Frontiers motion picture, 1970s

Overview of the Collection

Durrance, Richard Henry, 1914-
Frontiers motion picture
1970s (inclusive)
1 16mm film
Collection Number
The film Frontiers (1970s) is a regionally produced documentary about early settlers of the Intermountain West and the development contemporary to the making of the film of the region's agriculture, science, education, and industry. Filmmaker Richard Durrance, Jr. was an American competitive skiing champion, skiing filmmaker, and ski resort manager and developer. On this film he worked with Academy Award winning filmmaker and editor Jean Oser.
University of Utah Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library
University of Utah
295 South 1500 East
Salt Lake City, UT

Telephone: 8015818863
Access Restrictions

Materials must be used on-site; no use of original material, access copies will be made available for viewing. Five business days advanced notice required. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law, condition of the material, or by donor.


Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Richard "Dick" Henry Durrance, Jr. (1914-2004) was an American ski racing pioneer, filmmaker, ski resort developer and promoter, and the first general manager of the Aspen Skiing Co. Born in Tarpon Springs, Florida, his family moved when he was 13 to Garmisch in the Bavarian Alps, where he learned progressive European ski racing techniques. Five years later, in 1932, he won the German Junior Alpine Championship. The following year his family moved back to Florida, and Durrance entered Dartmouth College in 1934. With a victory that same year at Sestriere, Italy, he became the first American to dominate at a major European ski race. Earning a place on the U.S. Olympic Team for the 1936 Winter Olympics, he placed eleventh in the downhill, eighth in the slalom, and tenth in the Olympic combined event. He continued to race for several more years, competing against the best talent from around the world. He was a three time winner of the Harriman Cup in Sun Valley- North America's largest ski race in the late 1930s. In total Durrance won 17 national championships.

In 1939, after graduating from Dartmouth, Durrance moved to Sun Valley, Idaho, where he worked in the resort's public relations department. He cut the Warm Springs Trail on Mount Baldy and dabbled in his other passion, filmmaking. In 1940, he released his first films, Sun Valley Ski Chase and Sun Valley Holiday. He was named to the 1940 Olympic team, but those games were cancelled due to World War II. In 1940 he worked as publicity photographer for Sun Valley where he met and married ski racer Margaret "Miggs" Jennings.

In 1941, the Durrances moved to Alta, Utah, where as the general manager and co-owner, Dick rebuilt the Alta Lodge and turned the fledgling area into a destination resort. In 1942, he used Alta's terrain in Little Cottonwood Canyon to train Army parachutists in the 10th Mountain Division. His first son, Dick Jr., was born the same year. In 1945, their second son, Dave, was born, and the family moved to Denver, where Durrance continued to make ski films while designing Groswold Skis. In 1947, after selling Aspen a T-bar ski lift, the Durrances settled in Aspen, and Dick became the resort's first general manager. Aspen acquired a larger reputation as a premier ski destination when he successfully brought in the 1950 FIS World Championship. He would go on to release a documentary of the event, which is still regarded as one of the most important, ground-breaking films in the ski industry. This event put Aspen on the map as one of the most popular American ski resorts.

Over the years, Durrance became increasingly involved in filmmaking, shooting numerous travel, documentary and promotional films, including Frontiers, the film in this collection. He also wrote a book, Man on the Medal."

Jean Oser(1908-2002) was an internationally known film editor, and Oscar-winning dramatic filmmaker. Born in Strasbourg (Alsace), Jean Oser grew up in Berlin with a passion for the moving image that would eventually lead to his collaboration with many of the world's legendary filmmakers. Intending to become a director, he apprenticed with Hans Richter and Walter Ruttman. In demand for his pioneering cutting techniques, he built his reputation as an editor for Austrian director G.W. Pabst and his cinema of social consciousness, working on such films as Westfront 1918 (1930), The Threepenny Opera (1931), and Kameradeschaft (1931). Leaving Germany in the early 1930s, Oser lived and worked in Paris, eventually immigrating to the United States after serving with the French army in Morocco. In the 1950s, he worked with such talents as Garson Kanin, Burgess Meredith, and Jean Renoir. His time spent at 20th Century Fox earned him an Academy Award in the Dramatic Short Film category for A Light in the Window(1953), an innovative profile of 17th century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. For the next thirty years, he was based in New York City, making industrial films, television features and series, documentaries, and travel films.

In 1970, Oser came to Canada, having been invited to Regina to help establish a film school at the University. Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, he taught film history and aesthetics and inspired a generation of Saskatchewan filmmakers. A formative member of the University of Regina Department of Media Production and Studies, he became Professor Emeritus in 1990. In 1991, he received a Lifetime Award for Excellence in the Arts from the Saskatchewan Arts Board. Jean Oser died in Regina on February 20, 2002.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The Frontiers motion picture (1970s) is a regionally produced documentary about early settlers of the Intermountain West and the development contemporary to the making of the film of the region's agriculture, science, education, and industry.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Processing Note

Processed by Elizabeth Shuput in 2003.

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
1 Frontiers
Sound, color
16mm film
The film starts out by showing the Rocky Mountain range and moves south to Monument Valley. It shows a monument erected in celebration of the last spike completing the first transcontinental Railroad, petroglyphs in southern Utah, and wildlife native to the inner mountain west. It also details many of the steps involved in developing that land into what it is now. Presented by First Security Bank, Salt Lake City Utah. Written by Robert Hertberg. Edited by Jean Oser. Directed and photographed by Dick Durrance. Music by Alfonso Corelli, original music by David Epstein. Narrated by Joseph Julian. Produced by Dick Durrance Films.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Utah--History

Geographical Names

  • Golden Spike National Historic Site (Utah)
  • Monument Valley (Ariz. and Utah)

Form or Genre Terms

  • Moving images