Community Activism Preserves Rustic Creek

Pacific Palisades Historical Society Members Randy Young and Eric Dougdale found the film Save Our Stream in the PPHS archives during Covid. Although the 16-mm film was never nominated for an Oscar, and only five minutes long, it was only intended for an audience of five—the L.A. County Board of Supervisors.

In June 1964, county engineers proposed that Rustic Creek (from Sunset Boulevard to Santa Monica Canyon) be cemented in, just as was done to the L. A. River.

In response, about 280 Rustic Canyon residents (including Hollywood celebrities) joined forces to fight the plan to line L.A. city’s only year-round, spring-fed creek with a concrete flood control channel.

County Officials argued that the channel was needed because of increasing runoff from development in the canyon north of Sunset. Actor James Whitmore, who lived down the road from Rustic Canyon Park, contended that the creek running through the canyon had never been close to flooding and could handle any potential runoff.

Others agreed and a short film was made to persuade the Supervisors not to cement the river.

The film was produced by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Sy Gomberg, who also wrote the script. It was narrated by Whitmore, who would go on to fame with his Will Rogers one-man show. The film also featured actors Lloyd Bochner, Paul Fix, Mike Kellin, Tom Middleton and actor-writer Billy Idleson.

Long-time Palisadian Stewart Slavin, who grew up in Rustic Canyon, wrote about the film in a 2020 social media post: “Actors Lee Marvin, Piper Laurie, James Whitmore and John Payne are reviewing their parts, director Jerry Paris of ‘Happy Days’ and ‘Police Academy’ movies is mapping out a scene with ‘cinematographer’ Peter Gowland, who is taking a break from his glamour photography, and Hollywood’s top composer, Alfred Newman, has the score set.

The movie cost only $350 to produce. If the professionals had been paid their standard rate it would have cost $20,000, which would be nearly $150,000 today.

Slavin said “The story of the filming of the creek’s plight by the high-powered cast attracted national interest and garnered newspaper headlines around the country.”

Indeed, the Supervisors voted against cementing the stream, and as Slavin wrote: “The good guys won.”

(Editor’s note: The story about the film is reprinted with permission by the Pacific Palisades Historical Society. Visit: PacificPalisadeshistory.org.)

 

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2 Responses to Community Activism Preserves Rustic Creek

  1. 'Joy' says:

    Awesome! It truly DOES take a village!

  2. Lisa wambaugh says:

    Thank you
    Early to mid 60s I played in Rustic canyon….we were wild and fun the film a joy and delight!
    Thanks again

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