`My last set of pictures and post from Arizona…just a few days wandering yields so much. After reading Orientalism I know when writing about an old movie set I should do something more thoughtful about Westerns and representation and how I sit in relationship to the myths of the West and its occupants. But this won’t really be it, just a quick beginning.
In my youth I refused to watch most Westerns at all, especially after the first time I realised a white dude had actually painted himself brown and was pretending to be an Indian. That was a moment of pure WTF. I sided with the Indians and Mexicans and I knew in advance they always lost. I hated that male violence was always so stupidly extreme and defined everything, as women fluttered around them like anachronistically clean and well-fed butterflies. We did, I confess, watch a lot of Bonanza, but I thought John Wayne was an asshole and wanted no part of anything that made him look like a hero.
I still think John Wayne is an asshole. That’s why I now like The Searchers so much.
Now that I have left the desert, I yearn to catch site of it in the multitude of films shot in the very same hills to the SW of Tucson where I grew up. Along familiar trails even. But there are more reasons than that to like James Stewart in Winchester ’73.
Tucson never appears at all in the TV show Maverick, but James Garner cheers me up just to look at him. Nichols may be even better, I’m just sad that the Rockford Files aren’t filmed in Tucson too. L.A. is overrepresented.
I’ll stop listing the Westerns worth watching because I will leave things out (like Lee Marvin! Cat Ballou!) But what is fascinating is the way that the the manufacturing of the Western myth in movies left a trail all across the South West in the form of movie sets and theme parks that sit oddly with the detritus of mining and cattle ranching that actually marks the passing of the old west.
One I had never heard of, next to the Superstitions just south of Apache Junction, is Apacheland (APACHELAND since 1959, is a registered trademark of Apacheland Movie Ranch © 2014).
The name itself is after the Apache trail, or Apache Junction perhaps. All of them together just serve as another expression of how white people have no shame at all at appropriating the names and cultures of those they have massacred and forced to leave the area entirely. And then made money making moving pictures about a rewritten version of that history.
This makes the use of the word ‘innocent’ in its own description a bit dubious:
From its innocent inception of a theme park and western movie studio in 1956 to its founding in 1959 as “The Western Movie Capital of the World,” this is the first chapter in a 55 year history of Apacheland Movie Ranch that covers Richard Boone, Ronald Reagan, Elvis Presley, John Wayne and Henry Fonda to name a few. Apacheland Days at its finest.
This was always meant to be a tourist destination, a show:
Sadly most of it burned down, so its relics have been picked up and moved to the Superstion Mountain Musuem:
Despite all of this, I get a little thrill knowing that these buildings have been the backdrop for the work of some of my favourite people:
I will include Elvis in that, here is the chapel from Charro!:
It is, of course, dedicated to Elvis. Vegas, eat your heart out.
It also contains some pictures of what Apacheland once looked like:
And then because this is indeed a mixture of the real and the unreal, they of course have my favourite exhibit in all western museums — the obligatory board of barbed wire:
Outside, and again outside of Hollywood all together, is this wonderful collection of old mining machinery, like the Cossack Stamp Mill, dragged here with love from Bland, NM and now being restored to working condition.
And amazing bits of machinery rusting:
Perhaps the most memorable exhibit is inside:
But to return to Hollywood, here is the monument to the wonderful Tom Mix, who died here in a car accident — much further down the highway, but it seemed to fit here:
And a monument to the leisure activities of many a good resident of Arizona. I miss it.
1956 Gunfight at the OK Corral – Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas
1960 Apache Trail Documentary – Documentary of Superstition Wilderness
1960 Have Gun, Will Travel – Richard Boone
1961 Bonanza – Lorne Greene, Michael Landon, Dan Blocker
1961 Stagecoach West – Wayne Rogers, Robert Bray
1961 The Purple Hills – Gene Nelson, Kent Taylor
1961 The Broken Land – Jack Nicholson, Kent Taylor
1962 Showdown at Redrock – Frank Wilcox, Leland Wainscott
1964 Blood on the Arrow – Dale Robertson, Martha Hyer
1964 Arizona Raiders – Audie Murphy, Michael Dante
1965 Death Valley Days – Ronald Reagan
1965 General Motors – Lorne Greene
1966 Death Valley Days – Robert Taylor
1967 Ice Capades in the Desert – Carolyn O’Kelly, John Labrecque
1967 Pepsi’s ‘Girl on the Go’ – Corinne Calvet
1967 Dundee and the Culhane – Warren Oates, John Drew Barrymore
1967 Death Valley Days – Robert Taylor
1968 Hang Fire – Jerry Vance, Lindsay Crosby
1968 Charro! – Elvis Presley, Ina Balin
1968 Will Rogers Institute – John Wayne
1968 Death Valley Days – Robert Taylor
1969 Ballad of Cable Hogue – Jason Robards, Stella Stevens
1969 A Time for Dying – Audie Murphy, Richard Lapp
1971 Second Chance – Brian Keith, Rosie Grier
1972 Guns of a Stranger – Marty Robbins, Chill Wills
1976 The Haunted – Aldo Ray, Virginia Mayo
1977 Sweet Savage – Aldo Ray, Charles Samples
1977 Jacob and Jacob – Alan Hale, Jake Jacobs
1978 Blue Jay Summer – Ken McConnell, Teresa Jones
1983 The Gambler: The Adventure Continues – Kenny Rogers, Linda Evans
1994 Blind Justice – Armande Assante, Jack Black
1994 Playboy Goes West – Royce O’Donnell, Ed Birmingham, Hank Sheffer
1995 Ford Motor Company – Waylon Jennings