Friday, December 7, 2012

Roaring Timber and Barbecued Crab

Some of the cast of Roaring Timber, Astoria, 1937

In March of 1937, Columbia Picture Corporation sent a production crew from Hollywood to Astoria, in Clatsop County, Oregon, to film scenes for their movie Big Timber. A”film of love and adventure in the logging industry,” Big Timber was to be directed by Spencer Bennett and to star several actors who are little remembered today.

March is a time of wind and rain in Clatsop County, and the on-location filming near Olney at the Tidewater Timber Company operations did not go well. “Weeks of waiting for the sun while production costs mounted by the thousands of dollars daily” were finally terminated by a drenching rainstorm, according to the Astorian newspaper. The evening train for Portland was held for 15 extra minutes at Astoria to load the cast and crew as they returned to sunny California.

However, the film was indeed completed and released that fall as Roaring Timber, directed by Phil Rosen and starring Jack Holt (he was in a lot of Westerns), Grace Bradley (she married William Boyd, aka Hopalong Cassidy), Ruth Donnelly, and Raymond Hatton. Jack Holt is the lead, playing “the toughest boss that ever ruled the northland!” The plot is negligible, but Grace ends up owing a lumber company, which is why she gets to perch on a railroad speeder car with hero Holt, as shown here.

Introducing this squib is a printed postcard that shows some of the Roaring Timber cast rather doggedly consuming barbecued crab at the Hotel Astoria Grill. And perhaps you are wondering: how does one prepare, and eat, barbecued crab? Helen Evans Brown’s West Coast Cook Book  (1952) indicates that this preparation “is a favorite in the Northwest, and rightly so, though I object to its being called ‘barbecued’”; she notes that “anything that has a spicy sauce dabbled on can now masquerade under that name,” and indeed that is what barbecued crab usually does (or did; you will rarely see it today). The crab is swathed in a sauce of catsup, fish stock, garlic, soy sauce, and curry powder, and (if not grilled) is poked into a casserole dish and hotted up, being basted with the sauce. Helen says the eaters thereof “should be well swathed in towels or wearing ribs”; our Hollywoodites have taken that advice to heart.

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