Harry Goulding sure didn’t come across as a Hollywood Western hero. But he was. Harry got there by a meandering route, though. In the 1920s, he and his wife set up a trading post in southern Utah, just north of the Arizona border.
There were no paved roads through the area. A Navajo reservation was nearby, and some prospectors happened through on occasion. But the business was not booming, not by a long shot. And as the Great Depression set in, well, the Gouldings were even worse off. Yet Harry was something of an idea man. Around 1937, the giant light bulb went on. He looked out from the trading post and saw miles and miles of stunning rock formations in all different hues and shapes. He saw desert and desolation. He saw something that was picture perfec —moving picture, that is.
So, according to the story—and there are a few versions of it—Harry took more than 100 photos of the place to Hollywood. He also took along a sleeping bag and prepared to camp out at United Artists’ studio, waiting for some honcho to give him the time of day. Now on the face of it, the whole thing sounds stupid. You can almost hear UA founders Charlie Chaplin or Douglas Fairbanks saying, “This guy is nuts! Throw him off the lot!”
It didn’t happen that way. In a finish made for Hollywood, Director John Ford happened upon our hero and took a look at the pictures. Ford was looking for a shooting location for a new Western he was putting together—and Harry Goulding had just shown him the perfect place.
Within a few days, Ford and his crew moved the production of Stagecoach to (drum roll please) … Monument Valley. The movie was a hit. Ford was called a genius. John Wayne became a star. And Harry Goulding got some business for the trading post (plus an uncredited role in the movie).
Let’s be plain: Monument Valley is the most famous Western film location anywhere, anytime. No other place like it exists, and in some movies (notably those of John Ford), the locale is a character unto itself. Because of its unique beauty—and some say because it was so remote that the Hollywood bosses couldn’t interfere in the productions—Monument Valley has hosted dozens of film and TV shoots.
Some are among our best loved Westerns—Fort Apache; How the West was Won; My Darling Clementine; The Searchers; Rio Grande; She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. But there are also surprises—National Lampoon’s Vacation; Mission Impossible II; Forrest Gump; 2001: A Space Odyssey.
They finally paved some roads through Monument Valley in the 1950s, allowing tourists to get a better look at what they’d only seen on film. It’s unclear just how many folks travel there each year, but it must be in the tens of thousands—at least.
And Harry Goulding’s place is still there—now featuring lodging, a campground, a restaurant and a museum of artifacts from many of the movies that came and went over the years. Harry would be pleased (and counting the money, no doubt).
Monument Valley proves that the real estate maxim of “Location, location, location” holds true for movies, too. And while a lot of filming takes place on sound stages or Hollywood back lots—or increasingly in Canada, to save money—many productions still find their way to the West for backdrops that just can’t be created by man alone.
So what we have here is a list of some great Westerns and where they were shot. Some of the locales are gone now. Others are still in use—and many are open to visitors. So you can go to Monument Valley, look off into the distance and see just what John Ford and the Duke saw when they were making movies the old-fashioned way. You can almost hear Marshal Curly Wilcox in Stagecoach, telling you and the other passengers, “Now folks, if we push on, we can be in Apache Wells by sundown. Soldiers there will give us an escort as far as the ferry. Then it’s only a hoot and a holler into Lordsburg. We got four men who can handle firearms—five with you, Ringo. Doc can shoot if sober.”
Let’s push on….The Searchers (1956)
Reverend Clayton: You wanna quit, Ethan?
Ethan: That’ll be the day.
No, John Wayne’s Ethan doesn’t quit. And we can track him just north of Gunnison, Colorado, where John Ford filmed the winter section with the cavalry unit. You can see the Anthracite Range in the background, as Ethan comes across women who were former Indian captives. Seeing them fires him up even more to find his abducted niece Debbie who had been taken by Comanches a few weeks after Ethan returned to his brother’s homestead in Texas, fresh from serving as a Confederate in the Civil War. His brother and sister-in-law were killed during the raid, leaving Ethan as the sole family savior.
We follow Ethan to Bronson Canyon Cave in Griffith Park in Los Angeles, California. Here, Ethan pursues his niece Debbie, played by Natalie Wood, to the mouth of the cave. It is a conflicted scene, as Ethan battles with his fury at a niece who is unwilling to be saved from her Comanche life (many years have passed, and she is now married to a Comanche chief). He seems ready to kill her, but instead, he raises her into his arms.
Of course, the film, like all of Ford’s Westerns, was filmed mainly in Monument Valley (even though The Searchers was set in 1860s Texas). Ford definitely put Monument Valley on the movie map. Director Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show) says, “It always seemed like plagiarism to shoot in Monument Valley after Ford.”
Gunnison: 800-852-3956 • gunnisoncrestedbutte.com
Los Angeles: 800-228-2452 • lacvb.com
Monument Valley: 928-871-6647 • navajonationparks.org
Dances With Wolves (1990)
Kicking Bird: I was just thinking that of all the trails in this life, there are some that matter most. It is the trail of a true human being. I think you are on this trail, and it is good to see.
When Kicking Bird (played by Graham Greene) took Lt. John Dunbar (played by Kevin Costner) to the Sacred Place, you can see, in the background, Mount Moran from the Grand Teton National Park in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The sacred place, though, is really the Black Hills in South Dakota. Potato, potah-to, eh?
South Dakota, though, was used extensively as a filming location for the movie. The opening scenes of the Civil War were filmed about 25 miles east of Pierre, along the Missouri River. The buffalo hunt scenes were filmed at the Triple U Buffalo Ranch in Pierre, as well. Since we very well couldn’t have the Comanches of Oklahoma and Texas from Michael Blake’s novel on these spots, the Indians became the Sioux for the film version.
The Fort Hays you see in the movie also isn’t the real thing, but a movie set constructed five miles south of Rapid City, South Dakota. The film set is free to visit. A chuckwagon supper and cowboy music show are also held at the site every night, so you better plan to be there in time for some good eatin’s.
