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A drifter wins an orphaned girl in a poker game in the romantic drama Wanda Nevada (1979), which features Brooke Shields in the starring role. Filmed on location in the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Glen Canyon, Mexican Hat, Utah and other locations, this picturesque road movie was the third directorial effort for Peter Fonda, who also stars in it and even convinced his ailing father Henry to appear in a brief cameo.
In an interview with Lowell Goldman for Psychotronic Magazine, Peter recalled his experiences on Wanda Nevada, saying "U.A. dumped the film....just didn't understand the picture. In fact, I had wanted them to sell the film back to me. I offered the studio six million dollars. After all, they would be ahead of the game and also look good to their stockholders. Well, they didn't take me up on it. Wanda Nevada was also probably the best work Brooke Shields has ever done on film. I think because she is so beautiful and so smart, most directors have been afraid of her. They're not afraid of her like they're afraid of my sister, but afraid of her because they don't know how to talk to her. They simply don't know how to direct Brooke."
"My father also played an old prospector," Fonda added. "He was hilarious. He told me that I should only shoot him from a long distance because the beard he was wearing was so phony. In fact, the beard was pretty bad. At any rate, he just did the part for me as a favor and it turned out to be a wonderful thing for all of us. He said that he had never worked with a director who had such rapport with his crew. He even sent me a letter that I got on the set. It was such a beautiful letter that I shared it with the crew. I've had a lot of people trying to find the film. I've traced it to Warners Home Video. They have the European rights, but they've done nothing with it. I've had a tough time trying to get the straight story about what really happened to the home cassette rights for Wanda Nevada." At present, the film is not available in any format but you can tune in and watch it here on TCM.
Producers: Neal Dobrofsky, Dennis Hackin
Director: Peter Fonda
Screenplay: Dennis Hackin
Cinematography: Michael Butler
Art Direction: Lynda Paradise
Music: Ken Lauber
Film Editing: Scott Conrad
Cast: Peter Fonda (Beaudray Demerille), Brooke Shields (Wanda Nevada), Fiona Lewis (Dorothy Deerfield), Luke Askew (Ruby Muldoon), Ted Markland (Strap), Severn Darden (Bitterstix), Paul Fix (Texas Curly), Henry Fonda (old prospector), Larry Golden (Slade, card hustler), John Denos (Billy, gas station greaser), Bert Williams (trading post owner)