SPENCER'S MOUNTAIN, 1963, Warner Bros.
Director Delmer Daves knew some time earlier, that Jackson Hole was to be the spot for his version of Hamner's autobiographical novel. His time spent in Jackson during the making of Jubal in 1956, was significant and he could think of no better place to depict Spencer's Mountain. By contrast, Hamner never visited the set and was most displeased at the Tetons being represented as Virginia mountains. Daves just figured them to be more photographic for his purposes; basically they were just background to the story. At the time of this film, Daves had written 55 scripts, directed 38 pictures and produced 12. There was hardly a more accomplished executive in the industry.
He was quite proud of the fact that those films hadn't cost more than $2M apiece and that they'd usually grossed over $7 or $8M. According to Daves, "It seems to me that the towering mountains of this locale symbolize both its isolation and the effort that is required if one is to get away. I liked the high wall look of this valley. Otherwise, we've pretty much stuck to the book." He said Jack Warner had once told him that he was the only Director in Hollywood who'd never lost money on a film. The film was a prequel to The Homecoming, A Christmas Story and The Waltons TV series. Apparently the film was fun for most everyone except Fonda who was having a variety of personal problems. He had a penchant for sleeping between takes, yet he always knew his lines. He was also described as a swarthy man who enjoyed getting a tan and never having to use makeup. Despite the prior, he was also a workhorse and enjoyed his time in Jackson Hole. Fonda also used to hold court at one of the local bars and took pleasure in buying the drinks. When Triangle X manager Harold Turner(where most of the movie was being filmed) tried to buy a round, Fonda was rather put out by the gesture. There were several stories, all unconfirmed, that while spending an evening at the Cowboy Bar, a couple of inebriated locals decided they'd had enough of Fonda's celebrity. The story goes that Fonda took them on and proceeded to clean house. Perhaps locals remember this instead of the dustup involving Glenn Ford and Charles Bronson during the filming of Jubal, or perhaps it never happened, but from such stories local legends are made.
Daves certainly enjoyed returning to his friends at the Triangle X from years earlier. It almost went a little sour for Maureen O'Hara as she lost a nugget from a $75. bracelet early on in a creek. Someone found it later and when it was returned to her, they got a $10. reward. She was allergic to mosquitoes and spent a good deal of time inside the Park Ranger's house. O'Hara quipped at one point that after 48 films, she'd had 42 children and had been paddled by Henry Fonda, and John Wayne.
Mimsy Farmer & James MacArthur
When the tree fell on Grandpa Spencer, it actually fell on a dummy set up for the scene. However, the first attempt missed the effigy entirely and they had to get more branches secured onto the tree and try again. Another almost humorous incident involved the house fire. They had stationed propane burners strategically but the jets wouldn't light for several attempts. Fonda was reported to have thrown water from the gas cans but this wasn't so. In fact, he poured so much gas on the house's frame that it engulfed him and the film crew had to raise their boom. They had to call for makeup on Fonda's eyelashes before they could try the scene again and couldn't finish it until a day or two later. In the film, the house's frame is already scorched from previous takes when the scene starts.
Many a fan tried to sneak onto the ranch to watch the filming but were turned away. While locals, especially some local women, had trouble getting on the set, quite the opposite situation occurred back in town. Margene Jensen met Fonda shortly after his arrival in Jackson while working as a waitress at the Open Range restaurant. She struck up a friendship that was to last for a long period of time, which included an affair and even a proposal of marriage from Fonda which Margene declined. While their affair was common knowledge in Jackson, it was kept very quiet in the press.