznick was a unique figure in the golden Hollywood studio era. Producer of arguably some of the greatest movies ever made – from Hitchcock’s Hollywood debut, Rebecca, to the enduring classic, Gone With the Wind - Selznick was a force to be reckoned with. A close friend of Sun Valley’s founder Averell Harriman, Selznick responded with his usual gusto when his buddy asked him to help sprinkle a little star dust on the opening of his grand palace in the snow.
As reams of telegrams and letters between the two friends attest, Selznick set to work immediately, “producing” the arrival of a trainload of celebrities at the resort for New Year’s Eve. Varied reports from the time indicate that the “Sun Valley Special” carried with it an assembly of Hollywood’s shiniest stars. The celebrity choo choo was an inspired idea, agreed Harriman. “This expedition should have good publicity value and help to keep the place full for the rest of the season.”
Arguably the origin of the type-A-Hollywood-producer stereotype, Selznick was anxious to control tightly the publicity generated by his scheme, and consequently drove Harriman’s publicity guru Steve Hannagan slightly mad with his customary pages of memos, including this one sent in early December 1936:
Dear Steve,For the love of Pete please don’t let anyone send out anything about Sun Valley Special without my first seeing and initialling it for if wrong thing goes out I will have to leave town. Am confident wide publicity can be obtained indirectly counting on your good taste to see to it this isn’t handled like a Billy Rose special to the Dallas Exposition but rather as casual photographs of stars en route and at American St. Moritz etc. Not trying to tell you how to run your business but am trying arrange this as favor to Averell and I must be careful it doesn’t boomerang at me or Sun Valley.
Selznick had good reason to be careful about his image, as he was in the early stages of producing what was to be the defining motion picture of his career, a little movie named Gone With The Wind. Just a few months earlier he had picked up the rights to the sumptuous Southern novel set in the midst of the civil war, and it’s hard not to deduce that Selznick’s little trip had some business motivation behind it. In fact, many of the Hollywood power players he rounded up for the 26 hour train ride to central Idaho had key parts to play in his plan for Wind: Samuel Goldwyn, who “owned” Gary Cooper, the star strongly rumored to be Selznick’s first choice for the role of Rhett Butler; George Cukor, Selznick’s first director for the film; and Errol Flynn, also on the list to play the roguish Charlestonian Butler. In the end Goldwyn point blank refused to loan out Cooper, and Warner Brothers terms for the use of Flynn were unappetizing to Selznick. Perhaps to throw a bone to his disappointed pal however, Goldwyn sent the recently widowed Norma Shearer a request to come join them all at Sun Valley shortly after arriving. Shearer was one of many actresses considered for the role of the film’s heroine Scarlett O’Hara. Shearer eventually declined, joking, “Scarlett is a thankless role. The one I’d really like to play is Rhett Butler!” Shearer’s visit to Sun Valley was not fruitless however. She fell in love with the area and returned year after year, eventually marrying one of the resort’s ski instructors, Martin Arrouge.
In 1940, shortly after Wind was released featuring Clark Gable (another star to frequent Sun Valley) and Vivien Leigh in the lead roles, Selznick pulled hard on some strings to arrange to screen the movie at Sun Valley. “At my request,” he wrote to Harriman in February 1940, “[we will] work something out for Sun Valley on ‘Wind’ even though it is a complete violation of our policy.” Sun Valley was considered rather too small and too short an engagement to waste a print of what was fast becoming the biggest movie in Hollywood’s history.
Selznick and his party arrived in Sun Valley on December 31st, 1936, himself and his closest friends occupying rooms 206, 207, 306 and 307 for just four days. According to the account of Felix Schaffgotsch to his boss Harriman (who was unable to attend the opening of his pet project due to the “coming out” of his eldest daughter Mary), the “Hollywood crowd” were “crazy about the place.” They spent their evenings dancing to the orchestra, being entertained by the Austrian ski instructors, playing ping pong, and frolicking in the pool. “Madeleine Carroll and party went swimming last night at six below,” reported Schaffgotsch.
“The warm water swimming pool is obviously a sensational success and quite a novelty,” wrote Selznick to Harriman in a lengthy letter following his stay. He did complain however, about “how easily pneumonia was obtained after hopping out of the pool and running indoors.” “It is pretty cold in Ketchum, believe it or not,” he wrote, “all your advertisement to the contrary notwithstanding, I believe we hit zero a couple of times.”
