Western RoundUp: Another Look at Western Movie Locations!
It’s time for another look at some Western movie locations!
This year I’ve visited several interesting film-related places, starting with Bronson Canyon in Los Angeles’s Griffith Park. Bronson Canyon is home to a cave which has appeared in numerous films; the most significant Western to be filmed there was John Ford‘s The Searchers (1956).
Many scenes in The Searchers were filmed in Monument Valley, but the scene where John Wayne says “Let’s go home, Debbie” to Natalie Wood was filmed at the “back” entrance to the cave. The cave is actually a tunnel with two entrances.
In the final scene John Wayne rides his horse down this hill:
The cave is currently blocked off with chain-link fences, but I have a photo from 2020 looking out the back of the cave toward where Ethan rides down the hill.
The cave’s best-known role? It was the Bat Cave on the 1960s TV series Batman. Here’s a shot of the front of the cave, where the Batmobile would exit.
This spring we took a road trip which included a brief stop in Keeler, California. Keeler is a few miles from Lone Pine, a movie location I’ve written about here numerous times, and is close to being a ghost town; the current population is around ten people.
There’s a fascinating old train station, the Carson and Colorado Railroad depot, which looks as though it would blow over in a strong wind. The information I’ve found online indicates it may date from the 1880s.
John Ford’s 3 Godfathers (1948) filmed in Keeler, but I’ve been unable to match up train station shots from that film with what’s still standing. For good measure, the crime film I Died a Thousand Times (1955), starring Jack Palance, filmed at a gas station in Keeler.
Our next road trip destination was Utah, where we visited three national parks and one state park. We particularly loved Moab, which is perhaps the most significant John Ford location after Monument Valley.
One afternoon we drove down the highway outside Moab which parallels the Colorado River; thanks to books and websites we were able to find some wonderful locations, starting with Fisher Towers.
Fisher Towers is seen in the background of Ford’s Wagon Master (1950), one of my favorite films. The Bureau of Land Management sign at Fisher Towers even mentions the Ford connection!
First, here’s a screenshot from Wagon Master of Russell Simpson and Kathleen O’Malley on the lead wagon:
And here’s how Fisher Towers looks today:
A little further down the river is Red Cliff Lodge, which was originally George White’s Ranch, where Rio Grande (1950) filmed.
There’s a big open area near some of the lodge’s guest cabins…
… and it was quite a thrill to look at screenshots of the movie’s famous “Roman Riding” sequence and realize we were standing where Ben Johnson, Harry Carey Jr., and Claude Jarman Jr. filmed that wonderful scene.
The rock formations in the background match up perfectly!
We also found the spot on the Colorado River where Wayne and his officers rode into the “Rio Grande” to speak with the Mexican officer.
Here’s a screenshot of that scene to show how the backgrounds match up.
Taza, Son of Cochise (1954) and Rio Conchos (1964) also filmed in the Moab area; Taza filmed in Arches National Park and Rio Conchos filmed at Dead Horse Point State Park — as did the previously mentioned Warlock and The Comancheros.
Here’s one of the impressive vistas at Dead Horse Point State Park:
– Laura Grieve for Classic Movie Hub
Laura can be found at her blog, Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings, where she’s been writing about movies since 2005, and on Twitter at @LaurasMiscMovie. A lifelong film fan, Laura loves the classics including Disney, Film Noir, Musicals, and Westerns. She regularly covers Southern California classic film festivals. Laura will scribe on all things western at the ‘Western RoundUp’ for CMH.