One Book, Four Films and a Redwood Treasure


The novel, ‘The Valley of the Giants’ was written by Peter B. Kyne and originally appeared in Red Book during August 1918.  It has since been made into a movie four different times.

The stories hero Bill Cardigan is a lifetime resident of California’s Tall Timber country. When evil land-grabber Howard Fallon arrives with a team of lumberjacks to strip the territory of its trees, Cardigan tries to stop them, only to discover that Fallon has the law on his side.  Eventually, Cardigan finds an unexpected ally in the form of golden-hearted saloon girl Lee Roberts, who enables the forces of Good to triumph.

According to Warner Brother’s press material from the 50s, San Hedrin, the setting of the novel, is patterned after Eureka, California.

The film was shot for a fourth time in 1952 and retitled’ The Big Trees,’ with an emphasis shifted so that the Howard Fallon character, (now known as Jim Fallon and played by Kirk Douglas,) ultimately emerges as the hero. Aside from Douglas, the film also starred Eve Miller, Patrice Wymore, Edgar Buchanan, John Archer, Alan Hale, Jr., Roy Roberts, Charles Meredith, Harry Cording and Ellen Corby.

Students from Humboldt State University played members of the Quaker congregation as well as members of its choir. Locations included several places between Eureka and Orick.

Records show that Henry O’Neill tested for the part of McKenzie, Dick Foran and Allen Jenkins for Ox, John Litel for Sheriff, Russell Simpson for Hendricks and Gloria Dickson for Lee. The project was originally assigned to Ray Enright, who was replaced by William Keighley.

In 1938 the 79-minute movie ‘The Valley of the Giants,” was directed by William Keighley, with photography by Sol Polito and music by Adolph Deutsch. It starred Wayne Morres, Claire Trevor, Charles Bickford, Alan Hale, Donald Crisp, Frank McHugh, Jack LaRue, John Litel, Russell Simpson, and Jerry Colonna.

Warner Brothers  took over all three floors of the Eureka Inn and over the next four weeks of location work, the company went to a number places within 65 miles of Eureka. The fog and many visitors were often troublesome for filming, but the company worked out an early morning phone-in system from several locations so they could go to the sunniest location each day.

The dam that was blown up across the Van Duzen river took two weeks of work by one hundred men. Filming was done at Hammond, Holmes-Eureka, and Pacific Lumber Company locations.

The second filming of ‘The Valley of the Giants,’ took up seven reels and was directed by Charles J. Brabin, with cinematography completed by Ted D. McCord. The cast included  Milton Sills, Doris Kenyon, Arthur Stone, George Fawcett, Paul Hurst, Charles Sellon, Yola D’Avril, and Phil Brady.

The film company, First National, used the Scotia Bluffs and the Nanning Creek Bridge as background in the film during a six-week period. The Eel River, with the Scotia Bluffs in the background can also be recognized in scenes where passengers from the Northwestern Pacific Railroad Engine #132 are spilling down the hill.

The Carson Mansion, which served as Sill’s Family home, is another recognizable location used in filming. Many film historians claim the picture includes one of the greatest fight scenes of all silent films; also, a great love scene and a great runaway train sequence.

In 1919, the first ‘The Valley of the Giants,’ was directed by James Cruze, with the help of cinematographer Frank Urson. Stars included Wallace Reid, Grace Darmond, Will Brunton, Charles Ogle, Alice Taaffee (later known as Alice Terry) , Ralph Lewis, Kay Laurel, Hart Hoxie, Noah Berry, Guy Oliver, W.H. Brown, Richard Cummings, and Virginia Foltz.

The company, Paramount,/Famous-Players Lasky, stayed at the Hotel Arcata. They shot the film on location throughout Humboldt and Del Norte Counties as well as parts of Southern Oregon.

Many  stories were left when the crew and cast returned to Hollywood. The most enduring is while on a location, Reid was injured doing stunt work and received morphine injections for the pain.

This apparently marked the start of his morphine addiction, from which he died on 18 January 1923.

According to author and film historian Kim Morgan: “While traveling to their Oregon location…Reid and company experienced a near-catastrophic crash when their train fell off a bridge, rolled down 15 feet and landed on its side. (Reid) was seriously injured, suffering a deep laceration to his skull, a gash in his arm that cut to the bone and severe injury to his already weakened back. It was a harrowing, bloody calamity that would, today, stop production on any motion picture.”

In his 2011 book, “Wally: The True Wallace Reid Story,” David Menefee writes: “Alone and in the middle of nowhere, they were without any outside help… For the next twelve hours, Wally used his medical skills to administer to those who were injured… Rescuers finally arrived, but only after the injured had languished in isolation for half of a day.”

Considered to be lost until 2010, a print of the film was found in Russia’s state film archive and a digital copy was presented to the library of Congress in October 2010.  The film had been loaned to the former Soviet Union I the 1920s.

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