You should also visit the real historic site. In Hays, Kansas, you’ll find Fort Hays’ original 1867 blockhouse, 1872 guardhouse and furnished officers’ quarters. Several well-known Indian War regiments went through this fort, including George Custer’s Seventh Cavalry, Nelson Miles’ Fifth U.S. Infantry and the Buffalo Soldiers (Tenth U.S. Infantry).
Jackson Hole: 307-733-3316 • jacksonholechamber.com
Pierre: 800-962-2034 • pierre.org
Rapid City: 800-487-3223 • visitrapidcity.com
Hays: 785-628-8202 • haysusa.com
True Grit (1969)
Rooster Cogburn: Baby sister, I was born game, and I mean to go out that way.
When Rooster Cogburn, a character for which John Wayne won an Oscar, appeared before the Hanging Judge in Fort Smith, Arkansas, he wasn’t in Fort Smith, Arkansas. He was in the Ouray County Courthouse in Ouray, Colorado. The author of the novel, Charles Portis, tried to convince moviemakers to film in Arkansas and Oklahoma, but Colorado won out as the site. You can still visit the 1888 courthouse today, and relive those scenes when Cogburn “bandied words” with defense attorney Mr. Goudy, who never did get a straight answer out of him. If you want to visit the real Hanging Judge courtroom, you can do that, too, and learn more about Isaac Parker’s 21-year tenure during which he sentenced more than 150 people to death.
For more of the “reel” Fort Smith, you’ll want to head to Ridgway, Colorado, where the frontier town of Fort Smith was actually Ridgway’s main square. The hanging scene took place in the main city park. You’ll also want to stop at the True Grit Café, which is chockful of John Wayne memorabilia. You can also see the “Chambers Grocery” sign from the movie on the brick wall.
To mix some more history with the movie, take a drive in Ouray, just outside Ridgway, on Owl Creek Pass, where you’ll recognize several locations filmed along this 1885 cattle drive trail. The final shoot-out scene between Wayne’s character and Robert Duvall’s character takes place in a field near the top of Owl Creek Pass, with the massive Courthouse Mountain looming in the background.
To visit the breathtaking Wilson Peaks from the opening scene—the first hint that this movie wasn’t filmed on location in Arkansas—head to Durango’s San Juan National Forest.
So if you want to visit a “fat old man sometime,” aim your car towards Colorado.
Fort Smith: 800-637-1477 • fortsmith.org
Ouray: 800-228-1876 • ouraycolorado.com
Ridgway: 800-220-4959 • ridgwaycolorado.com
Durango: 800-525-8855 • durango.org
The Misfits (1961)
Roslyn: How do you find your way back in the dark?
Gay: Just head for that big star straight on. The highway’s under it. It’ll take us right home.
Thus ended the last movie made by Marilyn Monroe, playing Roslyn, and Clark Gable, playing Gay. Reno, Nevada, was the filming location, but much has changed there in the past 40 years. The cast stayed at the Mapes Hotel, but it was demolished in 2000. The site of Sky Ranch airport, where the airplane sequences were filmed, is now smack dab in the middle of Spanish Springs housing on the Pyramid Highway. The Sixter Ranch in Quail Canyon, near Pyramid Lake, also is no more.
Writer Arthur Miller was attracted to Pyramid Lake, saying “It was an unusual part of the world as far as I was concerned. It had no relation to anything I knew about.” That pretty much still holds true about the region to this day.
But you can still sashay, much like Marilyn did, down the steps of the Washoe County Courthouse. In the Tule Mountain area past the Washoe County Shooting Range, you’ll recognize some of the canyons shown in the film where the Mustangers corralled the wild horses with planes and vehicles.
Most important, down Highway 445 north of Reno, is the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro staging corral, where an “adopt a horse or burro” program is still in operation. This movie helped put a stop to those wranglers in the 1960s, out making a quick buck by catching Nevada mustangs to be killed for dog food.
Since 1971, Congress has assigned BLM the task of gathering and placing wild horses for adoption.
Reno: 775-337-3030 • reno-sparkschamber.org
Junior Bonner (1972)
Junior Bonner: I gotta go down my own road.
Curly Bonner: What road? I mean, I’m workin’
on my first million, and you’re still workin’ on eight seconds.
The road for Steve McQueen’s rodeo flick ended in the town that boasts the World’s Oldest Rodeo (yes, we know that is disputed)—Prescott, Arizona (one of True West’s 2007 Towns to Watch). This former territorial capital is a cool place, with plenty of Old West buildings that were featured in Junior Bonner.
Like the 130-year-old Palace Saloon. This bar was where Junior tried picking up a girl and started an old-fashioned brawl (probably the most violent scene in this Sam Peckinpah project), and Junior’s parents reconciled on the back stairs of the saloon. The railroad station in the film is the Prescott Railroad Station. And the Frontier Days rodeo scenes were shot at the city’s rodeo grounds.
It’s probably not stretching things to say that Prescott was a feature player in Junior Bonner. If you spend some time in this burg, you’ll see why.
Prescott: 800-266-7534 • visit-prescott.com
Johnny Guitar (1954)
Emma: I’m going to kill you.
Vienna: I know. If I don’t kill you first.
An appropriate line, considering
that Joan Crawford (Vienna) and Mercedes McCambridge (Emma) loathed each other off-camera. In
fact, Crawford got drunk one night
and went on a road trip, scattering McCambridge’s costumes along a highway outside Sedona, Arizona. The next morning, the crew had to retrieve the costar’s clothing.
But even though the costumes are no longer there, many of the filming sites are still in and around Sedona.
The Red Rock Country was likely chosen because Republic already had a perm-anent Western town at its disposal,
which had been built in 1946 for the John Wayne flick, Angel and the Badman.
