THE “REEL” WORLD OF MOAB
In 1949, the television industry had just begun to blossom, creating a threat to
the movie industry in Hollywood. In other news, the Korean War was starting,
Liz Taylor was dating Vic Damone, and a famous film director, John Ford discovered
John Ford had just finished his fourth movie filmed in Monument Valley and
needed a change of scenery for his next movie, Wagonmaster. He came up to
Moab and went to the office of L.L. “Bish” Taylor, editor of the local newspaper.
The two discussed the possibilities of making movies in the area and Bish was
quick to see the economic potential to the Moab area. Ford was introduced to
George White who operated a ranch along the Colorado River, near Castle Valley.
The White Ranch, in its pristine setting, would later become the location for
For a panoramic view of the area, George took Ford out on a gravel bar at
Nine Mile Bottom, where he could look down the Colorado River past Fisher
Towers to the LaSal Mountains. According to George, Ford exclaimed, “That’s
the greatest sight I’ve ever seen”. Ford declared the production of Wagonmaster
a “go” and proceeded to film the perfect spot for river crossing and the
perfect bluff at Fisher Towers. So began Moab’s long association with the film
industry and would never be quite the same again.
films were mostly
Boone, Rock Hudson, Henry Fonda, Richard Widmark,
visiting and staying in Moab. “John Wayne Slept Here”
says the Apache Motel on 400 East.
The more modern movies started with Thelma and
Louise that filmed in Arches and Canyonlands National
Parks; and the famous leap off spot – Fossil Point. Tom
Cruise was hanging around for climbing scenes in Mission
Impossible II. The Moab desert really showed off
in 127 Hours as James Franco survived in Blue John Canyon, Horseshoe Canyon, Sand Flats and even
the Moab Regional Hospital played a part! One of the latest films, The Lone Ranger, returned again to Professor Valley,
but also left Johnny Depp hanging out at Fossil Point.
The Moab to Monument Valley Film Commission
holds the title of the longest running
film commission in North America as Moab
has been a part of commercials, movies, TV
shows, and music videos for well over 6o years.
Some of the motion pictures filmed in and
around Moab were classics – others too quickly
forgotten. All had one trait in common: they
displayed the incredible scenery of our Canyon
Country for the World.
Article and Photos courtesy of:
Museum of Moab
118 East Center St
Moab, UT 84532