Cowboy enthusiasts, film fans, horses waiting in the McDonald’s drive-thru, and straw hats were a few of the snapshots taken home from the 29th Annual Lone Pine Film Festival this past weekend. A variety of celebrity guests could also be found at the Lone Pine High School Auditorium, the Lone Pine Film History Museum, and in the Main Street parade on Sunday afternoon.
On Saturday evening, TCM host Ben Mankiewicz held a discussion panel with Robert J. Wagner and Scott Eyman, after the screening of the movie “Broken Lance.”
“We shoot [TCM] almost entirely in Atlanta,” said Mankiewicz. “I go to Atlanta for a week of production every month, like clockwork and then there is a bunch of other stuff too and also preparing for that, it’s actually a shockingly busy schedule!”
He heard about the Lone Pine Film Festival ten years ago. At first, he referred to it as the “Cowboy Film Festival. So, I couldn’t remember the name of the town for a long time. [Then] I kept saying we got to go and check [it] out, I would say to my wife. [Then] four or five years ago they invited me, which was wonderful!”
Mankiewicz gave a brief history on TCM and said it “was signed onto the air by Robert Osborne in 1994 and for nearly 23 years, he was sort of the face of TCM. I came 9 years into his run, so in 2003 I just did weekends for a long-time. Now I’m the prime-time host and filling in and taking over for Robert—those are big shoes to fill. Our fans had a very powerful, meaningful relationship with him that I have been able to continue that in my own way, I think is a tribute to him. This job, this career I have doesn’t exist without him—he made it a thing, he made that job matter. And my respect for him is boundless,” he said.
Mankiewicz had a lot of great things to say about the Lone Pine film festival and the town of Lone Pine.
“They love it [he said referring to his family] and they come every year. My wife, my daughter, and my dog are at the Dow Villa motel right now. I’ll go back and walk the dog. I love the people, I love the passion they have for Westerns, the passion they have for classic Hollywood, the passion they have for film. Everybody is so kind to me, everybody is so openly—they seem so happy to see me,” Mankiewicz said.
Each time, he comes to the festival, he is able to see Robert Wagner, and “R.J. Wagner walked my wife down the aisle for crying out loud at our wedding, so it means something to see R.J.,” Mankiewicz said.
The film festival will not be featured on TCM.
Jay Dee Witney is a producer, actor and director. He came with his wife, Kay, and their dog Pixel to this year’s Lone Pine Film Festival.
“I’m mainly here because of my dad and his popularity [as the] serial director, that directed the first Lone Ranger serial up here, along with my godfather Jack English. But I still keep my foot in the industry and do things once in a while, but I like being on my own and doing my own thing, [by] producing my own videos,” he said.
Jay Dee’s father, William Witney was a renowned director in the 1930s and his mother was the actress, Maxine Doyle.
At the Lone Pine Film Festival, Witney is representing his father, William Witney, along with his father’s three books, “In a Door into a FIGHT, Out a Door, Into a CHASE,” “Yaqui,” and “Deadly is the Winter.”
“In a Door into a FIGHT, Out a Door, Into a CHASE”, “is a story of William Witney’s life in the beginning and he wrote a book of the early days of the serials and this covers all the way up to the mid-1940s. It is the story of the motion picture industry, especially the Poverty Road Studio Republic,” Jay Dee Witney said.
“Basically, I grew up in the motion picture business,” says son Jay Dee. “My uncle who started my dad in the picture business was a producer at the old Mascot studios. My godfather was Jack English, who was another serial director with my father in the late 1930s,” Witney said.
His father also wrote “Yaqui” and “Deadly is the Winter” near his retirement and Jay Dee and his wife published them, Jay Dee said. His father, William “tried to sell them, but this one was too violent [Yaqui], it’s got a lot of action, it’s kind of a Tarantino-type of action book. [The other] is a kid’s story that he tried to sell to Disney; it was too much like Old Yeller and they didn’t want to do anything with it at the time” Jay Dee said.
Jay Dee and his wife also brought along their dog, Pixel, “my newly adopted rescue dog that I have been working with and training and through some animation that I am learning, he does a little series called “Pixel in the Park,” which details old jokes—old clean jokes. He [also] did a promo for the film festival,” Witney said.
Whitney is currently working with William Winckler Productions to create behind-the scenes videos for his projects.
After Jay Dee’s father passed away, Jay Dee and his wife, Kay have been attending the Lone Pine Film Festival and “we’ve been coming since 1996 almost every year. We are also lifetime members of the Museum,” Witney said.
Jay Dee said, “the film festival has lost many of the older celebrities who used to attend however, sons, daughters and grandkids are now stepping up to keep their parents and grandparents’ legacies alive.”
Performance poet Larry Maurice, signed books during the Lone Pine film festival inside the film museum and he said that he has attending the festival since it started. Maurice has also been the MC for the film festival parade the past 27 years. His book “Rhyme Riders Trail” features cowboy poetry, which will give the reader “a good sense of what the Eastern Sierra is about,” he said.
“[I have been] writing poetry since I was 7. [I] grew up with poetry [and] could read pretty darn good by the time I was 4,” Maurice said. Four basic elements are featured in all of Maurice’s poetry, such as “one it rhymes, two it’s story poetry, three moral with a message, [and] four self-effacing,” he said. “What I write is mostly free-verse,” he said. One of the reasons that Maurice likes poetry is because “poetry allows you to make the choices. [It also allows] people to use their imagination and you don’t have to spell it out,” he said. Maurice said, “I really like the film festival. I get to know all the people, and it’s been great,” he said.
A variety of other celebrity guests were also present at this year’s Lone Pine film festival, including Robert Wagner, Scott Eyman, Vanda Krefft, Wyatt McCreat, Diamond Farnsworth, Ed Hulse, William Wellman, Jr., Jay C. Munns, Larry Floyd, Conrad E. Palmisano, Scott Harris, Dennis R. Liff, Julie Rogers Pomilia, and Patrick Wayne.