Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Topock Is Ready for Its Closeup

February 19, 2013
After finishing "On The Road" by Jack Kerouac, I decided I needed to read all of the road classics. I'm currently reading two books, "Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck and "Blue Highways" by William Least Heat Moon. Both are pretty spectacular reads.

Also rented John Ford's "Grapes of Wrath" to see what all the hub bub about that is. Pretty interesting project for Ford (he won the Oscar for best director). He had just done Stagecoach with John Wayne, which, of course, uses Monument Valley to great affect. So in "Grapes," he sends out a second unit to film road shots on Route 66, but the project is so controversial (the book was widely banned because of its anti-growers stance) the film crew resorts to a fake name of the movie they are shooting, "The Route 66 Story" or some such off-putting title. Anyway, the photography is absolutely stunning. Shooting in black and white, the cinematographer goes for really dark, dramatic shadows:

The caption is on the pic because I turned on the caption app in order to savor the language of the script.

Also, check out this road shot of the Joad truck ambling down a desert highway.

Very dark landscape with only the road and the vanishing point showing in the distance. Also note the single, unbroken stripe on the road. I have a hunch this was shot on the Navajo res and not Route 66, because there are other shots of sheep on the highway that were obviously shot up by Kayenta. It makes sense because, as i said, Ford had just been there for "Stagecoach" and probably instructed the second unit to get scenes from there. Although on a second look this could be the long hill coming out of Ashfork with the long butte west of Seligman in the right distance.

There is a shot of the truck crossing the Pecos River, which would be at Santa Rosa, New Mexico. Strangely, there are no shots of Texas, with the sequence jumping from Oklahoma, to the Pecos and then to the Arizona-New Mexico line:

This scene is amazing on a couple counts, the first being, check out the dirt road in Arizona! So the pavement ends when you leave New Mexico? At least in 1939-40 it did. Also check out the syntax on the sign: "You now leave New Mexico"? Who's writing this, Chief Stereotype?

And, once they are in Arizona they encounter the dreaded inspection station, where the friendly Zonie official tells the Okies to "keep moving."

Ah, Arizona, where everyone is welcome as long as you are not a Mexican, Indian, black, Okie, or a Democrat.

Arizona Welcomes You, Sort of

Then we skip Winslow, Holbrook, Flagstaff (don't forget Winona), Ashfork, Seligman, Peach Springs, Valentine and Kingman and we have an extended sequence at Topock on the Colorado River:

When someone tells grandma that is California over there, she spits. Ha. This is obviously a matt painting done in the studio but those are the Needles buttes over there, which the town is named for:

That is a classic sign. And here's a very familiar sight to folks in Mohave County:

This is the Topock Bridge connecting California to Arizona on Route 66. I have crossed this bridge many times on our way to play Needles, California teams.

"Any traveler who misses the journey, misses about all he's going to get."
—William Least Heat Moon, "Blue Highways