Most of the town scenes for Johnny Guitar were shot at Coffee Pot Rock. Now it’s the site of the Sedona West residential subdivision.
An irrigation tunnel running from Oak Creek was used to stage the hideout scenes (although the hideout itself was in West Sedona, with the two separate locations edited together to look seamless on-screen); the final kiss was also shot there.
A number of scenes were shot in and around Oak Creek itself. One cold morning, Joan Crawford and Sterling Hayden (Johnny Guitar) had to wade through the water to escape a posse. They decided not to use stand-ins and completely submerged themselves in the frigid creek. When the scene was shot, Director Nicholas Ray thanked his stars by handing them each a bottle of brandy and sending them back to the hotel to dry off.
Today, that would be the Cedars Resort on 89A. Back in 1959, this was the Cedar Hotel, where the principals stayed during the shoot. It’s a safe bet that Joan Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge didn’t have adjoining rooms.
Sedona: 800-288-7336 • visitsedona.com
Wyatt Earp: You gonna do somethin’? Or are you just gonna stand there and bleed?
A classic movie line, as Earp (Kurt Russell) decides to take over control of a faro game from bully-bluff Johnny Tyler (Billy Bob Thornton). Tyler just stands there … and bleeds.
Plenty of “blood” spilled during this retelling of the Earps-Cowboys-O.K. Corral story. Most of the blood packs exploded at the Old Tucson Studios—on the Tucson and Mescal sets—a popular place for Western shoots with its Old West sets and dusty streets. If you’ve a mind to, you can visit the place and imagine that walk down Fremont Street to the empty lot behind the Corral. Some of the movie was filmed at the Babocomari Ranch near Sonoita, southeast of Tucson, but it is privately owned and not really open to tourists.
None of the movie was shot in the real Tombstone—how many films are shot in the actual, historic locations? But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go there; more and more folks are doing just that. Yes, the debate about the authenticity of buildings, signs and streets is ongoing, but this is still Tombstone. The Bird Cage Theatre dates back to late 1881, just after the gunfight. Schieffelin Hall was a popular meeting place in the 19th century, and that hasn’t changed. The old courthouse is also the real deal; it’s now a museum with a treasure trove of Tombstone-ania. And the town offers plenty of other buildings that were familiar to Wyatt and his brothers.
Any fan of the Old West and Westerns has to make the pilgrimage to Tombstone at one time or another. If anything, it really helps bring the movie Tombstone—and the history—to life. Go.
Tucson: 800-638-8350 • visittucson.org
Tombstone: 888-457-3929 • tombstone.org
In Old Sacramento (1946)
Tagline: Where the adventurers of the gold coast battled for loot and love!
In this film, B-Western actor Bill Elliott starred as a gambler believed to be a stagecoach robber called Spanish Jack, who falls for a cabaret singer played by Constance Moore and ends up dooming himself by trying to save a man she loves. All the while, throughout the film, you’re left wondering, “Is he or isn’t he a stagecoach robber?”
The movie was shot at the Iverson Ranch in Chatsworth, California. Unfortunately, the ranch is no more; the Simi Valley Freeway cut it in half, and the upper portion is now a gated residential community.
But we don’t need to see the “reel” set when we can head to the town the movie is supposed to represent: Old Sacramento. On 28 acres, the state historic park (a national landmark) offers visitors more than 50 historic buildings including the western terminal of the Pony Express (B.F. Hastings building), the oldest remaining firehouse in the city and the reconstructed Eagle Theatre. The capital city also offers visitors five museums—military, railroad, science & discovery, schoolhouse and Wells Fargo museums—and six more museums nearby that offer insights into the area’s history, such as Sutter’s fort and the state Indian museum.
You can enjoy the scenery surrounding this Gold Rush town by boarding the Sacramento River Train, which includes a lunch as well as a re-enacted train robbery for the kiddies. The robber won’t be the peaceable man, as Elliott came to be known (for how his characters carried their pistols, butts forward, in their holsters), but this robbery should still prove fun.
Chatsworth: 818-341-2428 • chatsworthchamber.com
Sacramento: 800-292-2334 • discovergold.org
How the West was Won (1963)
Zebulon Prescott: O Lord, without consulting with Thee, we have sent thy way some souls whose evil ways passeth all understanding. We ask Thee humbly to receive them…whether you want them or not! Amen.
And isn’t that the story of the American West, really? It (and the Indians) accepted millions of people, whether they were wanted or not. This movie, more or less, chronicled that great migration westward during the 19th century, using the fictional Rawlings and Prescott families (which intermarry) as the focal points. How the West was Won was an epic that starred pretty much every Hollywood star working in 1962. Some of the great directors helmed different sections—John Ford, Henry Hathaway, George Marshall, Richard Thorpe.
Much of the flick was shot on location—going as far east as Illinois and Kentucky for early segments. Okay, so it’s not the West, but Cave-in-Rock State Park near Marion, Illinois, is worth the visit. It’s on the Ohio River and was a hiding place for numerous outlaws during the early 1800s.
On the other side of the Mississippi, try Custer State Park near Rapid City, South Dakota. The railroad scenes, which included a great buffalo stampede, were shot here. Then it’s on to Utah; some shots were done around Duck Creek Village, 30 miles east of Cedar City (part of the TV show Daniel Boone was also filmed here). In Lone Pine, California, the red rock formations of the Alabama Hills were the site for the Indian attack from which gambler Cleve Van Halen (Gregory Peck) saves the life of saloon singer Lilith (Debbie Reynolds), leading to the two of them getting hitched.
A real-life celebrity wedding took place at another of the film’s shooting locations: Oatman, Arizona. Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent their wedding night at the 1902 Oatman Hotel in 1939. The mining community re-emerged as a tourist destination when How the West was Won was filmed here; and the town that served as a backdrop for the film is pretty much the same, dusty Old West town, with wild burros still wandering the streets.
