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Fort Ticonderoga: It Plays a Role in Movie History

By Joseph W. Zarzynski

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Two area 18th century fortifications, Lake George’s Fort William Henry and Lake Champlain’s Fort Ticonderoga (formerly Fort Carillon), have many things in common. One commonality is that both fortresses had “firsts” in popular culture. Fort William Henry was the setting for the 1826 novel, The Last of the Mohicans, written by James Fenimore Cooper, considered to be the “first” great American historical novelist. A little known 1953 Hollywood movie, “Fort Ti,” shot in “Natural Vision 3-Dimension,” also had a “first.” In 1982, “Fort Ti” became the first movie shown on television in 3-D format when it was broadcast in the United Kingdom. A year later, in 1983, two film productions, a Three Stooges short entitled “Pardon My Backfire” and “Fort Ti,” were screened back-to-back, the first films broadcast on U.S. television in 3-D format.

The 73-min. long “Fort Ti” movie was produced for Columbia Pictures and was shot in Technicolor and 3-D. It is about Rogers’ Rangers and British General Jeffery Amherst’s 1759 campaign against the French at Fort Carillon, the early name for Fort Ticonderoga. Though a movie about an 18th century east coast military fortress, it is nonetheless classified by film historians as a “western.”

New York City native William Castle directed “Fort Ti.” Castle made many Westerns and horror films, too. He is best known as the producer for the Roman Polanski-directed “Rosemary’s Baby,” a 1968 chiller starring Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes.

Hollywood scriptwriter Robert E. Kent, whose credits included dozens of films and even several episodes of the late 1960s’ hit television series, “The Wild Wild West,” wrote the screenplay for “Fort Ti.”

According to film records “Fort Ti” was not shot on location in the Champlain Valley as many today think. Rather it was filmed at the Corriganville movie ranch in southern California, an outdoor set where television series like “The Lone Ranger,” “Sky King,” “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin,” and even several episodes of “Star Trek” were shot. On weekends Corriganville opened to tourists as a western theme park.

As a youngster in 1963, my family and I visited Corriganville, located in the Santa Susana Mountains, north of Los Angeles. Corriganville’s landscape did not look much like the Champlain Valley or Adirondacks, but that was how many Hollywood movies were made in the 1950s.

“Fort Ti” starred George Montgomery, a rugged 6 ft. 3 in. tall Montana native, who portrayed Captain Jed Horn, one of Rogers’ Rangers. Montgomery started his film career as a stunt man before getting major acting roles in movies. Montgomery gained Hollywood royalty status when he married singer and television personality Dinah Shore, a marriage that lasted two decades.

I recently viewed “Fort Ti” on my home computer at the website (www.westernsontheweb.com). If you can forgive the numerous historical inaccuracies, it is interesting to see how Hollywood in the 1950s interpreted the French & Indian War (1755-1763) including the 1759 Amherst campaign from Lake George into the Champlain Valley.

 

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