Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

"The Bells of Coronado"

Starring Roy Rogers

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Lobby Card No. 7


Wagon Heist

"The Bells of Coronado" from Republic Pictures (1950), starring Roy Rogers and his horse Trigger, was filmed at the Sable Ranch and Sand and Placerita Canyon roads, as well as the Littlerock Dam in Pearblossom and other parts of the Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys. This scene, featuring one of the three principal stuntmen — Duke Green, Henry Rowland or Ken Terrell — probably takes place at Littlerock Dam (doubling for the fictional Coronado Dam).

Publicity photo No. 1629-7, 8x10 inches. Pin holes show it was used as a lobby card.

Filmed in Trucolor (see trailer below), Roy outwits a gang of "uranium ore hijackers" to prevent the stuff from falling into the hands of "some unfriendly power." The Cold War going on in real life, it's an anti-communist picture, one of a few in which Roy and Trigger were called upon to save the United States from its sworn enemies.

As writer Ted Okuda points out in "Invasion USA: Essays on Anti-Communist Movies of the 1950s and 1960s" (McFarland & Co. 2017; David J. Hogan, editor), by the late 1940s, screenwriters were

slap[ping] a new coat of paint on the shopworn good guys/bad guys formula. Bank robbers, cattle rustlers, stagecoach outlaws, gold raiders, and out-of-date Nazi saboteurs could be substituted with the more topical threat of Communist infiltration, in the form of "agents of unfriendly powers." In "Under Nevada Skies" (1946), perhaps the first Western to acknowledge the atomic bomb, Roy and Trigger thwart a plot by said agents seeking a rich deposit of pitchblende, used in making A-bombs.

Okuda describes the opening of "Bells of Coronado," which appears to be the scene shown here:

George Perez (Jack Low), co-owner of the El Coronado Grande Mine, transport[s] a wagonload of high-grade uranium ore. An outlaw gang, led by Ross (Clifton Young), hijacks the shipment and chases Perez into the reservoir of the Coronado Dam. This well-staged sequence was filmed at Littlerock Dam in Pearblossom, California.

Long story (or rather, a 67-minute story) short, the mastermind behind the uranium-smuggling scheme is someone nobody ever would have suspected — except for Roy who, it turns out, suspected him all along. The posse arrives just in time, Roy saves the day, and the bad guy dies an accidental death while trying to escape.

Okuda points out that the story doesn't really stand up to scrutiny (why did a foreign power need this backwater gang to steal uranium for it? does Coronado have a reputation for being the Uranium Capital of the USA?) — but no matter. "Without directly mentioning Communists, Soviets, the Red Menace or other fellow travelers," Okuda writes, "(the story) posits that such a power can't function without cooperation from traitors, and that there are no greater enemies of the USA than those eager to betray our country."

LW3741: 9600 dpi jpeg from original photograph purchased 2020 by Leon Worden.
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