Flynn`s footsteps- in the Will Tell town of Courmayeur

08 Aug

Dear Flynnmates,

brace yourselves, we may not have seen the last of Errol Flynn.

When I embarked via Berchtesgaden to the Italian town of Courmayeur, where in 1953 our Hollywood hero sadly missed the apple shot, I was determined to add at least one more chapter to that half full filled dream movie called “The Story of William Tell”.

Lying at the foot of the Mont Blanc massif, Courmayeur greeted me with sunshine (a rarity, even in summer).

Weather also had been a factor back in the day, when first time director Jack Cardiff constantly had to cleanse his lense for a clear shot at the “Dente del Gigante” as seen above.

Courmayeur after and most of all is a skiing resort.

And a splendid one at that with its historic houses, clear air and the innate Italian art of fine wining and dining.

One can easily see through the decision to make it a film location.

Even as a stand-in for a Swiss town in an ancient epic of a heroic father-archer battling an Austrian army almost all by himself.

Walking about you can spot the buildings Academy winning art director Nino Novarese very probably used as an inspiration for that village he built from scratch.

It was this construction made with real stones, that consumed the lion share of production costs.

Above is the exact spot where Little Altdorf once stood complete with church.

And below is the river where Errol battled his buddy-turned-real-life-nemesis Bruce Cabot in one of the few finished scenes.

Stunt man Jock Easton, who could pack a punch, had to take the plunge.

I figured this nearby mountain side would have been the perfect place for the avalanche that was to be set off for the grand finale:

The Monte Bianco Hotel, once shelter for cast and crew, now is an apartment complex.

It was there where Mrs. Waltraut Haas and the wife of actor Dave Crowely, Pat, rescued their stuff over the balcony when bailiffs were seizing all private belongings for back payment.

Finally it was time to sit down for a chat with Signor Leo, a former race car driver, who as a kid witnessed the filming of Flynn in person.

He told me a typical Errol-like episode, how the horses for a big battle scene in the streets were fed sparkling wine to keep going.

And then he really popped the corks- metaphorically speaking.

Some of the missing Tell reels still lie dormant in an attic of a local alpine hut and wait for restoration; if they can be processed, they will be released at a future special event for all the world to see.


— shangheinz


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  1. Ralph Schiller

    August 8, 2021 at 10:38 pm

    Hollywood Heinz; Great story here with surprises. The material presented here is worthy of a fantastic book! Thanks to our Flynn detective!

    • shangheinz

      August 9, 2021 at 9:44 am

      Rushstreet Ralph; the first W.T. material that was shown at the Courmayeur Noir Film Festival stemmed from reels found over there too. My Roman friend fencing maestro Renzo Musumeci Greco told me this was done in the presence of Pat Wymore. I reckon this to be the black and white video that can be found on the internet. It had been processed by the BFI and focused on Jack Cardiff‘s life work. The bits and pieces you saw at UCLA is a different animal altogether for they shine in technicolor. The off limits film cans from the Roddy McDowell estate on the other hand turn this topic into a real detective story.

  2. David DeWitt

    August 9, 2021 at 12:36 am

    Flynntastic posting! Well done and what a great experience!

    • shangheinz

      August 9, 2021 at 9:04 am

      Yep David, what a flynntastic voyage. Prior to Courmayeur we visited the Eagle‘s Nest in Berchtesgaden. Well worth another post here some day soon.

  3. shangheinz

    August 9, 2021 at 9:49 am