MOAB, THE MOVIE MAKING CAPITOL OF THE WEST

The DukeMY home town of Moab, Utah, is my passion and my niche.

When I was growing up, Moab was a small Mormon town of 920.  I remember the population sign along  the way into town, well.

Moab has since been  discovered by the tourists and the mountain bikers, and it has more than trippled in size of population; with the population during the tourist season being much larger.

My grandparents on both sides were pioneers into Moab Valley.  No, they were not LDS  pioneers, but they were diligent, hard working people who saw opportunities in the town.  

The Clark family came to Moab from Colorado, originally to mine gold in Miner’s Basin.  Grandfather Clark eventually became an owner of the Ides Theater and a part owner of Moab Transportation. He was also a large property owner.

And the Kirks??? The Kirks were always cowboys, cowboys.  And where else better to be a cowboy than Grand and San Juan Counties in Utah.?  They did it well.  A little rustling may have been done by the older generation, but who knows for sure?

My Father, Buck Kirk, was a cowboy in the best sense of  the word.  He was never seen without his boots  and his Stetson hat.  He only listened to classic country music, and he was an active member of the National Cattlemen’s Association.

Hand in hand with his chosen profession as a Cattleman, he became a landowner.  At one time he owned extensive property along the Colorado River,  and this land became a favorite with the moviemakers of Hollywood.

We were quite often guests on the movie location, and at the same table were seen, John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Victor Maclagen, and famous musicians like The Sons of the Pioneers, and Stan Jones, the writer of “Ghost Riders in the Sky”.

It was the practice of the movie makers fo use locals for extras.We local residents also rented our horses to the movies, and my Dad’s pinto was usually seen being ridden by the Indian  Chief.

The movie I best remember being filmed in Moab, is “Rio Grande”.  It is the most beautiful, sensual movie that I believe has ever been made.  The feelings between John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara are so erotic and full of passion, it must be seen to be believed.  And this was made while they were fully clothed and without touching.  If you are into movies, this one is a masterpiece. The director was, of course, John Ford.

Rio Grande was one of the first movies made in Moab,  but it was not the FIRST.  “Wagonmaster” starring Ward Bond was the first.   Wagonmaster was also a great movie, and it depicted the trials of a Mormon caravan on its way out West.

There were many more movies made in Moab through the years, and they are still being made there.  One of the most notable was “Thelma and Louise”.  The suicide scene at the end of the movie, was not filmed at the Grand Canyon.  It was  filmed at Dead Horse Point, near Moab.  Of course, dummies were used, and I understand they did 2 takes.  Most of the moviemaking scene in Moab, has now given way more to commercials and videos.

How many of you over 30 remember the Chevrolet on top of Castle Rock?   It was a stripped down Chevrolet, in order for  a helicopter to place it up there.  It was a beautiful and unforgettable comercial, and I have been a Chevrolet buyer and driver ever since.

The following is a list of movies made or partially made in Moab:   This list is taken from a You  Tube playlist montage and I found it on a Moab Adventure Center site:

MOAB MOVIE HISTORY

1989                  Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade

1990                  Thelma and Louise

1993                   City Slickers II

1996                   Con Air

1998                   Galaxy Quest

1999                   Mission Impossible II

2002                   Austen Powers, Goldmember

2009                   Star Trek

2010                   127 Hours

2013                   The Lone Ranger (Johnny Depp)

Popular activities in/around Moab:  River Rafting,

Paddle Boarding, Jet Boat Tours, Hummer Tours, Jeep Rentals, Arches National Park and Canyonlands Tours.

see you there !!!

movies

 

16 thoughts on “MOAB, THE MOVIE MAKING CAPITOL OF THE WEST”

  1. Wow so many movies have been filmed in Moab! Some of these are my favourite movies (the Lone Ranger, Indiana Jones and Star Trek) and I had absolutely no idea they were all filmed in the same place! This was a very interesting post and thank you so much for sharing! I have learnt something I didn’t know before 🙂

    1. Celeste…..what a beautiful name….and I thank you so much Celeste for the nice comment.  Moab is my niche and my passion, and I love writing about it   Thanks again,

      Janice

  2. Thank you for this article, it is really entertaining, I totally agree with you Rio grande was a masterpiece I mean the movie deserves collecting award every year. The romantic moments in the movie looks too real. I really love the movie thank you for this article i enjoyed reading it.