The much-publicized lack of snow at Sun Valley’s opening has long been proclaimed as a disaster, however for parties unaccustomed to the thrills of winter sports, it was barely an annoyance. With his accustomed foresight, Hannagan, who despised the cold, had arranged for a slew of entertainment and activities to be on hand, and these kept the celebrities and other guests happy. The ice-skating rink was a particular hit. Selznick actually lamented the fact there was any snow at all, “There wasn’t supposed to be enough snow but there was enough for me to make a monkey of myself on skis and skates, and enough for the rest of the party to go wild about winter sports and spend a fortune at the Saks shop…” he said in his letter to Harriman.
The only major blip in the Hollywood crowd’s Sun Valley vacation, where otherwise they had had “a perfectly magnificent time,” and were “simply heartbroken that we had to leave,” was at the big New Year’s Eve bash. Before Selznick left Hollywood for Ketchum, he had received a wire from screenwriter Sidney Howard, who was working on the script of Wind. Howard had wanted Selznick to meet a friend of his named Morgan during his stay at the resort. He duly accepted the introduction, and while Selznick would live to regret the meeting and its tarnishing of his precious image, for Sun Valley it led to the best publicity the resort could have hoped for.
Morgan insinuated himself into the Hollywood party, following them everywhere, stealing dances with the ladies and securing a spot at their table for the New Year’s Eve dinner. During the evening he brought over a banker from Chicago, Charles F. Glore. Presumably somewhat inebriated, Glore approached the table, pushing Selznick out of the way, and plopping himself down next to Lili Damita. When the producer protested, Glore stormed off, sweeping Selznick’s wife, Irene, out of the way, and swiping Selznick on the arm. Selznick, infuriated, demanded an explanation from Morgan as to his friend’s behaviour. Morgan, unruffled by the incident, ignored Selznick’s fury and calmly turned to Claudette Colbert requesting a dance. Selzinck, not known for his calm and restrained personality, screamed at Morgan that he “did not care to know him” and ordered him from the table. Morgan obliged, joining Glore at the adjoining table where the two started stage-whispering about Selznick, with heavy emphasis on the word Jewish. Enraged, Selznick abandoned all pretense at civility, walked over to the gentlemens’ table and planted a punch on the unsuspecting banker, leaving him with a split nose and two black eyes.
Lloyd Castagnetto, a bridge and building supervisor for the Union Pacific Railroad, later recalled “[there] was blood all over everything that night.” According to his account, the first person to throw a punch was Errol Flynn. Regardless of the facts, the story of Hollywood celebrities spilling blood in Sun Valley was too sensational to ignore. When an employee called Steve Hannagan lamenting the turn of events, he shouted back down the line, “What do you mean your party’s ruined? Not an editor in the country can resist this story!” Then he sat down and penned what became the memorable party headline for the ages: “Sun Valley Opens With a Bang.”
Filmgoers lined up at the Opera House Thursday afternoon before the doors opened for the 2013 Sun Valley Film Festival
It’s on! On Thursday, the second Sun Valley Film Festival kicked off and kicked into high gear on a gorgeous, warm spring afternoon. A full half hour before the 5:15 screening time for Running from Crazy, a documentary starring long-time part-time Sun Valley resident Mariel Hemingway, the line outside of the historic Opera House reached past the swan pond, almost back to the Sun Valley Inn. This alone indicates how excited people are about the Film Festival. “On time” in our casual town is a very subjective term. People often don’t arrive for an event, no matter how highly anticipated it may be, until five minutes before the doors open. But not for this, the first featured movie of the Film Festival. This was a sell out.
These two chic women were among the many locals clearing the weekend calendar for the Film Festival
Proudly wearing Festival passes on lanyards around their necks, filmgoers buzzed with excitement. “This is the highlight of the year!” enthused one woman waiting in line. Her friend added, “We are going to try to as many screenings as possible. I don’t want to miss anything!”
It would be impossible to attend the more than 40 offerings through March 17, but there are choices to fit everyone’s schedule and to appeal to every taste. A full complement of visual offerings includes dramatic features, documentaries, short films, works-in-progress, music videos, children’s programming and freebies. Screenings will be held at the Opera House in Sun Valley, the nexStage Theater and Magic Lantern Cinema in Ketchum, and the Liberty Theater in Hailey. For a full schedule, to buy tickets and to learn more about the Sun Valley Film Festival, click HERE.
Check in at Film Festival HQ at 251 N. Washington Ave. in Ketchum for tickets and information
And be sure to keep your ticket stubs while at the Sun Valley Resort. Sun Valley Film Festival ticket holders will receive 10 percent off of food and beverage at any Village restaurant with a valid ticket stub or festival pass. The offer is valid though March 17 (for the individual ticket holder only).
