By Larry R. Matthews
50 years ago a motion picture called “Tick, Tick, Tick” was filmed in our area. Although primarily filmed in Colusa County, there were also shooting locations in Yuba and Sutter Counties. Since its release on January 9, 1970, it has continued to be well respected as a good piece of entertainment and local folks should be justifiably proud of it.
The movie follows the story of a white Sheriff who has lost an election and must relinquish his job to an African American. Keep in mind that the movie takes place in the deep south and it is the first time an African American had been elected to the post in the fictional, Colusa County.
In spite of the fact that it never earned an Academy Award, some of those in the cast had earned several Oscars for their stellar work in prior films.
Co-starring as the mayor was Fredric March. March had been making movies since 1921 and had won two best actor awards for his work in “Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde” (1931) and “The Best Years of Our Lives” (1946). This movie was his next to last film role.
Another Oscar winner was George Kennedy who played the outgoing Sheriff. Kennedy had won a best supporting actor award for his work in “Cool Hand Luke” (1967).
Rounding out the main cast was football hero Jim Brown in his first starring role. He played the lead part as the Sheriff. His previous movie appearances were in supporting roles in “The Dirty Dozen” (1967) and “Ice Station Zebra” (1968).
There are several story lines here. One is how the white Sheriff handles his responsibility to the community and family after he is ousted. Another story is how the African American Sheriff handles his new job. The third story line is how the community reacts to the new Sheriff. Will they retain their prejudices or support the new regime?
I had seen this film when I was in the Navy back in 1972 but had forgotten about most of it. A recent viewing refreshed my memory that many, still recognizable locations were used in the filming.
The Colusa Police Department at 260 6th Street serves as the police department in the film. The building was originally a Carnegie library.
The Court House, with its distinctive cupola, is located across the street from the police department. It is prominently featured in the film, as are various churches and residences on Market and Jay Streets. The Court House was also featured in 1962’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”.
There is a confrontation scene in the movie between the Sheriff and a mob planning to release one of his prisoners. That scene was filmed at a bridge in Sutter County at the west end of Franklin Road where it crosses the Wadsworth Canal.
According to Jerry Orr of the Sutter County Public Works department, the old bridge there was removed about 2003. Jerry was kind enough to provide me with a photo of the old bridge and I was surprised to see that, except for the roadway, it looked very little like the bridge in the movie.
The bridge in the movie was a high, steel structure while the actual bridge was just concrete with wooden fence rails along its sides. Was a fake structure built on the old bridge for the movie? Or was the upper structure created by special effects back at the studio?
Vallejo resident Dave Padilla was 9 at the time of the filming. He lived near the bridge on Franklin Road. He states, “They built it. It was wood, painted to look like a steel trestle bridge. It was built over the existing structure that was concrete”.
Other shooting locations were two bars in Linda; Pete’s Bar on Feather River Boulevard and Ruby’s Joynt on Riverside Drive.
Dub Taylor opens this movie by frying an egg on a hot sidewalk. His career would span 6 decades. Possibly his most memorable part was as Ivan Moss in “Bonnie and Clyde” (1967).
Other prominent character actors were used in the film. Karl Swenson and Anthony James would go on to have long careers in the movies and both played parts in 1971’s “Vanishing Point”.
Several local people were used as extras in the film. Even my wife’s uncle Harvey McCann can be seen in a bar room scene.
Not all movies filmed in our general area are as well regarded as “Tick, Tick, Tick”. There is the sad tale of the similarly themed “The Klansman” that was filmed in Oroville in 1974. With big names such as Lee Marvin, Richard Burton and Cameron Mitchell involved, people had high hopes for a quality product. I saw some of it filmed in downtown Oroville. Sadly, the film turned out to be a big embarrassment. A movie that is best forgotten, if you are fortunate enough to be able to blot it out of your mind.
Photo caption: The old bridge across the Wadsworth Canal near the intersection of Franklin Road and Acacia Avenue in Sutter County was a filming location for “Tick, Tick, Tick”. Photo courtesy of Jerry Orr, Sutter County Public Works.