Hollywood discovered Idaho in 1919. "Told in the Hills", the first feature film shot in Idaho, was filmed in Central Idaho. The film is historic for another reason -- it was the first Hollywood production to let Indians play Indians. "Until that time, most Westerns had white guys with grease paint on their faces playing Indians," says film historian Tom Trusky.
While "Told in the Hills" was the first film shot in Idaho, Idaho’s filmmaker was Nell Shipman. In the 1920's, Shipman produced and directed a number of silent films. Most were shot around North Idaho’s Priest Lake. "Priest Lake in the 1920's was at the edge of the known world," Trusky says. Shipman’s films "capture some incredible panoramas that have no condos, speedboats or airplanes," Trusky says.
"Tornado" is about a natural disaster striking a lumber camp. The film was shot in 1924 in logging camps along the Saint Joe. While the primitive special effects are interesting, it is the footage of early logging practices which interests historians. "The saws, the techniques used, the flumes that these big logs come shooting down...are captured on film and preserved now," Trusky says.
"In all these early silent films, we see Idaho really, essentially a wilderness area," Trusky says. "We really see Idaho as it was, and perhaps, a model of what we might want to recover, at least in part."
The Idaho Film Collection
The Nell Shipman Website
Nell Shipman House