A spectacular vista of rock and mountain and sand was showcased in the final sequence of the last segment, called “The Outlaws,” which, given the site—Monument Valley—was surprisingly not directed by John Ford but by Henry Hathaway. Any Westerns aficionado must make the trek to Monument Valley at some point. For many of us, it was where the West was won.
Marion: 800-699-1760 • marionillinois.com
Rapid City: 800-487-3223 • visitrapidcity.com
Cedar City: 435-586-4055 • chambercedarcity.org
Lone Pine: 877-253-8981 • lonepinechamber.org
Oatman: 928-768-6222 • oatmangoldroad.com
Monument Valley: 928-871-6647 • navajonationparks.orgDeadwood
Ellsworth: Goddamn it, Swearengen, I don’t trust you as far as I can throw ya, but I enjoy the way you lie.
Al Swearengen: Thank you, my good man.
Al Swearengen, played by Ian McShane, became the badman we all loved to hate in David Milch’s take on the early days of this Dakota town.
Some of it was filmed in the real Deadwood, South Dakota—but not a lot, because the city is a booming burg with plenty of glitter and neon highlighting the historic buildings. Gambling taxes help pay for preservation and maintenance. And events like the Days of ’76 Rodeo really celebrate the heritage of the place.
The entire city is on the National Historic Register, and it boasts these sites familiar to any fan: Saloon No. 10, where Hickok met his fate, the 1895 Bullock Hotel and Mount Moriah Cemetery, where the bodies of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane are buried. No visit is complete without stopping at the city’s oldest history museum, the Adams Memorial House and Museum, and a repository of Indian and Old West artifacts (including the original “Deadwood Stage”), the Days of ’76 Museum. The trial of Jack McCall, shown in Season One of the series, is re-enacted during the summer months at the Masonic Temple. So many tours are offered at the town, but the best introductory look is the “Original Deadwood,” a one-hour tour detailing the Fort Laramie Treaty, Custer’s expedition to the Black Hills, the Chinese and Badlands sections of town and the Homestake Gold Mine. For more on the tour, visit originaldeadwoodtour.com or call 605-578-2091.
Most of this series—tell me again, HBO, why you cancelled it—was shot at the Melody Ranch in Newhall, California. If you attend the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival from April 25-29, you can take a behind-the-scenes tour of the set with local historian John Boston. He’ll discuss some of the other movies shot there, such as John Wayne’s Stagecoach, Gary Cooper’s High Noon and the CBS series Gunsmoke. If you haven’t visited the set since before Deadwood made use of it, you’ll want to come back. HBO repainted the buildings in bright colors for the series; before that, the buildings’ faded brown hues didn’t much matter because the structures were utilized in black-and-white films. The Melody is worth the trip—even if Deadwood isn’t being produced there anymore.
Deadwood: 800-999-1876 • deadwood.org
Newhall/Santa Clarita: 661-286-4084 • santa-clarita.com
Butch Cassidy and the
Sundance Kid (1969)
Butch Cassidy: Then you jump first.
Sundance Kid: No, I said.
Butch: What’s the matter with you?
Sundance: I can’t swim.
Butch: Why, you crazy? The fall will probably kill you.
Of course, the fall didn’t kill our heroes. Their fate was left up to the Bolivian army (or not, say some folks in Utah).
Butch Cassidy was an Old West buddy movie—with pals on the road to riches (not) by holding up trains and banks. Civilization (and the law) is catching up to them, so they shift operations to South America to try to maintain the lifestyle, but they are headed toward a bad end. It’s Hollywood’s take on some very real Western badmen, featuring the blue eyes, grins and good looks of Paul Newman (Butch) and Robert Redford (Sundance).
The “I can’t swim” scene was shot at the Trimble Bridge on the Animas River near Durango, Colorado. Not far away is the famous Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad—all of the train holdups were filmed along its route (the Wild Bunch did not rob this one in real life). You can visit those locations today, although we recommend you not imitate the leap into the river—or rob the train.
Telluride, Colorado, was also in the film—at least the town’s New Sheridan Hotel, which boasts a bar from the movie (the bar dates back to 1895, so the boys could have visited it). Butch did pull off his first robbery here, in 1889, liberating more than $20,000 from the San Miguel Valley Bank.
Or you can head over to southern Utah. Etta Place’s house was built for the movie and still stands in the ghost town of Grafton, near St. George. Grafton was also the setting for the famous scene in which Butch and Etta (Katharine Ross) ride on a bicycle. It is a beautiful area, especially in fall, when the foliage is turning to yellows and oranges and russet-reds, to go along with the blue of the Virgin River and the Utah sky. If the skies turn gray, just sing “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head.” Hey, it won an Oscar for the movie—even if a lot of folks say the song just doesn’t fit a Western.
Durango: 800-463-8726 • durango.org
Telluride: 888-605-2578 • visittelluride.com
St. George: 435-628-1658 • stgeorgechamber.com
Pale Rider (1985)
Megan Wheeler: Preacher? Preacher? We love you Preacher… I love you!… Good-bye!
The former “Man With No Name” at least had a title in this one—Preacher. Clint Eastwood not only starred but he also directed this blatant copy of Shane. The mysterious man of God comes to help out a small mining community that’s under attack by a vicious mine magnate. And like Shane, he’s finally forced to take up his guns to save the day. And in the most Shane-est of moments, at the end, the young kid—this time played by a girl—yells at our hero to come back as he rides off into the mountains.
Unlike in Shane, these peaks were in Idaho, not Wyoming. The stunning Sawtooth Mountains—near Twin Falls and Ketchum—are the backdrop as the Preacher rides his pale horse on to his next assignment, or heaven, or hell or whereever. The Sawtooths are still there, still stunning and still available for tourists.
By the way, why did they call the movie Pale Rider? It was the horse that was pale, not Eastwood.
