Movie History in Color Country
By Dixie Brunner
You may experience a sense of “deja vu” visiting southern Utah. While this may be your first trip, you’ve probably already visited via TV or the silver screen! Movie making was a large part of this area’s history from the 1930’s-1990’s, when 300 movies and TV shows were filmed here. The blockbuster Disney movie, John Carter, which premiered in March, was filmed here. About 275 people from Utah worked on the film, many from Kane County. John Carter continues southern Utah’s tradition as a prime filming location because of its particular and diverse landscape. The story line of John Carter takes place on Mars, and the producers and location crew found Kane County’s red rock landscape as close as they could come. Within an hour’s distance you have a huge diversity of landscape – from sand dune deserts – to western landscape – to high country forest. The most beautiful scenery you’ll ever come across is located within southern Utah. To sate visiting movie buffs, you might consider a tour of the old movie sets dotting the area. While some are in disrepair, the locations stimulate the imagination. Paria Movie Set This movie set was nestled at the bottom of a towering, multi-colored sandstone canyon in what locals refer to as ‘the Paria.’ The Paria Set can be accessed by taking Highway 89 east of Kanab for 35 miles, and turning north into a dirt parking lot with a stone monument to the Pareah Townsite. The movie set was used to film western movies and TV shows from 1963-1991 such as Gunsmoke and Sergeants Three. While the movie set withstood the test of gunfights and saloon brawls, it couldn’t withstand the ravages of nature. Flooding about 10 years ago left a 20 foot gully running through the middle of the three-building town. Through a cooperative effort between local volunteers and the BLM, the buildings were dismantled and rebuilt on more stable ground above the original location. Vandals have since burned the buildings that had required so much cooperative labor. Johnson Canyon Movie Set This large set can be seen by traveling east on Highway 89 ten miles, and then turning north and traveling on Johnson Canyon Road for five miles. The set was built for Westward the Women and is not open to the public. Kanab Canyon Movie Set Located about five miles north of Kanab near Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, the Canyon was the location for a number of movies, including The Lone Ranger, Westward the Women and The Apple Dumpling Gang. Not far past the Best Friends visitor center is a barn from One Little Indian. While few significant film-making sights remain, one can imagine the wagons rolling down the hill in Women or the Lone Ranger’s horse Silver rearing on the red sandstone plateau. Parry Lodge While no films were made at Parry Lodge, it was a movie-making hotspot for years. The hotel was the place where scores of famous movie actors and producers stayed while filming in Kanab. The rooms are named after some of the famous folks who slept there. Guests today can stay in the “Ronald Reagan” or “James Arness” room. A mini museum of signed autographs and photos can be viewed in the lobby and dining room of Parry Lodge. Little Hollywood Land Step back in time for an “up close and personal” view of movie memorabilia, and better yet – it’s free and shady! Little Hollywood Land is located in Kanab at 297 West Center Street. On the back lot is a western town comprised of original and maintained sets from the movies Desperate Hours, One Little Indian and Outlaw Josey Wales.