When I was the editor of the local paper, we had a cub reporter who really wanted to do a short piece about a house built as a set for the movie Sometimes a Great Notion. Almost 50 years after making the movie, that house was still standing and was one of the central sites for what was a pretty exciting event in Lincoln County's history.
Unfortunately, the story was never done. So Cassie, this one’s for you ...
In 1970, stars, including Paul Newman and Henry Fonda, descended on Lincoln County for months to film the movie, written by Oregon author Ken Kesey, which was about the trials and tribulations of a logging family. Many of the places they and other stars and crew frequented, filmed or slept in still exist, and visiting them is a nice way to experience a now gone era. In some of them, you still might find yourself sitting next to someone who still remembers seeing or even meeting Newman or other cast members.
First, we'll start with the most iconic, the “Stamper House.” Built a few miles from the coast along the Siletz River in Kernville, just across from Oregon Route 229, the house originally had no walls, electricity or even a full roof. But it was constructed back when things were built to last, so instead of being razed after the movie wrapped (as planned), a local man bought and finished it.
The Stamper House today.
It’s gone through a few renovations and owners but the basic design of both the exterior and interior of the house remain as seen in the film (and on some of the promotional posters) and is a popular place for photo ops.
See the house?
Though a few now-gone lodgings in Newport were used, many actors and crew stayed in Lincoln City at the Salishan Lodge. The not insignificant amount of alcohol consumed by most associated with the film was partially provided by the Bay Haven Inn, operating on the Newport bay front since 1908, and the Timbers Restaurant & Lounge in Toledo, where other scenes were filmed.
Historic Bay Haven Inn.
If you’re not interested such a long trip down memory lane, The Burning Plain, starring Charlize Theron, Jennifer Lawrence and Kim Basinger, filmed for a week in in 2008 in Depoe Bay, primarily at the Tidal Raves restaurant. Many locals were used as extras, but I think the funniest story from filming is that the scenes were written for rainy weather, but the usually reliably wet central coast served up a week of solid blue skies, causing the need for some post-production finagling.
I can only guess that cast and crew spent some time across the street at Gracie’s Sea Hag, but there are definitely stories of the cast and crew from Sometimes a Great Notion spending time there. Founder Gracie Strom, who passed away in 2015, reportedly played music on liquor bottles for Newman, a tradition the bar was known for and one her daughter continues to this day.
Kesey’s other novel set to cellulose, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, also has settings in Depoe Bay, but if you really want to get into the Kesey mood, visit the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, where every room is designed to honor an author. There is a Ken Kesey room, but as it’s a nod to the novel set in an insane asylum, it’s designed a bit too asylumy for my taste. Maybe stay in the Harry Potter room and just look into the Kesey room.
Since I’ve encouraged you to go into a bunch of bars, I’m going to redeem myself by sending you to the library. Sometimes a Great Notion really is worth a look-see but unfortunately difficult to find on the major streaming sources. DVD copies of it, as well as of the book I used as my primary source, Sometimes a Great Movie by Matt Love, can be found at the libraries in both Newport and Lincoln City.
If you've you had any brushes with stars, leave a comment, sharing your experience. And for other things to do while enjoy touring cinematic history, be sure to check out our Daytime Events calendar. For evening entertainment, our Nightlife page guides you to the best places to be.