Twin Falls: 866-TWIN FALLS • twinfallschamber.com
Ketchum: 866-305-0408 • visitsunvalley.com
Wild Wild West (1999)
Dr. Arliss Loveless: We may have lost the war, but we haven’t lost our sense of humor. Even when we lose a lung, a spleen, a bladder, 35 feet of small intestine, two legs and our ability to reproduce all in the name of the south, do we EVER LOSE OUR SENSE OF HUMOR?
Plenty of critics thought this one didn’t have a sense of humor to begin with. It was supposed to be an update of the 1960s TV series of the same name—a couple of secret service agents saving the Union through the use of James Bond-like gadgets and, in between, getting gorgeous girls to visit their specially designed train. In the 1999 edition, Jim West and Artemus Gordon tried to stop evil Confederate genius (and physically challenged) Dr. Loveless. The TV show successfully melded humor, action, satire and the Old West. The movie … didn’t.
So instead of seeing the flick, try visiting a few of the shooting locations. Some of the train scenes (designed and implemented by the Train Man, Jim Clark—see March 2007) were shot outside Lewiston, Idaho, and Santa Fe. Other outside shots took place in New Mexico—the Cook Ranch near Santa Fe in Galisteo, a cornfield near Stanley and the Chama River in Abiquiu. The producers did have the good sense to shoot footage at the most legendary of Western locales, Monument Valley, Utah. It’s still the Wild West—more than the movie ever was.
Lewiston: 800-473-3543 • www.lewistonchamber.org
Santa Fe: 800-777-2489 • santafe.org
Stanley: 800-545-2070 • newmexico.org
Abiquiu: 800-545-2070 • newmexico.org
Monument Valley: 928-871-6647 • navajonationparks.org
Doc Adams: There’s wonderful land values outside of Dodge. Now why don’t you go out there someplace, look around and buy yourself a lot?
Festus Haggen: A lot of what?
Doc: A lot! A lot of land!
Admit it—you thought we’d quote something from Marshal Matt Dillon. Fooled ya.
You probably weren’t fooled by the shooting locations for the series—most were in Hollywood studios or in and around America’s glitter capital.
But not everything. A few episodes of Gunsmoke were shot at Old Tucson Studios in Arizona. Others were filmed at the Johnson Canyon Movie Set in Kanab, Utah, which is still home to the buildings used for Miss Kitty’s Longbranch Saloon and Doc’s office, and other Westerns. Unfortunately, that set is not open to
But Kanab isn’t called “Utah’s Little Hollywood” for nothing; there’s still plenty of sets that can satisfy aficionados of Western movies. Gunsmoke episodes were also shot on location at the Paria movie set, which was almost lost due to flooding until local volunteers and members of the Bureau of Land Management helped rebuild the set’s buildings on stable ground. The Kanab Canyon set was the location for movies including The Lone Ranger and Westward the Women. Frontier Movie Town offers a backlot Western town utilized for The Outlaw Josey Wales and F-Troop. And the Parry Lodge is a hotel where famous actors stayed (you can reserve the James Arness room).
Or you can visit the real Dodge City, Kansas—the setting for the TV series. The old cowtown is still there. Nope, Marshal Dillon never patrolled its streets in real life, nor was Wyatt Earp ever town marshal (he was a law officer, though). The town still celebrates its Western heritage through events like Dodge City Days and places like the Boot Hill Museum. You’ll get to balance TV’s version of Dodge City with the real stories about adventures undertaken here by characters such as Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp and Bill Tilghman.
Tucson: 800-638-8350 • visittucson.org
Kanab: 800-SEE-KANE • kaneutah.com
Dodge City: 800-OLD-WEST • visitdodgecity.org
Assassination of Jesse
James by the Coward
Robert Ford (2007)
Robert Ford: I’m only going to get this one opportunity and you can bet your life, I’m not going to spoil it.
Casey Affleck plays the “coward Robert Ford,” and right now, all we’ve seen from the movie is what we’ve seen him portray in the trailer. The flick is based on a Ron Hansen novel of the same name, though, so we have a pretty good idea of what sorts of sites are likely to be featured in the movie.
In Kearney, Missouri, you’ll find the Jesse James Farm. This is where the James boys grew up and where Jesse was once buried. The Pinkertons attacked the place in 1875; they didn’t catch the outlaws, but they killed their stepbrother and maimed their ma.
In St. Joseph, you’ll find the Jesse James Home, where Bob Ford shot Jesse in the back of the head while Jesse was straightening a picture, the Missouri Valley Trust Bank that Jesse wanted to rob before his death and the Buchanan County Courthouse, where the Ford brothers were tried for the murder of Jesse.
The Ford brothers were sentenced to hang, but Gov. Tom Crittenden pardoned them. The “dirty little coward who shot Mr. Howard [Jesse’s alias]” didn’t last long after that, getting his own shotgun fate in Creede, Colorado. Although nothing of his tent saloon remains here, you can learn about the silver boom that brought Robert to the area at the Underground Mining Museum and the Creede Historical Museum.
And you can visit Bob Ford’s grave in
The movie was shot at various locations in Canada, with the old-town streets of Winnipeg providing a
setting for 1880s Missouri and Ford’s final home in Creede. Winnipeg’s Exchange District boasts more than 100 well-preserved historic buildings predating 1914, making this “Gateway to the West” a great location for
Kearney: 816-628-4229 • kearneychamber.org
St. Joseph: 800-604-4600 • stjomo.com
Creede: 800-327-2102 • creede.com
Winnipeg: 800-665-0204 • destinationwinnipeg.ca
Little Big Man (1970)
General Custer: A scout has a certain look… Kit Carson, for example. You look like… a muleskinner!
Jack Crabb: Uh, General, I don’t know anything about mules….
