Did early Westerns actually film at night or just close down the lens?

For night scenes in early Western films, did they actually film at night or just close down the lens?

George Young

Miami, Florida

Our boss Bob Boze Bell has the answer: “In the old days, most movies, especially Westerns, utilized what’s called ‘day for night,’ which means they shot in the daytime but underexposed the film so it looked darker. Also, many old Westerns utilized sound stages for nighttime effects where they could control the light.

“Today, with greater lens capacity, many movies actually film at night. A good example of this is 1993’s Tombstone. The scene where Curly Bill Brocius (Powers Boothe) shoots Marshal Fred White (Harry Carey Jr.) was done at night.”

What do you think?

Marshall Trimble

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian, board president of the Arizona Historical Society and vice president of the Wild West History Association. His latest book is Arizona’s Outlaws and Lawmen; History Press, 2015. If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at marshall.trimble@scottsdalecc.edu