Friday 18 January 2019

The Mentors Cemetery in Lago

It’s been over 45 years since Clint branched out to direct his first western feature, High Plains Drifter. The film still remains a favourite among Eastwood’s loyal legion of fans. Another aspect of the production which has long fascinated fans of the film is the cemetery in the town of Lago. Whilst it is barely seen in the film, it was prominently featured on one of the U.S. Lobby cards. The card depicts Clint standing alongside Sarah Belding (Verna Bloom) at one of the tombstones. Not so unusual perhaps, just a production shot that was used for publicity purposes… However, on closer inspection, the said tombstone is clearly marked as Donald Siegel, Clint’s mentor and director. On the same lobby card and to the right hand side, another tombstone can be seen clearly marked as S Leone, the legendary director of the Dollar trilogy. While clearly done as a joke, it had been rumoured that Clint took to making High Plains Drifter partly because he was influenced by these two important men. Yet, it would not be until Unforgiven (1992) that Clint would officially recognise his two mentors.
Below: The U.S. Lobby Card
I thought I’d expand on this story with a very rare photo I’ve had on file and ‘buried’ deep within a folder for a very long time. This picture shows the cemetery in a great deal more detail and without the actors present. As this wider shot reveals, there are a couple of other significant names to be seen.
Below: More names are revealed
Front row, right also shows clearly a tombstone dedicated to ‘B G Hutton’ – which is unquestionably honouring Brian G Hutton. Hutton being Clint’s director on both Where Eagles Dare and Kelly’s Heroes. Directly in the row behind Hutton, the name David Brown can also be seen – which is arguably dedicated to producer David Brown who was at Universal at the time. Brown would also serve as executive producer (alongside Richard D. Zanuck) on The Eiger Sanction some two years later.
There are a couple more headstones that are still not identified, such a ‘Mother Emma’ or the name on the small white cross placed behind. The lobby card also shows a small stone (to the left) marked John …? Naturally, these may not have any meaningful relevance at all and may just be fictitious names. The set is still recognised as a humorous tribute to Eastwood’s most influential directors. Patrick McGilligan's 2002 Eastwood biography quotes Eastwood as saying:
"I buried my directors."

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