Thanks to legendary crooner Nat King Cole, Kingman in western Arizona will forever be linked to getting your kicks on Route 66. But did you know that there was a long Hollywood connection to Kingman and Route 66 in western Arizona? Did you know that the city also has a surprisingly lengthy celebrity association?
In 1914, legendary drivers Louis Chevrolet and Barney Oldfield made a pitstop in Kingman during the last of the epic Desert Classic races. The course for the last race in the series that had been dubbed the Cactus Derby was along the National Old Trails Road from Los Angeles to Ash Fork, Arizona, and then south to Phoenix. It was an epic event worthy of headlines throughout the world.
Cross into Arizona from California on I-40 and you are traveling on the last bridge to carry Route 66 across the Colorado River. It is also the bridge that Peter Fonda is driving on in the opening scenes of Easy Rider. Immediately to the south is the graceful arch of the 1916 National Old Trails Road bridge, now a support structure for pipelines. In the cinematic classic from 1940, The Grapes of Wrath, this is the bridge used by the Joad family as they crossed into California. As a bit of trivia, in that movie Henry Fonda, Peter Fonda’s father, is at the wheel.
Urban legend has it that Carol Lombard and Clark Gable spent their first night as husband and wife at the Oatman Hotel. That may be myth but in March 1939, they did marry in Kingman. Afterwards there was also a small reception at the Brunswick Hotel.
In 1955, on a special edition of the television program This Is Your Life, Front Street, the Route 66 corridor in Kingman, was renamed Andy Devine Avenue. Devine was born in Flagstaff but grew up in Kingman. His father owned the Hotel Beale.
Devine had a prestigious career in television and movies that spanned the years 1933 to 1977. His distinctive gravely voice made him a popular sidekick in films. And he was a pioneer in the development of children’s television programming. He hosted Andy’s Gang, a children’s TV show, on NBC from 1955 to 1960.
As a result of Kingman’s distinctive historic business district, stunning landscapes and a moderate year round climate numerous movies have been filmed all or part in the city and in the surrounding area. The earliest was Ace of The Saddle starring Harry Carey filmed in 1918. Buster Keaton filmed Go West at Tap Duncan’s Diamond Bar Ranch north of Kingman. Scenes for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Mars Attack, Universal Soldier, Foxfire and Edge of Eternity were all filmed in Kingman.
The reason Kingman was selected by movie stars and movie companies are also reasons that people are making Kingman their new home town. Apex Homes, a leader in manufactured homes, would like to welcome you to Kingman. Apex Homes, a leader in mobile home sales in western Arizona would like to welcome you home.
Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America