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Tonight’s Homework

The challenge from the Spring 2007 issue: Nominate a film that most insightfully depicts an element of Nevada life. In 50 words or less, give reasons why the film (or scene in the film) deserves to be singled out from the throng.

Read the winning entries in the Summer 07 issue (PDF)

On to the winners of the second Tonight’s Homework contest, which ran in the Spring 2007 issue. Eight readers submitted thoughts on the movie that best portrays an element of Nevada life. Our judges, Emeritus Professor of English Robert Merrill and Deputy Director of the Nevada Film Office Robin Holabird, along with members of the Nevada Silver & Blue editing team, weighed each entry carefully. The three winning entries are listed first.

Split Second (1953)

Joe Betti ’74 (history)

Ah yes, the Nevada I remember. Bleached-out desert roadhouses on endless, dusty two-lane blacktops where everyone sits at the counter on stools, and a Mills slot machine stands silent vigil.

The cast of characters — a reporter, a “dancer,” a divorcee and a grizzled prospector — is taken hostage by a couple of escaped convicts and held in an abandoned mine, which just happens to be located on the Atomic Test Site. They ride out the small-yield, Tumbler-Snapper-era shot unscathed and emerge in the shadow of an ascending mushroom cloud into a Nevada on the front line of the Cold War.

The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)*

Debbie Cutshaw ’74 (criminal justice) M.A.’01 (English)

Nevada 1885 blinks through
Black and white dust.
Only five things to do:
“Eat, sleep, drink, play poker, fight”
Until murder.
An unblinking posse stares down justice.
So cold
“rope needs to be thawed”
All but lucky seven choose
not to choose
Execution of three
Only guilty
Of being there

*Adapted from the like-named novel by Walter Van Tilburg Clark ’32 (journalism).

The Shootist (1976)

Tim Taylor ’78 (criminal justice)

The movie takes place and was filmed at both Carson City and Washoe Lake. It is my favorite movie of Nevada in that it captures the maturing of the West through the ailing gunfighter played by John Wayne.

The Misfits (1960)

Harry Spencer ’51 (journalism)

Unequivocally the most important film ever shot in Nevada was “The Misfits” (1960). Not only did it depict the changing role of the American cowboy it brought the greatest number of famous stars and generated the most worldwide publicity for the Silver State. Today it still reigns supreme on TV.

Mother is a Freshmen (1949)

Amber Cornelius Drabant

Loretta Young and Van Johnson starred “Mother is a Freshman,” a 1949 film about money, college and young love. It shows the Manzanita dorm, Manzanita Lake and life on a college campus. Our lives in Nevada are not just gaming and night life, for many of us the college campus is where we grew into adulthood and learned life long lessons along with getting an education.

Runners up:
1. Viva Las Vegas (no explanation required)
2. Charlie Varrik (‘70s Reno)
3. The Shootist (good feel for post-frontier Carson City)
4. Hell’s Angel’s ’69 (late ‘60s Vegas Strip)
5. Forty Pounds of Trouble (early ‘60s Tahoe)

The Cooler (2003)

Holly Koontz

I would like to nominate the movie “The Cooler” (William H. Macy, Alec Baldwin) for a film that most insifully depicts an element of Nevada life. The movie was not only filmed in Reno, but used real locations to depict the downside of the gaming industry. Unlike most Hollywood stories about gambling, “The Cooler” showed what it is like to be a loser, and the darkness behind all the lights and glitter.

National Lampoon’s Vegas Vacation (1997)

Aaron Roots

National Lampoon’s Vegas Vacation



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