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Mon, Dec. 09

'Junior Bonner' tops Prescottonians' list of favorite flicks filmed in the area

Steve McQueen stars in “Junior Bonner,” which was filmed in Prescott in 1971. (Courtesy photo)

Steve McQueen stars in “Junior Bonner,” which was filmed in Prescott in 1971. (Courtesy photo)

The (Unofficial) Academy of Daily Courier Readers has voted for Best Picture Made In - or Near - Prescott.

And the winnner is ...

"Junior Bonner."

The 1972 release (filmed the year before) about an aging cowboy - played by tough-guy star Steve McQueen - who returns to Prescott to compete in the rodeo won the readers' vote, by a landslide.

Other movies that received votes: "Gumball Rally," the madcap 1976 car-race flick; "8 Seconds," another rodeo movie, this one made in 1994 and starring Luke Perry; "Bless the Beasts and the Children," a 1971 movie about summer camp runaways; "Billy Jack," also from 1971, with Tom Laughlin using martial arts skills to battle a bigoted town; "Midnight Run," the Robert De Niro-Charles Grodin action-comedy from 1988; and "Riders of the Purple Sage," the ranch-revenge drama from 1931.

Last week's movie story brought back memories of cameras and stars seen around Prescott.

Gary Walden, who voted for "Gumball Rally," noted, "An important scene was filmed up the street from my father's second-hand store on Miller Valley Road where a building that was filled with fireworks was 'blown up.'

"I remember Gary Busey sitting in a car, along with a lesser-known actor, right in front of my father's store, waiting for the cue to race up the street toward the building. I met Michael Sarrazin and the screenplay writer (Leon Capetanos) ... My father made friends with several of the stuntmen. It was a once in a lifetime event for my father and me."

While a number of movies gave cameo appearances to Prescott and Yavapai County, "Junior Bonner" was a true "hometown" movie, with scenes at the Palace Saloon on Whiskey Row, long shots of downtown for the Frontier Days Rodeo parade, and the rodeo itself.

Director Sam Peckinpah - zen master of violent scenes filmed in super slow-motion - and his cast and crew hunkered down in Prescott for more than a month.

"The bonding between the film company and the town was very special," screenwriter Jeb Rosebrook told the Daily Courier, in a 2012 article. "I had been on locations before, but I had never seen this kind of thing between the town and the people doing the movie."

In Rosebrook's script, Junior Bonner comes home to Prescott to battle a dysfunctional family as much as a mean bull named Sunshine. The tough cowboy comes up on top.

Thanks to Daily Courier readers, it looks like Junior just won again.

Follow Tom Scanlon on Twitter @tomscanlonpress.

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