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SCV In the Movies | Episode 14: Riders of Destiny

Uploaded 07/25/2011

Episode 14: Riders of Destiny

Lone Star Pictures 1933

Halfway up San Francisquito Canyon Road, the St. Francis Dam collapsed at 3 minutes before midnight on March 12, 1928. An estimated 450 lives were lost by the time the floodwaters hit the Pacific Ocean.

Five years later, a young John Wayne is hopping around the rubble at the base of the formerly 180-foot-tall dam, trying to evade a bad guy’s henchmen.  It’s a snapshot in time that captures pieces of our history that no longer exist — but it’s more than a snapshot. Plenty of towns across America have history, but most have only still photographs to record it. Thanks to the proximity of Hollywood and movies such as this otherwise run-of-the-mill Paul Malvern-Lone Star Western, the Santa Clarita Valley is blessed with a moving-picture library of its early 20th Century history.

“Riders of Destiny” is noteworthy from a cinematic standpoint, too. It’s one of the few films to feature one of Hollywood’s first singing cowboys — John Wayne as “Singing Sandy.” Watch for him as he sings — or rather lip-syncs — and rides through Vasquez Rocks at the beginning of the picture.

And look for the swish-pans that take you from Agua Dulce to Placerita Canyon in the blink of an eye. The movie town is located where The Walt Disney Co.’s Golden Oak Ranch sits today. In 1933 the land was leased by Trem Carr and the town featured buildings from the “collection” of Ernie Hickson. Three years later when the rent went up, Carr and Hickson picked up sticks and moved them about a mile westward to the site of today’s Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio.



E.J. Stephens E.J. Stephens is a noted Hollywood historian, author, lecturer and tour guide. An Indiana native, E.J. has lived for 10 years in the Santa Clarita Valley with his wife Kimi and their two children, Mariah and Dylan.

By day, E.J. can be found in Burbank on the Warner Bros. Studios lot where he is a tour guide and an audience coordinator on Conan O’Brien’s late-night talk show. When not giving tours at the studio, E.J. and Kimi host tours of their own for their Newhall-based company, Newhallywood Tours.

Early Warner Bros. Book E.J. has co-written four books on subjects ranging from the history of Warner Bros. and Paramount to Griffith Park and the Santa Clarita Valley (the latter with Kimi and Dr. Alan Pollack). The trio is currently working on another SCV history book titled “Then & Now: The Santa Clarita Valley,” scheduled to hit the shelves in early 2014.


Bill West Bill West is a movie nut who serves on the board of Friends of Hart Park, gives tours of the Hart Mansion and maintains the Friends’ website.

In his spare time, Bill writes software for Walt Disney Imagineering, where he has contributed to Star Tours, Toy Story Midway Mania, the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage and other attractions. Previously, he wrote software at Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Bill and Liliana Bill enjoys lounge music and he plays the drums for pickup bands. He lives in Santa Clarita with his Realtor (his wife Liliana) and their son Josh. Pets include Maya the Mutt, Luigi the Canary, and a cat whose name he can’t pronounce but is Polish for “kitty.”

©2011 SCVTV
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