Fired up by what you have seen? Make your way to the Inn Lobby Lounge to continue the conversation. The Lounge will open early throughout the Festival, providing an elegant, comfortable spot to have a cocktail and a bite to eat while debating the finer points of a narrative arc and character development. On Friday, swing by the lounge beginning at 3 p.m., on Saturday at 2 p.m., and on Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
Sun Valley welcomes Festival goers
The lineup at this year’s Festival will take you around the corner and around the world. The films are thought provoking, hilarious, moving. Escape to the movies this weekend and be a part of what is sure to be one of the highlights of the spring season in Sun Valley!
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
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
This week the second annual Sun Valley Film Festival comes to town. In honor of the event and the enduring bond between Hollywood and Sun Valley it represents, The Valley Sun blog is running a series of movie history posts by guest blogger Jennifer Tuohy. For more on the festival, which runs March 14 through March 17, visit sunvalleyfilmfestival.org.
Gary Cooper and Claudette Colbert chat on the slopes of Sun Valley in the early '50s. The two were among the celebrities to visit Sun Valley in its opening season and, like many of their contemporaries, returned year after year to their favorite ski resort.
At 11 o’clock on a chilly Wednesday morning, a slender figure clad in a long camel hair coat dashed across the platform of Los Angeles’s Central Station and slipped onto the waiting train. Hidden beneath a ski cap, the irresistible eyes of Hollywood’s most famous leading lady, Greta Garbo, smiled mockingly back at the waiting photographers and newsmen, whom she had manage to evade.
It was December 30th, 1936, and the train was filled to overflowing with Hollywood’s elite on their way to ring in the New Year at a glamorous new winter wonderland nestled in the heart of Central Idaho. Once inside the special Union Pacific train, Ms. Garbo took her seat alongside the assembly of glittering stars and powerful men, including film noir femme fatale Joan Bennett, swashbuckler Errol Flynn, America’s sweetheart Claudette Colbert, Hitchcock heroine Madeleine Carroll, Gone with the Wind producer David O. Selznick and celebrated director George Cukor. As the “Sun Valley Special” pulled out of LA, beginning its 20-plus hour trek to the tiny town of Shoshone, Idaho, the passengers’ eventual destination was placed firmly on the map, and the special relationship between Hollywood and Sun Valley, America’s first destination ski resort, was born.
Of course, it was not by happy accident that this galaxy of stars had aligned itself to travel in style for a taste of America’s newest passion, skiing. It was the result of months of schmoozing and networking by three men, Averell Harriman, chairman of the Union Pacific Railroad company and founder of Sun Valley; Steve Hannagan, the larger-than-life publicity guru who sweetened the deal by promising stars they could write off their snowy vacation on their taxes if they posed for his photographers; and Count Felix Schaffgotsch, the charming Austrian nobleman who had found for Harriman a “St. Moritz in the Rockies.”
Although Sun Valley was originally envisioned by Harriman as a modest ski lodge for him and his wealthy East Coast buddies, the savvy Hannagan already had a handle on the power of celebrity. Having introduced the idea of the bathing beauty to the world with his enormously successful promotion of Miami Beach, America’s other destination vacation spot, Hannagan knew how important pretty pictures of celebrities cavorting on the slopes would be to the success of Sun Valley. So he convinced Harriman to tap his somewhat limited Hollywood connections to drum up interest in Sun Valley along the glamour-filled West Coast. Harriman sent his golden boy, Count Felix, off to California with specific instructions to gather as many celebrity bookings as possible.
“I am hopeful that we can get a big crowd from Hollywood,” Harriman said to Schaffgotsch on October 29, “and the kind that we want, if you are able to contact them and tell them the story in the vivid and enthusiastic way that you do.” Just a few days earlier he had dispatched letters to his connections, including Selznick, actor Gary Cooper and Hollywood heavy-hitters Samuel Goldwyn, Merian Cooper (King Kong producer), and Lewis Milestone (Oscar-winning director of All Quiet on the Western Front), in which he introduced the “Austrian boy who discovered Sun Valley,” and asked if they would “put him in touch with a few people who might be interested in hearing about [SunValley].”
Count Felix Schaffgotsch escorts actress Madeleine Carroll into the lodge in January 1937. At Harriman's request, the Count spent a week in Hollywood before the resort's opening charming stars and directors into booking rooms at Sun Valley.
Arriving in Los Angeles on a Friday night in November, the handsome Count proceeded to charm the pants off Hollywood society, securing large reservations from Selznick, Goldwyn and Cooper, as well as Paramount star Paulette Goddard and Charlie Chaplin, among others. However, it was a chance conversation that planted the seeds for another, now deep-rooted connection between Sun Valley and the world of filmmaking.
