BEYOND THE 1925 SERUM RUN TO NOME
"While we’re on the subject of animals, there was another interesting experience with a sled dog in the Spring of 1925.
A short while before, there had been an epidemic of diphtheria in Nome, Alaska and there was no serum to combat the disease.
Serum was vitally needed, so this man named Gunnar Kaasen, who had a dog team with a wonderful lead dog named Balto, brought this serum to Nome through several hundred miles of terrible winter weather.
Kaasen’s deed was widely publicized in the newspapers throughout the country. Sol Lesser, an independent Hol1ywood producer (who produced the Jackie Coogan pictures after Chaplin's The Kid), decided to make a short subject from this event. He decided to have it photographed on Mount Rainier in Washington State.
Lesser made arrangements with Gunnar Kaasen to bring his dog sled down to Seattle by boat, then he hired an old time director named Colin Campbell to direct his picture, and me to photograph it.
Colin Campbell is noted for having directed the first of five versions of Rex Beach's novel, The Spoilers ('14), for the Selig Polyscope Company. This picture featured a now famous "fight" between William Farnum and Tom Santschi. It was probably the best picture the Selig Co. ever made.
We went by train to Seattle and met Gunnar Kaasen, and, he and his dogs and sled were put into a truck, along with another dog team we had hired, and sent up to Longmuir.
Longmuir was about five miles from the Paradise Inn where we planned to stay while making the exterior scenes for the picture.
We all met at Longmuir, which was as far as we could go with the cars. Here we hitched up the dog teams, put in the cameras and other things we needed, and the two drivers drove their sleds the remaining five miles to Paradise Inn. The rest of us, Campbell, my prop man assistant, and I, had to tie on snowshoes and walk the five miles. It was a very long, cold walk, as none of us had used snowshoes for years.
We finally arrived at the Inn, where we found the snow level with the third floor, or about thirty feet deep. A cook and a couple of helpers had been provided to dig out the snow for access to the kitchen and to open up several rooms for us to sleep in while we were there.
We worked nearly a week to get the needed scenes; some with good weather and some in almost a blizzard. What we wanted were scenes of Kaasen's dog team driving through deep snow drifts, with wind and snow blowing wildly, travelling up and down hills of snow and through crevasses, then stopping at times from sheer exhaustion.
We photographed these scenes by panning along with the camera, on some of them. Others were made from a second dog sled and team, as they raced along beside Gunnar's team getting long and close shots as we moved along.
I also got individual shots of the lead dog, Balto, and of Gunnar, shooting them running, walking, and resting. We even dug a pit in the snow and buried a camera, all but the lens. I cranked it by an extension from the side as the team ran right over the camera.
This whole job was a lot of work, very cold and miserable at times. The camera often got so cold that the film would break. But, we enjoyed it and came back feeling strong and healthy. We also made interiors in Hollywood. I regret to say that I didn’t see this picture when it was released."