Custer: Lieutenant, it’s amazing how I can guess the profession of a man just by looking at him! Notice the bandy legs, the powerful arms. This man has spent years with mules. Isn’t that right?
Crabb: Uh, yes sir!
Custer: Hire the muleskinner!
This wacky take on the West was revisionist and satirical, all at the same time. It purported to tell the story of Jack Crabb—played by Dustin Hoffman—who kept turning up in various historic events and places over his long, long life.
He was with Custer at the Little Big Horn (Crabb survived because he’d spent years with the Indians). And the Last Stand scene was actually filmed at Medicine Tail Coulee on the battlefield site in Crow Agency, Montana.
Nevada City re-created the frontier village featured in the flick. And legendary Virginia City was where filmmakers shot Jack Crabb’s Gunfighter period. Crabb is nick-
named the Soda Pop Kid (didn’t we tell you it was a satire?), and he hangs around with Wild Bill Hickok (until Hickok gets involved in a certain poker game). You can see places like the Bale of Hay Saloon in the movie—or you can visit them today.
As for trying to explain more of the plot … rent the DVD.
Crow Agency: 406-841-2870 • travelmontana.mt.gov
Nevada City: 800-879-1159 • goldwest.visitmt.com
Virginia City: 800-829-2969 •
The Shootist (1976)
John Bernard Books: I won’t be wronged. I won’t be insulted. I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.
Man, if that line didn’t sum up John Wayne’s on-screen characters—
hell, maybe it summed up his life, period. The Shootist was the Duke’s last film, one that he almost didn’t finish because he was dying of cancer. Ironically, in this flick, he portrayed
an aging gunfighter who was also dying of cancer.
Dying or not, Wayne still threw his weight around. He changed the story location from El Paso, Texas, to Carson City, Nevada. And he made a big alteration to the big bang finish (we won’t give it away here—check out
As one might expect, most of the movie was shot at a studio in beautiful Burbank, California. But a few scenes were made on location in Nevada.
The Krebs-Paterson House—on the historic Kit Carson Trail—served as the Rogers’ boarding house, where Books lived his last days in the company of Lauren Bacall and Ron Howard. And Washoe Lake State Park hosted the buggy ride of the gunfighter and the widow. These areas of Nevada are well worth seeing.
So, too, is the Duke in his last hurrah.
Carson City: 800-NEVADA-1 • visitcarsoncity.comWyatt Earp (1994)
Doc Holliday: What do you want to do?
Wyatt Earp: Kill them all.
That nicely sums up things. Earp (Kevin Costner) and Holliday (Dennis Quaid) have both survived the Tombstone gunfight. But Wyatt’s brother Virgil has been shot and crippled, and his brother Morgan has been killed by assassins. It’s time to go on a Vendetta Ride … and kill all the bad guys.
While Costner’s epic tried to cover most of Wyatt Earp’s life between, say, 1865 and 1882—a span in which he lived in dozens of places, although we usually focus on Dodge City, Kansas, and Tombstone, Arizona—most of the movie was shot in New Mexico.
The Cook and J.W. Eaves Ranches—favorite sites for shooting Westerns—located outside of Santa Fe, doubled as Dodge City, Wichita and most of the other towns in the movie. Parts of Wild Wild West was filmed at Cook Ranch in 1998—and almost destroyed the place when a planned explosion went out of control in a strong wind. The fire burned down several buildings. Thankfully, all was up and running again within months.
The Cumbres & Toltec Railroad in Chama was also utilized—with some revisions. The filmmakers built a small depot on the prairie side of the tracks for day shots; night filming took place at the main depot, which wasn’t historic enough to pass in the bright light of day.
The Zia Pueblo near Albuquerque provided open range and prairie locations, most notably when the Earp family is headed west to California in a wagon train in the 1860s. And a few scenes were shot near Santa Fe at El Rancho de las Golondrinas, a ranch that dates back to the 1700s. Nowadays, visitors flock to its living history museum of Spanish-Mexican culture and heritage. It’s a huge operation with numerous 19th-century buildings.
Speaking of history—Wyatt Earp actually passed through this area after his Vendetta Ride, when he went on the lam to Colorado. He didn’t have much time to look around, and Wyatt Earp doesn’t cover that part of the story anyway. You, on the other hand, ought to consider a visit to this fascinating region.
Santa Fe: 800-777-2489 • santafe.org
Chama: 800-477-0149 • visitchama.com
Albuquerque: 800-284-2282 • itsatrip.orgYoung Guns (1988)
William H. Bonney: Reap the whirlwind, Brady. Reap it.
So said Emilio Estevez’s Billy the Kid when he killed more than a few folks in this script by John Fusco.
A fair amount of Young Guns was shot at the Bonanza Creek Movie Ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which also hosted productions including The Man from Laramie; The Cowboys; Walker, Texas Ranger and the infamous cult classic/strangest Western ever made Lust in the Dust. It’s also a working cattle ranch, which is a good thing in case this movie biz doesn’t pan out (just kidding).
Cerrillos can also be seen in this film (and in its sequel, Young Guns II). Main Street has been used in numerous Westerns. Several of the facsimile Lincoln, New Mexico, buildings—The Wortley Hotel, the L.G. Murphy Store—are still around (under other guises). In the late 1800s, the village was home to more than 3,000 miners, 21 saloons, five brothels, four hotels and eight newspapers. The Clear Light Opera House featured both Lillie Langtry and Sarah Bernhardt, and it’s still there.
Other places near Santa Fe shown in the movie—and well worth the visit—are El Rancho de las Golondrinas, a living history museum, the Tesuque Pueblo, which dates back more than 800 years, and the Hacienda Galisteo, now an inn that has plenty of reminders of Young Guns (and is supposed to be a favorite of actress Shirley MacLaine). If you travel to any of these places, you’ll reap … well, probably not a whirlwind, but certainly some great times.