  3. That is quite a rich history. What I would have given to meet the Duke himself. I used to be a huge fan. I guess I have fallen away since I was younger. I even used to do a pretty decent John Wayne impersonation, or so I was told. I imagine that it was an incredible environment to grow up in. Thank you for sharing and now I must go watch some movies. 

  4. I must say that this is very interesting article. I have heard about Moab but I did not know that place was so popular for movies. It is unbelievable how they represent the movie on some locations and in reality, it is about Moab. My dad is a big fan of Rio Grande but I must show him this information.

    1. Hi Daniel:  Thank you so much for the nice comment!  I am happy that you have heard of Moab.  It is a “cool” place now, and to think that I was in college many years ago, I was  teased about being from such a “hick” town.  I hope your Dad rents Rio Grande and watches it again.  It is John Wayne and John Ford at their best.

      Thanks again,

      Janice

  5. Wow!!  I just loved reading your post!  What a family history you had!  I bet you could really tell some interesting stories about your family cowboys…  Where is Moab in relation to Salt Lake City?  I have been there.  It must be a beautiful place if so many movies have been made there.

    Speaking of movies,  I have seen some of those you have mentioned. After reading this, I feel like I will be renting some movies very soon.  I think especially Rio Grande.  My mom was such a big fan of John Wayne.  What an opportunity to have an opportunity to be extras in these movies.  I’m envious!

    Thanks for telling us about Moab and what a great place it is.

    Lynn

    1. Oh Lyn….you and your mother will love Rio Grande!  It is John Wayne at his best!!  And than you so much for the comment.  I do appreciate the comment and your interest in Moab. and my cowboy family.  Unfortunately, I was never a good “rider”…just did not take to being good at it.  I guess I was too spoiled and was not even able to saddle a horse, as it was always done for me.   A couple of my girl friends got jobs as doubles in the movies, but I was not a good enough rider.

      Thanks again for the comment Lyn

  6. I enjoyed reading your article on Moab, Utah, I cant help but look forward to visiting .You have painted a picture of a warm town with olden charm , and all the movies that have been made here make it an alluring destination.The history of the town is very interesting, it must feel great to be part of this history. I know you have mentioned that Moab has grown into a great tourist destination ,what are the accommodation facilities like?and are they affordable for Those who want to Vacation there?

    1. Thank you for your comment.  Moab is a beautiful place, but I will be honest.  Not much to do except sightsee and window shop, unless you are a mountain biker or a jeeper.  Acomadations are pretty high during tourist season, but are less in the fall and winter.  It is a warm climate.

  7. I have never heard of Moab Utah and was impervious to the Hollywood connection that has been going on there. It sounds like the topograpy and just the area in general is highly photogenic and creates the perfect old west experience for filming.

    How long did the average movie production last in Moab? Was the majority of the movies shot in the summer months or did the production engineers favor a different season?

    I was an extra in Kentucky Woman and remember the whole town having a certain buzz about it as the producers shot the different scenes around Paintsville Kentucky. Did you experiece the same kind of thing in Moab?

    This is very interesting and I am sure if anyone was vacationing anywhere near that area that it would make for a good place to visit. It sounds like the tourists have found Moab as beautiful as the Hollywood producers.

    1. Hi Paul, than you so much for the very welcome comment.  

      Your questions brought a surge of homesick to me, as I remember so well the times the movies were made in Moab.  Yes, there was always a ‘buzz” around the town, and much conversation with the Moab residents who were working in the movie being made at the time.  I went off to college during the height of the movie making, but I do remember several incidents.

      During the filming of “Rio Grande”. it was HOT and Maureen O;Hara did not want to travel back and forth to town, so it was arranged that she would stay on site with one of the local rancher’s families.  I heard both that she was very unpleasant to that she was a “great lady”  Don’t know which was true.  Also, the word around town was, that John Wayne could not ride a horse, and a local cowboy was his double.

      Thanks again Paul.

  8. Guess it’s an exciting experience to be on a set, especially when it’s in the place where you live. So now I know where three of my favorite movies were made – at least the name of the place – since I’ve never been to Moab. Am curious though, do you know why the place was named Moab? I know that the name is Biblical but if I recall correctly, Moab always had negative connotations in the Bible. Your discription of John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara in the movie “Rio Grande” provides nostalgia for the old day when so much was said with so little. Alas, those days will not return. 

  9. Hi Russell: Thanks so much for commenting on my post. I am not sure why Moab was named “Moab” but, no doubt it was named by the Mormon pioneers. So glad you agree with me about the “suggested” romance being more intriguing then nudity.

    Thanks again
    Russell

    Janice

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