Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

"Suddenly" (1954)
Newhall & Saugus, California


Frank Sinatra at the gas station on the northwest corner of Newhall Avenue and San Fernando Road, across from William S. Hart Park, during the filming of the movie "Suddenly" on April 15, 1954.

The gas station, built by Mr. Penhorwood (known as "Penny"), was the first Standard Oil station in the Santa Clarita Valley. Penhorwood also built the home on Arcadia Street that Municipal Court Judge C.M. MacDougall lived in.

This photo is one in a series taken by Bill Rice (Hart High class of 1959, became an outdoor writer and photographer for Western magazines, moved to Costa Mesa). Rice was 12 years old at the time and shot the photos with his Brownie camera. He writes, "I went down there every day and watched the filming and visited and even had box lunches with the actors. ... Sterling Hayden and Johnny Beradino were great with the kids watching; Sinatra was kind of a jerk." Rice said the actors staged a gunfight behind Tom Frew's blacksmith shop on San Fernando Road (west side, between 8th and Market) and filmed inside the Bill Ross home.

Famous scenes from the film were shot with Frank Sinatra at the Saugus Train Station when it was still in its original location on the east side of Bouquet Canyon (San Fernando) Road, about 2 miles north of downtown Newhall. The station was moved to SCV Historical Society headquarters at Heritage Junction Historic Park (inside Wm. S. Hart Park) on June 24, 1980.

Written by Richard Sale and directed by Lewis Allen, "Suddenly" is a thriller that sees the tranquility of a small town marred by Sheriff Tod Shaw's unsuccessful courtship of widow Ellen Benson, a pacifist who can't abide guns or those who use them. But violence descends on Ellen's household willy-nilly when the U.S. President passes through town. Hired assassin John Baron finds the Benson home ideal for an ambush. (Summary from the Internet Movie Database.)

The 1954 United Artists picture was produced by Robert Bassler and stars Sinatra as Baron, Sterling Hayden as Shaw, James Gleason as Pop Benson, Nancy Gates as Ellen Benson, Kim Charney as Peter "Pidge" Benson III, Willis Bouchey as Dan Charney, Paul Frees as Benny Conklin, Christopher Dark as Bart Wheeler, James Lilburn as Jud Kelly, Kem Dibbs as Wilson, Clark Howat as Haggerty, Charles Smith as Bebop and Paul Wexler as Slim Adams. Also appearing are John Beradino, Richard Collier, Roy Engel, Ted Stanhope, Charles Wagenheim and Dan White.

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