Santa Fe: 800-777-2489 • santafe.org
Lonesome Dove (1989)
Woodrow Call: Why not go up to Montana? It’s a cattleman’s paradise to hear Jake tell it.
Gus McCrae: Sounds like a damn wilderness if you ask me. And we’re a shade old to start fightin’ Indians all over again, don’t you think?
Woodrow Call: I mean it, Gus. Why not go north with a herd?
Gus McCrae: I’ll tell you what. You ride on up there, clear out the Indians, build a little cabin, get a nice fire goin’ in the fireplace and me and Jake will gather a herd, and then we’ll come on up.
And so the two ex-Texas Rangers, played by Tommy Lee Jones (Call) and Robert Duvall (McCrae), prepared to make their trek north in what some folks believe is the greatest Western ever made.
While the movie characters made it to Montana, the production did not, sticking mainly to New Mexico and Texas locations. Brackettville, Texas, served as the town of Lonesome Dove (the set from John Wayne’s Alamo is still standing outside town).
The producers also went to Bonanza Creek Ranch just outside Santa Fe; a two-story Victorian house built for 1984’s Silverado made it onto film once again. And the Cook Ranch at Galisteo, near Santa Fe, long a favorite spot for Western filmmakers, provided more Silverado sets for re-use.
Between Taos and Cimarron is Angel Fire, a beautiful ski area that became Montana for Lonesome Dove. Most of the shots were done on the UU Bar Ranch at the foot of Dancing Cat Mountain. Don’t the names Angel Fire and Dancing Cat Mountain have a lyrical, cinematic quality to them?
If you want to check out materials directly tied to the production, Austin, Texas, is the place. Southwest Texas University’s Southwestern Writers Collection exhibits memorabilia from the series, donated by writer/executive producer Bill Witliff and his wife Sally. (Visit library.txstate.edu/swwc to view some of the collection.) Tell them Gus and Woodrow sent you.
Santa Fe: 800-777-2489 • santafe.org
Angel Fire: 800-446-8117 • angelfirechamber.org
Austin: 866-GO-AUSTIN • austintexas.org
Walk the Line (2005)
Johnny Cash: Tell me you don’t love me.
June Carter: I don’t love you.
Johnny Cash: [smiling] You’re a liar.
June Carter: I guess you ain’t got no problems then.
No problems for Reese Witherspoon, who won an Oscar for her portrayal as June Carter; and Joaquin Phoenix did a remarkable job as the Man in Black.
Maybe they were spurred on by the shooting locations. Production designer David Bomba used as many actual sites as possible. Heck, he even found authentic period guitars and amplifiers. Memphis almost didn’t make the cut—the film was originally going to be shot in Louisiana, but the story goes that Ms. Witherspoon convinced Tennessee officials to offer a better incentives package to the producers.
So you get to see at least the outside of Sun Studio, where Johnny Cash and rock ‘n’ roll both got their start in the 1950s. At one time, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis also recorded at Sun—individually as well as together (with Cash). The place is now a museum, one that chronicles an important era in American popular culture. Some other exterior shots of Memphis can be seen. Many of the interiors were done in warehouses, office buildings and the like. In fact, the legendary concert at Folsom Prison was staged in a warehouse; the producers didn’t want to pay the hundreds of thousands of dollars to move the cast and crew to the real place.
Nashville also had a major role in the Cash story, both live and on film. Johnny and June performed countless times at the Ryman Auditorium, the home of the Grand Ole Opry. Some of the concert footage was actually shot at the Ryman in front of live audiences—with the two leads really singing.
Much can be seen and done in both cities—and much of that is music related. At certain times, in certain nightspots, you can almost here Johnny and June singing “Ring of Fire.”
Memphis: 901-543-5333 • memphistravel.com
Nashville: 800-657-6910 • nashvillecvb.com
Leslie Benedict: Money isn’t everything, Jett.
Jett Rink: Not when you’ve got it.
And James Dean (Jett Rink) had money—enough to buy a Porsche 550 Spyder sportscar, which he loved to drive fast. Before production on Giant was completed, Dean was dead, killed in an auto accident on a California highway while driving that Spyder. Reportedly, some of his vocal re-dubs had to be completed by Nick Adams.
The movie itself is a tale of Texas oil and ranching, with a bit of jealousy and competition thrown in for good measure. Bick Benedict, played by Rock Hudson, goes to Maryland to buy a prize horse and comes back with filly Elizabeth Taylor (Leslie). Dean’s character, a cowboy-turned-oil tycoon, is a fly in the ointment of the relationship of the Benedicts and their business ventures.
Most of the film was shot in the Lone Star State. The Reata ranch house was just outside the town of Marfa; the building crumbled away 20 years ago, and the ruins are on private property.
The famous Jett Rink windmill at Little Reata is still there, about 20 yards behind the two poles that held the original “Little Reata” sign. Many of the sweeping landscapes captured in the film are basically unchanged in 50 years.
In nearby Alpine, the Reata Restaurant is inspired by the Benedicts’ home in the movie. Texas cowboy cuisine is the fare. The “R” logo is affixed to everything in the place (menus, lamps, dinner plates, salt and pepper shakers).
If you’re a hardcore James Dean fan, you’ll have to travel to Indiana. He’s buried in his hometown of Fairmount, northeast of Indianapolis. It’s a modest place for a legend—especially one who had money.
Marfa: 800-650-9696 • marfacc.com
Alpine: 800-561-3735 • alpinetexas.com
Fairmount: 800-662-9474 • jamesdeancountry.com
The Alamo (1960)
Jim Bowie: Well, that’s it. I’m taking my men out of here now. Cutting through to the north. You coming?
Davy Crockett: Seems like the better part of valor.
