Welcome back. The history of Telluride, Colorado goes back to the days of mining when gold and silver first made the town prosperous and the hope of striking it rich overcame the dangers of this rough but scenic part of a young America in the late 1880s. Nowadays the boom towns of Tomboy, Sneffels and Ironton are all deserted and can only be reached by hiking or via four wheel drive trucks with professionally licensed guides. The closest of these ghost towns is four and a half miles straight up the mountains from Telluride, not a hike for beginners. It would take me a full month of columns to describe the spectacular scenery and all the world class adventures that this area offers, but I’ve got to move on.
During this past weekend the National Film Preserve once again presented the annual Telluride Film Festival for the thirty-seventh year, showcasing over thirty films many of which were new releases. This small town with only 2,000 permanent residents was packed with film lovers. Colorado Avenue which is the main drag through town was closed off for seminars and other events making the half dozen side streets the only way to get around in a vehicle but with the many distinctive shops that fill downtown, walking was the preferred way to travel.
Big time directors like Ken Burns and Peter Sellars and writers such as Michael Ondaatje were a common sight around town, along with many film stars. This is where my first encounter and interview with film legend Claudia Cardinale began.
Claudia was discovered in a local beauty contest in her hometown of Tunis, Tunisia, in North Africa and by the time she was in her twenties she was already a veteran of European films appearing with veteran actors such as Omar Sharif, Burt Lancaster and David Niven. A few of her most notable roles include performances in Federico Fellini’s classic film 81/2 opposite Marcello Mastroianni, The Leopard with Burt Lancaster and Once Upon A Time in The West with Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson and Jason Robards. After appearing with her in The Pink Panther, David Niven remarked that “If you ask me, Claudia Cardinale is, after spaghetti, Italy’s happiest invention”. Claudia told me that she had reminded Niven several times that she was actually from Tunisia but the quote has become famous anyway. John Wayne, Lee Marvin and Tony Curtis were just a few of Claudia’s other famous leading men. The beauty queen from North Africa has had a fifty year career, making over one hundred movies. Now in her seventies she is still working and I learned that she has just wrapped up a new movie in New York entitled The Joy of Being.
During our three meetings Claudia reminisced about her career and her private life. Married only once to producer Franco Cristaldi, she has had a long relationship with Italian film director Pasquale Squitieri and they have two children. She speaks four languages and now lives in Paris. Over the years she has remained close with many of the stars she has worked with including her friend Bridget Bardot. Some of her stories such as the time Marlon Brando came knocking on her door in the middle of the night and her experiences filming The Red Tent with Sean Connery will have to be saved for another column for once again I have run out of space.
The Telluride Film Festival happens every Labor Day weekend and you never know who you might meet here. Next week this Colorado adventure continues and till then here’s a little bit of local history: On June 24, 1889 Butch Cassidy pulled off his first bank heist when he robbed the San Miguel Valley Bank in Telluride. Au revoir and I’ll see ya down the road…..