Daryl H. Thornhill, grandson of Roger Thornhill, has paid a visit to a hallowed place — a place where his ancestor was nearly murdered by machine-gun fire from a cropdusting biplane. Daryl is standing at “Prairie Stop, Highway 41” — actually an area near the intersection of Garces Highway and Corcoran Road near Wasco, a suburb of Bakersfield. Right by the side of the road, in fact, and taking shots with his iPhone 6 Plus. The weather is sunny and mild. Dead calm.
A SUV appears from behind a far-off thicket of small trees. It approaches and stops about 60 or 70 feet from where Daryl Thornhill is standing. A rural-type fellow in a lumpy brown suit gets out. Thornhill and Brownsuit regard each other. Thornhill decides to walk over and break the ice.
Thornhill: Hi. (pause) Hot day.
Brownsuit: Seen worse.
Thornhill: (Beat) Have you ever seen a film called North by Northwest?
Brownsuit: Can’t say I have ’cause I haven’t.
Thornhill: Well, a couple of websites say they shot a famous scene from that film right here, right on this spot. 12168 Corcoran Road.
Brownsuit: Can’t trust what you read on the web.
Thornhill: My thought exactly. It’s flat out here, but otherwise the area bears almost no resemblance to the area in the film. No corn crops, no tilled soil, no telephone poles. The area in the film looked like rural Illinois or Indiana. This looks like….well, not classic farmland at all. Desert scrub, fruit trees. It looks more like the area outside Ravenna in Antonioni’s Red Desert.
Brownsuit: Red Desert?
Thornhill: Another movie.
Brownsuit: (Pause) Where ya from?
Thornhill: Los Angeles. Drove up last night.
Brownsuit: All that way just to come here?
Thornhill: Afraid so.
Brownsuit: (looking at something) That’s funny.
Brownsuit: That guy’s watering fruit trees where there ain’t no fruit trees.
Thornhill: (Half-talking more to himself) I don’t know why local farmers and landowners can’t respect the fact that this area is a very special place for film buffs. And for me personally. My grandfather told me stories when I was a kid. But here I am and they’ve made almost no attempt to preserve the way everything looked in 1958.
Brownsuit: The nerve.