A watercolor scene from Old Tucson, movie studio, before it burned in 1995.
The studios are located west of Tucson, AZ beside the Tucson Mountains and the Saguaro National Park.
Old Tucson Studios was originally built in 1938 by Columbia Pictures
on a Pima County-owned site as a replica of 1860s Tucson
for the movie Arizona, starring William Holden and Jean Arthur.
Workers built more than 50 buildings in 40 days.
Many of those structures are still standing.
After Arizona completed filming, the location lay dormant for several years, until the filming of The Bells of St. Mary's (1945), starring Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman. Other early movies filmed on this set included The Last Round-Up (1947) with Gene Autry and Winchester '73 (1950) with James Stewart and The Last Outpost with Ronald Reagan. The 1950s saw the filming of Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold (1958), and Cimarron (1959) among others.
The park grew building by building with each movie filmed on its dusty streets. John Wayne starred in four movies at Old Tucson Studios. Rio Bravo (1959) added a saloon, bank building and doctor's office;
McLintock! (1963) added the McLintock Hotel; El Dorado (1966) brought a renovation of the storefronts on Front Street;
and with Rio Lobo (1970) came a cantina, a granite-lined creek, a jail and a ranch house.
In 1968, a 13,000 square foot (1,208 square meter) soundstage was built to give Old Tucson Studios greater movie-making versatility. The first film to use the soundstage was Young Billy Young (1968), starring Robert Mitchum and Angie Dickinson.
The park also began adding tours, rides and shows for the entertainment of visitors, most notably gunfights staged in the "streets" by stunt performers.
Old Tucson served as an ideal location for shooting scenes for TV series like NBC's The High Chaparral (1967�1971) where the ranch house survived the 1995 fire: Little House on the Prairie, and later Father Murphy, featuring Merlin Olsen and "Petrocelli". Three Amigos was a popular comedy shot there in the 80s, utilizing the church set. From 1989 to 1992 the show The Young Riders filmed here and at the Mescal sister site. The main street appears prominently in 1990s westerns such as Tombstone.
A large print of this painting now is featured on the wall of the Los Favoritos Taco Shop in Gilbert, AZ, along with a print of my "Red Hot Peppers" painting!
April 28th, 2010
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