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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
?ISO-8859-1?Q?Kent_Rasmussen?= <[log in to unmask]>
Sat, 26 Jul 2008 15:57:05 -0400
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
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Harold asked if Mono Lake has been used in any films. It figures prominently
in Clint Eastwood's 1973 film _High Plains Drifter_, for which an entire
town was erected near the southern shore. The lake can be seen in the
background of many scenes, but there are no closeups, and I don't think any
tufa formations are visible in the film. In fact, the lake looks fairly
ordinary from a distance. I wonder, however, if Eastwood chose the location
because of its symbolism. Before the drifter leaves the town, he compels its
residents to paint every building red and change the town’s name from "Lago"
(lake) to "Hell." Certainly, anyone who attempts to drink from the lake or
swim in it would find it a form of hell.

Here’s Mark Twain’s first description of the lake, from chapter 37 of
_Roughing It_:

“We held a council and decided to make the best of our misfortune and enjoy
a week's holiday on the borders of the curious Lake. Mono, it is sometimes
called, and sometimes the "Dead Sea of California." It is one of the
strangest freaks of Nature to be found in any land, but it is hardly ever
mentioned in print and very seldom visited, because it lies away off the
usual routes of travel and besides is so difficult to get at that only men
content to endure the roughest life will consent to take upon themselves the
discomforts of such a trip.”

Several web sites have good pictures of Mono Lake along with discussions of
how it was used in Eastwood's film. Try this link:,DVFA:1970--2,DVFA:en%26sa%3DN

If that godless long reptile of a URL doesn't work, simply Google "high
plains drifter" and "mono" together.