Western RoundUp: Another Look at Western Movie Locations!

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.

Natalie Wood and John Wayne in The Searchers (1956)
Natalie Wood and John Wayne in The Searchers (1956)

In the final scene John Wayne rides his horse down this hill:

Bronson Canyon
Bronson Canyon

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.

Bronson Canyon Cave
Bronson Canyon cave

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.

Bronson Canyon Cave entrance
Bronson Canyon cave aka the Bat Cave!

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.

Keeler Train Station
Keeler Train Station

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.

Carson and Colorado Railroad Depot
Carson and Colorado Railroad Depot in Keeler

This train station is seen in the Hopalong Cassidy film Sinister Journey (1948).

The station was also seen in the silent classic Greed (1924), directed by Erich von Stroheim.

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!

Fisher Towers visitor sign
Fisher Towers visitor sign

First, here’s a screenshot from Wagon Master of Russell Simpson and Kathleen O’Malley on the lead wagon:

Fisher Towers Wagon Master (1950)
Fisher Towers seen here in Wagon Master (1950)

And here’s how Fisher Towers looks today:

Fisher Towers
Fisher Towers today

Warlock (1959) with Henry Fonda and Richard Widmark also shot at Fisher Towers, as did the John Wayne film The Comancheros (1961).

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…

Set location for Rio Grande (1950)
Set location for Rio Grande (1950) today

… 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.

Rio Grande (1950) "Roman Riding" scene
Rio Grande (1950) “Roman Riding” 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.

Set location for Rio Grande (1950)
Set location for Rio Grande (1950) today

Here’s a screenshot of that scene to show how the backgrounds match up.

Rio Grande (1950)
Rio Grande (1950)

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:

Dead Horse Point State Park
Dead Horse Point State Park

For additional Western RoundUp columns on Western film locations, please visit my past articles on KanabCorriganvilleLone Pine, and Iverson Movie Ranch.

– 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.

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3 Responses to Western RoundUp: Another Look at Western Movie Locations!

  1. Mary Mallory says:

    The Bronson a e was used in so many things, including the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

  2. Jerry Entract says:

    I love these film location road trips that you share with us, Laura! They bring it all to life somehow. I find myself ever increasingly interested in locations when viewing a film. Thank you again.

  3. Laura Grieve says:

    Mary, thanks for reading! INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS was definitely one of the creepier uses of the Bronson Cave, wasn’t it?

    Jerry, thank you so much! It’s an honor to share these photos, and I’m so glad that you and others enjoy seeing them! I really adds a new dimension for me when I watch a movie and have been able to stand in some of the places where it was filmed.

    Best wishes,
    Laura

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