It was the better part of valor not to question the Duke on this production, period. He was the producer, the director and the acting lead (Davy Crockett to Richard Widmark’s Jim Bowie). And he helped select the site for the shoot. John Wayne was the Man
The set was built near Brackettville, Texas, a historic town with roots dating back more than 150 years and located about 30 miles east of Del Rio. James “Happy” Shahan (honored by then Gov. George W. Bush as the “Father of the Texas Movie Industry” in 1995) owned the land and oversaw set construction of the Alamo replica and other buildings. Like much of Wayne’s work, the set had staying power—films such as Two Rode Together, Bandolero! and Bad Girls were shot there. It’s still a working movie locale—as well as a tourist attraction.
By the way, the 2004 Disney movie was not shot at Brackettville, but on a new set in Dripping Springs. The more recent movie may have been more historically correct, but it was a total failure at the box office—and it didn’t have the Duke.
The Outlaw Josey Wales
Josey Wales: When I get to likin’ someone, they ain’t around long.
Lone Watie: I notice when you get to dislikin’ someone, they ain’t around for long neither.
That pretty much defines Clint Eastwood’s characters, doesn’t it?
Wales is a pro-Confederate Western if ever there was one. A peaceful Missouri farmer (Eastwood) loses his wife and son to rampaging redleg Yankees. He joins a Rebel guerrilla group and gets to killin’ folks. At the end of the war, the Union won’t let him surrender—he is an outlaw—so he makes his way toward Texas with an old Indian and squaw. And he does some more killin’.
Some of the film was shot at Old Tucson Studios. Other parts were done in Utah—primarily at Frontier Movie Town in Kanab. It was also the last film to use the ghost town of Paria, which previously hosted Oaters such as Duel at Diablo and Mackenna’s Gold. We may see more of it in the future; the set was rebuilt in 2005. Who knows? It may show up in another Eastwood movie. Along with dead bodies.
Tucson: 800-638-8350 • visittucson.org
Kanab: 800-SEE-KANE • kaneutah.com
Cheyenne Autumn (1964)
Capt. Thomas Archer: It takes a blue coat to make a white man a soldier … but a Cheyenne is a soldier from the first slap on his butt. War is his life. He’s fierce, he’s smart … and he’s meaner than sin!
Director John Ford’s last movie was based on a real event. In the film, a band of oppressed reservation Cheyennes break out and head for their ancestral home. An army officer (Richard Widmark) and his troops are sent to bring back the Indians—but he finds himself sympathizing with their plight.
You know that Ford wouldn’t miss an opportunity to film in Monument Valley, and its rock spires can be seen in this film. He also shot outside of Moab; Castle Creek was used for a number of river crossing scenes in the movie, while Arches National Park served as the backdrop for part of the Indian travels (and travails).
Wyoming’s Fort Laramie portrayed the military installation. When the scenes were shot there in October 1964, it was a huge event—TV coverage and about 2,000 spectators (including the state governor). The fort is now part of the National Park Service, and many of its early buildings have been restored or re-created. It’s also easy to get to—about 110 miles northeast of Cheyenne, just off U.S. 26. It is not—repeat not—anywhere near the town
Monument Valley: 928-871-6647 • navajonationparks.org
Moab: 800-635-6622 • discovermoab.com
Fort Laramie: 307-837-2221 • nps.gov/fola
Cheyenne: 800-426-5009 • cheyenne.org
Shane: You were watchin’ me down it for quite a spell, weren’t you?
Joey: Yes I was.
Shane: You know, I … I like a man who watches things go on around. It means he’ll make his mark someday.
Okay, so the best-known scene from the movie is the last shot—Shane (Alan Ladd) rides off into the mountains as young Joey Starrett (Brandon de Wilde) cries, “Shane! Come back, Shane!” The mystery man’s first appearance at the Starrett homestead, though, is key to the plot—the little kid sees his first real hero, who gives him props for keeping his
You’ll have to keep your eyes open to see any of the buildings featured in the movie—most are long gone as a result of a grassfire in the park that burned several years ago. The Ernie Wright cabin is still standing—you remember ol’ Ernie, don’t you? He’s the sad sack who is gulled into drawing against evil gunfighter Jack Wilson and pays for it with his life. Anyway, the cabin is on the way to the Starrett homestead site, which is at the southern end of Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park in Jackson Hole. The place is hard to find; your best bet is to call Walt Farmer and request a tour of the Shane location: 307-690-6909. The overpowering Grand Teton is practically a character in the film, as well, since the Starretts had to battle that country as much as they did the cattlemen. The breathtaking view alone is worth the visit to Jackson Hole.
Jackson Hole: 307-733-3316 • jacksonholechamber.com
Katy McLaughlin: Everyone writes a story that eventually becomes your life, and if you don’t write it yourself, then someone else is gonna write it for you.
Mary O’Hara wrote this story in 1941 while she lived on the Remount Ranch, located between Cheyenne and Laramie, Wyoming. Her young hero, Ken McLaughlin, was played by Roddy MacDowell in the 1943 classic version, My Friend Flicka.
By 2006, the hero had become a heroine, Katy McLaughlin. The basic story is the same, as the kid tries to tame a wild horse to prove something to papa (played by Nashville Country singer Tim McGraw). One of the real stars in Flicka are the shots in Wyoming—especially the amazing surroundings of Eaton’s Ranch in the Big Horn Mountains. (Despite the story’s setting in Wyoming, most of the film was shot in the Los Angeles area and some even in New Zealand.)
You can visit either ranch, no problem. To see the ranch where Flicka was written, take the Remount Road exit off I-80. Tours are by appointment at 307-432-0212. Eaton’s Ranch has been around for 125 years and is a working guest ranch, one of the most famous in the West. It’s in the far northern part of the state, just outside of Sheridan (True West’s True Western Town of 2006).
Cheyenne: 800-426-5009 • cheyenne.org
Laramie: 800-445-5303 • laramie-tourism.org
Sheridan: 888-596-6787 • sheridanwyoming.org