March filmfest looks back at movies with a link to Tempe

By M.V. Moorhead

Who knew that Tempe had such a long and varied movie career. As one might expect, the fine folks at Tempe History Museum did. And they mean to prove it, with a film festival that demonstrates how the city has played a role in the selection of movie themes and locations over the years.

Tempe Film Fest 2020 kicks off at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 4, with a showing of the low-budget 1940 crime programmer Marked Men. Then, every Wednesday for the remainder of March, a different film with a Tempe connection will be shown at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema.

For more than a century, at least since 1916’s The Yaqui, Tempe has been a presence in movies, according to History Society President Vic Linoff.

Linoff regrets that this early Universal melodrama starring Hobart Bosworth appears, at least at the moment, to be a lost film, and can’t be featured in THM’s March series. But he has lined up a diverse selection of other movies, as part of the festivities surrounding Hayden’s Ferry Days, running from March 4 through 25 at various locations around Tempe, and as a sort of very early preparatory party for the town’s sesquicentennial, to be celebrated in October of next year.

The movies, all starting at 7 p.m. are these:

Wednesday, March 4: Marked Men (1940) — Also known as Desert Escape, this poverty-row yarn directed by the prolific Sam Newfield (under the name “Sherman Scott”) is the most obscure of the selections, and thus maybe the most intriguing for film buffs. It stars Warren Hull as an innocent man escaped from prison who hides out in a sleepy desert

town—well, guess where? This first showing of the series will be held in the Community Room of the history museum at 7 p.m.; historian Jay Mark will present the film. It’s free to attend.

After that, the series will move to Alamo Drafthouse Cinema for the remaining three Wednesdays in March. Tickets for these screenings are $8. A portion of the proceeds will benefit museum programs.

Wednesday, March 11: A Star is Born (1976) — A big concert sequence in the classic Barbra Streisand/Kris Kristofferson version of the show biz yarn was shot at Sun Devil Stadium. A friend of mine was an extra in the crowd, and once told me that it was
a grueling experience; he claimed the throng was virtually held prisoner for many hours after the glamor of being in the movies had worn off.

Wednesday, March 18: The Nutty Professor (1963) — The ASU campus was the setting for, arguably, the best Jerry Lewis movie without Dean Martin, a comical version of
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. There are, however, those who insist that Martin is in the picture, after a fashion; that the Hyde character of Buddy Love is a lampoon by Lewis of his former partner.

Wednesday, March 25: Campus Man (1987)—Another relative obscurity, this collegiate comedy stars the late John Dye of Touched by an Angel. It was inspired by the real-life case of ASU marketing major Todd Headlee, who in the early ‘80s published a calendar featuring hunky male students, aimed at women. Kim Delaney, Miles O’Keefe and Morgan Fairchild are also in the cast. There are a few omissions from the series: the 1985 teen comedy Just One of the Guys was filmed in part at Tempe High; parts of Robert Altman’s O.C. and Stiggs, from the same year, were Tempe-shot. And possibly the best movie ever made in Tempe was 1987’s Raising Arizona, by the Coen Brothers.

How about Tempe Film Fest 2020, Part II?

Tempe History Museum is at 809 Southern Avenue in Tempe; Alamo Drafthouse Cinema Tempe is at 1140 E. Baseline in Tempe. For details call 480-350-4311. Doors open at 6 p.m. for all screenings; introductions begin at 6:30 p.m. 


  1. You left out Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. By far more familiar to today’s audience than the previous movies. Although only a short skit of the movie, it was the infamous Circle K (and introduction to the iconic time traveling telephone booth & “Rufus”, the boys guide to how time travel works) scenes which lit off a small budget movie into a cult classic for Generation X. You can find the original movie poster still hanging framed inside at the infamous Circle K location at Hardy & Baseline. It looks today nearly identical to the way it did in the movie minus the pay phone (not the time traveling booth, an actual pay phone if anyone remembers those) on the West side of the South facing store. The ice machine and newspaper stand are still there, thought I think the latter now dispenses New Times papers.

    And though not filmed in Tempe per se, don’t forget the other valley locations included in the movie such as the Waterloo Waterpark (Mesa’s Sun Splash) and the ice skating scenes filmed at Phoenix’s Metro Center at I-17 & Dulap/Peroria (though the rink was taken out many years ago and replaced by an arcade)

    Kerry Hamlett
    Tempe, AZ


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