Western RoundUp: 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.