Western Trips

Thursday, May 5, 2011

El Rancho Hotel / Hollywood On Route 66

route 66 sign
Western movies were at their highpoint during the 1940's and 50's and there probably wasn't a busier area for filming than in the Gallup, New Mexico area.

There were a few reasons for this. The rugged scenery all around the Gallup/ Western New Mexico area offered ideal natural settings. Desert, mountains, red rocks, canyons, cliffs...they were all there. Secondly, Gallup was easy to reach being on the Southern Pacific rail line as well as directly on Route 66.

The Stars Descend on Gallup New Mexico

Discussing western film making during the 40's and 50's, a reference to John Ford (pictured at right) must be made. Ford directed about 140 movies over a 50 year career spanning all the way back to silent films and was a pioneer of "on  location" shooting.

While having directed many diverse movie genres he is best known for his "westerns".
john fordJohn Ford has been referred as the premier American director and found Gallup to be an excellent location for movie making.

In addition to the scenery, the Gallup area offered a good supply of livestock, needed for making westerns, and a good supply of people to serve as movie extras including Native Americans. Because movie production requires a lot of people apart from the actors, the film industry was a boon to the local economy. Tourism also picked up when word spread of a new production in town and it's accompanying stars.

dragoon mountains
The list of stars who appeared in movies shot around Gallup seems almost endless. Humphrey Bogart, Ronald Reagan, Spencer Tracey, Burt Lancaster, Gregory Peck, Joan Crawford, Doris Day, Kirk Douglas, Lucille Ball and many more. The list is a who's who of Hollywood during the mid 1900's.

A partial list of films shot there include, Billy The Kid, Four Faces West, The Sea of Grass, A Distant Trumpet, Escape From Fort Bravo, Only The Valiant, Ace In The Hole, Cheyenne Autumn. Also, a part of John Ford directed The Grapes of Wrath was filmed near Gallup.

The stars traveling to Gallup needed a place to stay and the El Rancho (pictured left), built in 1937 by the brother of director D.W.Griffith, was the residence of choice for many of them. This is an old image taken before Route 66 was widened but the hotel is still there today and in business.

 If you're a movie fan and traveling through Gallup on Interstate-40, a stop at the El Rancho is a must. The lobby area still has it's old west theme and rooms are named after the celebrities who stayed there. Also a lot of great pictures and autographs on display.

New Mexico and the Film Industry

canyon de chelly picture
While the western genre films are not being churned out the same way they were in the 50's, New Mexico continues to be a top state for movie production and post production.

The scenery throughout the state lends itself to unique photography and many locales are seen on movie credits, such as Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Santa Rosa, Socorro, Taos and others. Most recently from the time of this writing, 3:10 To Yuma was shot almost entirely in the Santa Fe area. Another interesting short story is that of the old western movie ranches where many of your favorite western's were filmed.

Web site for the El Rancho Hotel in Gallup is: www.elranchohotel.com

There are two interesting movie ranches near Santa Fe, NM that have served as sets for dozens of western films. Bonanza Creek Ranch and the Eaves Movie Ranch. The web sites below will give good information on these.

(Article copyright Western Trips. Photos from the public domain)




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