Called one of the last American frontiers, Marfa got its start as an 1883 water stop for the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway. This semiarid region features dry steambeds and a mountain terrain made up of the Davis, Chisos and Chinati ranges.
Its proximity to the Rio Grande has made the town a site of federal efforts to control smuggling over the U.S./Mexico border.
Hollywood made its way to the tiny West Texas town with 1956’s Giant, the last picture for James Dean, who died in an auto accident at the junction of California Highways 41 & 46 before production wrapped. The Reata ranch house ruins are on the Ryan Ranch, private property outside town, but you can visit Jett Rink’s windmill, behind two poles that once held the original “Little Reata” sign (you can just picture Dean sitting up there). A great place to hang your hat at is Hotel Paisano, where cast and crew members stayed. In nearby Alpine, grab some grub at the Reata Restaurant, inspired by the Benedicts’ home.
The town’s desolate geography more recently made its way into two more Oscar-winning Westerns, both released in 2007: There Will be Blood and No Country for Old Men.
There Will be Blood director Paul Thomas Anderson worked with David Williams, a fourth-generation cattleman and ranch manager, to build the fictional Little Boston oil rush town at MacGuire Ranch. New York-based costume designer Michelle Teague worked on the film and loved the town so much, she moved here permanently; she now sells Mexican textiles and vintage cowboy hats at JM Dry Goods.
Although the Coen brothers filmed much of No Country for Old Men in New Mexico, crews spent several weeks filming the highways and ranch lands outside Marfa. Even a local made his way into the picture, Chip Love, president of Marfa’s only bank and a cattle rancher; he played the roadside victim, “Man in Ford,” who Javier Bardem’s character Anton Chigurh shoots in the forehead with a cattle stunner.
Ironically, Love’s grandmother had been an extra in Giant. Guess when Hollywood comes to Big Bend Country, it has a way of spotting Marfa’s “hidden” stars.
Marfa, Texas, has brought the Oscar to: 1956’s Giant (see Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean, above), No Country for Old Men (see Marfa local Chip Love, top) and There Will be Blood (oil derrick on set, right).
– Giant: Warner Bros. Pictures; No Country for Old Men: Miramax Films;
There Will be Blood: Paramount Vantage –