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Hollywood’s Ghost Towns

June 6, 2014

Westerns were incredibly popular in the mid-20th century. Amazingly, many of the sets used in these films are still standing and you can even visit some of them. Here are just a few, pilgrim.

Old Tucson (Tucson, Arizona)

OK Corral Ghost TownsThis fake, 19th century boom town has been around since 1939 when it was built for Arizona, a western starring William Holden and Jean Arthur. Since then, it’s been used in over 300 movies and TV projects. Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas rolled through Old Tucson during the filming of 1957’s Gunfight at the OK Corral. More recently, it appeared in the 1986 comedy Three Amigos! and Tombstone (1993). It’s now open to the public seasonally and offers tours along with amusement park rides and a shooting gallery.

The Melody Ranch (Newhall, California)

This set, which features a ranch and a town, dates back to 1915 and was once owned by Gene Autry. The Singing Cowboy bought the place in 1952 and rented it out to studios to film movies there starring Gary Cooper, John Wayne, and others. A fire destroyed most of the ranch’s buildings in 1962, but Autry continued to use the ranch to house his favorite horse, Champion. When the horse died in 1990, he sold the property to two brothers who rebuilt the town. In recent years, it has appeared in the Quentin Tarantino western Django Unchained and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2013 comeback film The Last Stand. The ranch also offers tours and a museum filled with movie props and, inexplicably, cars like The General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard.

Almeria (Tabernas Desert, Spain)

This town appeared in several spaghetti westerns like The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly as well as over 200 films and TV shows. When westerns fell out of favor with audiences in the 1970s, Almeria was abandoned. It’s now a full-fledged ghost town, but it’s still in good shape. Many of the structures, including a collection of tepees, remain standing. There’s also a hillside lined with stone buildings used in Lawrence of Arabia and Cleopatra. It still draws the occasional tour group.


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