On November 20th, 1936, after a long week of schmoozing starlets and chatting-up producers, Schaffgotsch sat down at the desk of his Beverly Wilshire hotel room to relay his successes to Harriman. Alongside the list of celebrity bookings, he described a conversation from that day with some Paramount executives. “They want to shoot a picture under the name of St. Moritz,” he wrote. “It was supposed to be taken in Lake Placid. But as it stands now, I have the feeling they will do it in Ketchum … It certainly would be excellent publicity if the first American snow picture will be done there, the title of St. Moritz is not definite yet, and it would be a good breack[sic], if they would change it to Sun Valley.”
While a name change was in the picture’s future it was not in Sun Valley’s favor and Idaho’s mountains merely stood in for their Swiss counterparts. Indeed, the movie’s eventual name, I Met Him in Paris, so detracted from its shooting locale that many erroneously believe Sun Valley Serenade to be the area’s first claim to movie-making fame. While Serenade, shot in 1941, certainly put the resort on the map, its star, Norwegian figure skater Sonja Heine, never actually shot a scene there, due to something familiar to many Sun Valliants – un-cooperative skies.
I Met Him in Paris was a moderately successful, lighthearted romantic comedy directed by Wesley Ruggles; today its biggest claim to fame is ironically its shooting location. As soon as the Paramount scouts arrived in Ketchum one a sunny December day, they fell in love with the place. “Paramount location men I talked to in Hollywood have arrived with others yesterday,” Schaffgotsch reported to Harriman on December 8, 1936. “They are crazy about the place. Producer Ruggles coming today; it is very likely picture will be turned here during January.”
The picture’s star, Claudette Colbert, was duly dispatched to the grand opening of Sun Valley Lodge on December 21, and, when she returned a few weeks later to “turn” the film, the friends she subsequently made cemented a long-lasting relationship between the actress and Sun Valley. I Met Him In Paris was actually filmed seven miles up the road from the lodge on land owned by a local silver prospector, 28 year-old Gus Anderson (Anderson appears in the movie as a skating waiter who serves Colbert a drink). The production crew built an entire Tyrolean village set on his Baker Creek property, complete with a Swiss-style lodge with overhanging eaves and carved balustrades, a little church and a skating rink with an ice-bar. After filming was complete the Andersons moved into the lodge, which today stands on the west side of the southern end of Ketchum’s Main Street.
A postcard of The Challenger Inn, modeled on the sets built for the first movie to be shot in Sun Valley, Caludette Colbert's I Met Him In Paris.
The other legacy the movie left behind however, is far grander. During the filming Harriman was contemplating the building of a second hotel at Sun Valley. He instructed Gilbert Stanley Underwood, the architects of Sun Valley Lodge, to draw up some sketches but was disappointed with the results (it looked exactly like the hotel he already had). As soon as he saw the elaborate Swiss village at Baker Creek he knew he’d found his new hotel. He asked the movie’s art director, Ernst Fegte, to come up with a design for a hotel. He complied, producing a series of sketches depicting an idyllic Tyrolean village perfectly evoking the Austrian ski towns Sun Valley was modeled on. Harriman was delighted and demanded the sketches come to life. This proved to be slightly tricky however, as Fegte was far from a trained architect. But with some tweaking the Challenger Inn was born. Now called the Sun Valley Inn, the hotel boasts a variety of different facades, giving the illusion of a classic Austrian village street when inside it is all one building – lending a touch of Hollywood magic to the heart of Sun Valley.
There has been a long and romantic relationship between the Film Industry and Sun Valley. It began when America’s original ski resort first opened on December 21, 1936, with a gala featuring some of the biggest star of the big screen of the day, like Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert.
And it continues this weekend as the Sun Valley Film Festival debuts by welcoming some of the most creative and innovative modern-day filmmakers to share their work for four star-studded days.
The festival features over 60 films with genres including Dramatic Features, Documentaries, Children’s Programming, Short Films, Television Series, Web Series and Idaho based films, including everything from low budget Indie films (like Travis Swartz’s "Nobody Cares," staring Boise actors Chris Thometz and Joe Golden) to big budget Hollywood flicks like “Friends with Kids,” starring the likes of Kristen Wiig and Jon Hamm.
Films are being shown at The Sun Valley Opera House and The Magic Lantern Theater from Thursday night, March 15th, through Sunday afternoon, March 18th. Check here for the full schedule and ticket prices and package options.
Sun Valley, Idaho has been welcoming the film industry since Averell Harriman opened America’s first ski resort in 1936. In 2012, the Sun Valley Film Festival brings the area’s rich cinematic tradition into the 21st century by welcoming cutting-edge independent films, premieres, exciting children’s programming, and previews of the new television and web series. On March 15-18, filmmakers from around the world bring their vision to Sun Valley and you’re invited to watch it come in to focus.