The year was 1938 and the Navajo were in the deep depths of the Great Depression. Harry Goulding proprietor of Goulding’s Trading Post had the idea to try and recruit film makers to use the Monument Valley area as a location for filming their westerns. He took some of the black and white pictures that had appeared in Arizona Highways magazine and drove to California to meet with John Ford.
Mr. Ford’s secretary asked if he had an appointment. When he said no, she told him Mr. Ford wasn’t available to meet with him. Harry said he had plenty of time to wait and rolled out a Navajo blanket and sat down. The secretary went and got an assistant director to help throw Harry out of the office, but in the process, Harry was able to show him the pictures. Before long, both gentlemen were on the floor with the pictures spread out on the floor.
“Mr. Ford needs to see these” the assistant director said and went and got the famed director.
John Ford was looking for a location to film what was to become the classic western movie, “Stagecoach,” and asked Harry where the pictures were taken. Harry told him “Monument Valley, on the Arizona-Utah border,” Harry replied.
Ford asked if he could build the facilities to feed and house a film crew immediately. Harry said he could if he had the money and Mr. Ford wrote him a check carte blanche.
John Ford and his cast and crew, which included a young man named John Wayne, arrived two weeks later, and Goulding was true to his word. The facilities were ready and the Navajo were in the movies. During the next few years they played Comanche, Apache, Cheyenne and Lakota but they always spoke their own language in the films.