Western RoundUp: Kanab, Utah

Western RoundUp: Kanab, Utah

In past columns, I’ve taken a look at Western movie locations in Lone Pine and Corriganville. This month my focus is a popular Western location further afield from Hollywood: Kanab, Utah.

Kanab is in the southern part of the state, not far from the Arizona border. Founded in 1870, the current population is around 4700.

Almost too many Westerns to name filmed in Kanab over the years; a smattering of titles includes Western Union (1940), The Desperadoes (1943), Smoky (1946), Black Bart (1948), Green Grass of Wyoming (1948), Calamity Jane and Sam Bass (1949), Sierra (1950), The Outriders (1950), and one of my all-time favorite films, Westward the Women (1951). More on that movie below.

Westward the Women (1951) Movie Poster
Westward the Women (1951)

I could go on with a much longer list of titles, but that gives readers a good idea of some of the films made in the area.

Just as Lone Pine’s Dow Villa Hotel regularly served movie companies, film productions shooting in the Kanab area often stayed at the Parry Lodge, which first opened in 1931.

Parry Lodge, Kanab, Utah Sign
Parry Lodge, Kanab, Utah

The lodge is still in operation today, nine decades later, although it’s currently closed for the 2021 season due to COVID. On a recent visit to Utah, I was able to take a number of photographs of the closed lodge.

Parry Lodge, Kanab, Utah Entrance
Parry Lodge entrance

The rooms outside the main building are labeled with the names of some of the stars who stayed there while working in Utah.

In front of the hotel, there’s a row of signs honoring numerous filmmakers who worked in Kanab.

Parry Lodge, Kanab, Utah Star Signs
Star signs at Parry Lodge

Those honored in this “walk of fame” include Joel McCrea, Tim Holt,and Westward the Women director William A. Wellman:

Parry Lodge not only served as headquarters for countless film production companies, it was also a key location in the crime film The Girl in Black Stockings (1957), starring Lex Barker, Anne Bancroft, and Mamie Van Doren. That movie, which was released by United Artists, provides some wonderful shots of the lodge, including the pool area.

Parry Lodge, Kanab, Utah Pool
The pool at Parry Lodge

One of the very finest films which did extensive filming in the Kanab area was the previously mentioned Westward the Women, with Robert Taylor heading an outstanding cast. A few miles outside of Kanab, a Western town was built for the film, which was also used as a set in a number of other productions over the years.

Town scene from Westward the Women (1951)
Town scene from Westward the Women (1951)

Today the crumbling remains of that town set may still be seen by anyone who turns off Highway 89 and drives 5.4 miles down Johnson Canyon Road. Given my love for Westward the Women, I found it an extremely moving experience.

Here are screenshots of the pavilion seen in the film’s closing sequence, after the women arrive at their destination in California:

Here’s that very same pavilion building today. It looks as though a later production finished the interior so it looked more like a house, but the exterior is easy to identify by matching it up with screenshots from the film.

Another town building is seen above.

I don’t know for certain, but I’m guessing the crumbling chimney seen in the photograph below is the same chimney seen in the screenshots shown here from the opening minutes of the movie:

It’s remarkable to find the town still standing — in a manner of speaking — seven decades after the movie’s release. Looking around one could just imagine Robert Taylor, John McIntire, Denise Darcel, and the rest of the cast having been there.

Julie Bishop, Denise Darcel, Beverly Dennis, Robert Taylor, Hope Emerson, Marilyn Erskine, and Lenore Lonergan in Westward the Women (1951)
Beverly Dennis, Renata Vanni, Marilyn Erskine, Robert Taylor, Denise Darcel, Julie Bishop, and Lenore Lonergan in Westward the Women (1951)

Anyone who visits the set should be aware that it sits on private property, so bring a telephoto lens to photograph it from the public road.

For additional information on Westerns filmed in Kanab and elsewhere in Utah, I highly recommend the book When Hollywood Came to Town: A History of Moviemaking in Utah by James D’Arc. I wrote more about that book in my January 2021 column Western Film Book Library – Part 4.

— 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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8 Responses to Western RoundUp: Kanab, Utah

  1. Walter says:

    Laura, thank you for taking me along on your visit to Kanab, Utah by way of this fine write-up. I’m really enjoying your wonderful photographs of this famous movie location. WESTWARD THE WOMEN(1951) is a Classic Movie.

    Look forward to your next write-up.

  2. Jerry Entract says:

    More terrific road journeys, Laura, to make us all wish we were there too!

    TV also used Kanab. In 1956 Warner released a technicolor feature “THE LONE RANGER” due to the popularity of the TV series. Due to the film’s success the TV series went to colour for its final season and filming broadened out to show dramatic landscapes, many episodes being filmed at Kanab.
    Then in 1957 California National Productions produced “BOOTS AND SADDLES”, a U.S. cavalry series that was filmed at Kanab. A rather good, authentic-looking series that was shown in the UK so I knew it well. Sadly that series is very hard to find, if not almost impossible today.

    Another fine write-up, Laura, and you know my own feelings about Wellman’s very fine western with Robert Taylor.

  3. Terry H. says:

    Great story, Laura! I happened to have recently watched The Girl in Black Stockings (1957) (included on Kino Lorber’s The Mamie Van Doren Film Noir Collection set), and it was filmed at Parry Lodge. The Blu-Ray includes a NEW Interview with star Mamie Van Doren in which she recalls staying at Parry Lodge.

  4. Laura Grieve says:

    Walter and Jerry, thank you so much for your faithful reading of my column and for the kind comments! I’m delighted to know you enjoyed this post and the photos. I was excited to share them!

    Jerry, that is such great info about Kanab’s assocation with those two TV series. Love learning more about this beautiful place.

    Best wishes,
    Laura

  5. Laura Grieve says:

    Terry, thanks very much! It’s fun to see the Parry Lodge in THE GIRL IN THE BLACK STOCKINGS, isn’t it? Although I hadn’t been there yet at the time I saw the movie, I immediately recognized it from photographs and was delighted it was featured so prominently in that film.

    Best wishes,
    Laura

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