Twentynine Palms Historical Society
29 Palms, California
"What draws us into the desert is the search for something intimate in the remote." ~Edward Abbey
You won't want to miss this...
Huell Howser's Unseen Episode of "California's Gold"
"The Ghost Mountain Experiment"
The Twentynine Palms Historical Society will host a screening of the "great lost episode" of Huell Howser's acclaimed California's Gold TV series at 7p.m. Friday, May 20 at the Twentynine Palms Community Services Building. A Q&A with the director and writer will follow the screening.
In 2010, the late, great television personality Huell Howser telephoned filmmaker John McDonald and made an unprecedented request. He had seen McDonald's documentary The Ghost Mountain Experiment, a story about a family who lived off the grid for 17 years in San Diego County's Anza-Borrego Desert, and wanted to include it in his California's Gold series. "He just called me out of the blue," McDonald said. "He told me that he loved my doc, would like to interview me for his show and include the film in an episode of the TV series." Howser found the story of the South family to be a quintessential California story. But the episode was never broadcast when California's Gold became the victim of restructuring within PBS and its famous host decided to retire. Not long before his untimely death, Howser gave his unedited video master of the episode to McDonald in a gesture of appreciation.
The Ghost Mountain Experiment tells the true story of the "original hippie family." Obsessed with the dream of living a simple, back-to-nature lifestyle, the eccentric artist, environmentalist and author Marshal South flees civilization in 1930 with his wife, Tanya. For nearly two decades, they raise a family on a remote, waterless mountaintop, but isolation and betrayal take their toll and ultimately destroy a desert paradise and a marriage.
McDonald, an Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, first became fascinated with Marshal South in 1981 while visiting the crumbling Ghost Mountain homestead on a camping trip with his wife, Lydia, who would go on to write the film's script. In 2004, after meeting San Diego author Diana Lindsay (The Ghost Mountain Chronicles), McDonald was inspired to document South's story.
"We could not have made this the film without Diana's writing and research as well as her participation in the production," McDonald said.
The film features archived family photos, reenactments, interviews with two of the South children, local historians and South's own writings. Shot over a 15-month period, cinematographer Stuart Asbjornsen's footage brings Ghost Mountain's history to life with breathtaking imagery of the desert throughout the seasons.
This special episode of California's Gold is now in limited release. A trailer can be seen on the film's website, GhostMountainMovie.com.
The Twentynine Palms Community Services Building is located at 74325 Joe Davis Drive, across the street from Luckie Park. Seating will be limited to the first 85 to arrive. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and entry is a $5 per person donation.
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