We’ve been hoping to do this Superman then and now series for some time. In fact, we visited the site once before earlier this year but difficult conditions, driving rain, made the shoot a real challenge and the results were less then ideal. Retuning in June of 2013, things were better – the rain threatened, but it never fell. It was awfully grey though.
For these shots we visit the former town of Beynon Alberta. Located deep in a valley, the cemetery scenes from the movie were shot overlooking the community, up on the open prairies. The rail line can be seen in both the then and now shots, and some buildings have remained static in the ensuing years, but the most obvious change is the grain elevators. Prominent in the movie, they are long gone by 2013. Interestingly, the white elevator still exists nearby, as does its annex, but in two separate spots!
In this touching scene, a young Clark and Mrs. Kent are seen at the Smallville Cemetery, having just buried Mr. Kent, who recently “bought the farm” having suffered a fatal heart attack. It’s this event that inspires Clark to become Superman and shortly after, he leaves the farm for Metropolis, with a stop at the fortress of solitude along the way.
We do our best to duplicate the movie shots and while we are close, I am not completely happy with the results. Perhaps the lay of the land has changed a bit since the movie was shot or maybe I just was not in the “groove” – probably the latter as in hindsight I know I should have shot from a slightly different angle. Maybe we’ll return one day to redo them.
The graveyard we see was of course a Hollywood set, probably constructed of flimsy props. The church as I understand it was actually not full size but rather quite small and close in, giving the impression it was larger and further back. I do my best to find that spot, which now appears to be in the cultivated field.
While it appears a lot has changed in the thirty five plus years since the movie was shot, in fact outside of the elevators, most of the valley has remained remarkably static. The treed slopes looks the same, the rail line is obvious in both shots, and even the buildings seen and vegetation around them are all instantly recognizable.
Beynon once had two grain elevators. The Alberta Wheat Pool, the right one dates from the late 1920s and was closed in the early 1980s when it was demolished (a fate so many old elevators faced).
The second elevator, painted in the colours of the United Grain Growers (UGG) was a little older than it’s neighbour, have been built in the early 1920s. Interestingly, it survives to this day. The annex is located just behind where I was shooting, but not visible from that angle, and is located at a nearby farm. It looks to be in fine shape too.
The elevator itself also still stands, not terribly far from its annex. It too is privately owned and appears solid and well maintained and is marked form Grand View Farms. Both are easily seen if one uses the north approach road to Beynon. It’s must have been quite a task to move them up the steep road from the valley bottom. This elevator was closed in 1978 and moved shortly thereafter.
In both pictures the rail line can been seen snaking its way up and down the valley. When the movie was shot, the line was still active but on our visit, it’s been closed to traffic for a while, although the track remains in place. This line, the CNR’s (nee Canadian Northern or CNoR built under the charter of the Alberta Midland Railway) Drumheller Subdivision travelled between Calgary Alberta and Saskatoon Saskatchewan. It was closed in the late 2000s due to high maintenance costs (60 plus bridges over the Rosebud River in this valley alone) and insufficient traffic.
Calling Beynon a town might be a stretch. It was once home to a general store, post office, tiny school and a small cluster of homes, plus those elevators. Today, all is gone save for a few houses. The valley Beynon sits in is a now protected nature preserve and on our list of places to document.
Images from the movie are copyright Warner Brothers.
If you wish more information on this place, by all means contact us!
Date: June, 2013.
Location: Beynon, AB.