While Star Wars fans may be aware that the working title for the saga’s sixth episode, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983), was Revenge of the Jedi, fewer may be aware of a third title associated with the film, one that was used specifically to keep public attention away from the secretive Star Wars production that was filming its first major exterior scenes in the United States.
Blue Harvest, a name that was coined by Return of the Jedi co-producer Jim Bloom, was selected to run cover for the Star Wars sequel production while filming in the Buttercup Valley of southern California (for Jabba the Hutt’s exterior sail barge scenes) and in the redwood forests near Crescent City in northern California (for the Endor exteriors). The need for a cover title appears to have been hastened by the local press in Yuma, Arizona, who had reported that the Star Wars production was making arrangements with the state’s motion picture development office to house their crew in Yuma. Those press leaks occurred in September, 1981, and likely inspired an iconic piece of Star Wars production crew gear to be devised within the month.
400 caps bearing the title Blue Harvest were ordered from The Thinking Cap Company in late September, 1981, according to memos in the Lucasfilm Archives. Thinking Cap had been a licensee for Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980), producing a variety of novelty caps including one memorable example sporting plush Yoda ears. Incredibly, the original color swatch samples of cap colors (gray was chosen) still exist in the Archives with the order letter, which indicates 275 additional patches bearing the Blue Harvest title were also produced. Today, both the caps and patches are highly coveted by collectors for their rarity and clandestine behind-the-scenes history.
The caps can be spotted in on-location photographs of director Richard Marquand and others at both the Buttercup Valley sand dunes and the Crescent City forest locations in 1982, furtively worn to throw off any uninvited set visitors to the true nature of the production. While much of the press quickly saw through the cover title (the Star Wars-style font of the Blue Harvest lettering was an obvious tip-off), the ruse was officially acknowledged at San Diego Comic-Con later that year when producer Howard Kazanjian admitted that Blue Harvest was indeed a cover title for Revenge of the Jedi. Six months later, fans would learn of the film’s true, true title, Return of the Jedi.
But that’s another story…