The City of Santa Clarita’s 26th annual Cowboy Festival is heading back to William S. Hart Park on April 13 and 14 for a weekend celebration of Western heritage. As we get ready to cowboy up for this year’s festival, let’s look at some movies set in the old west that were filmed right here in Santa Clarita.
Film and television production in Santa Clarita have been practically synonymous with Westerns throughout the years and there are many reasons why. In the formative days of the genre, being just over the hill from Hollywood, Santa Clarita remained a rural and spacious community that attracted many of the top names of the day including Tex Ritter, Tom Mix, William S. Hart, Gary Cooper and John Wayne, to name a few. There was true cowboy culture in Santa Clarita so capturing that spirit was an easy task.
While the Western stars who pioneered filming in this town might have not have imagined it at the time, Santa Clarita has since grown to become the third largest city in Los Angeles County. Santa Clarita has hung onto its Western roots and has remained a beacon for Western productions. Part of that isn’t just because of history, it’s because Santa Clarita is still home to a multitude of movie ranches, open space, sound stages and plenty of that cowboy culture. Speaking of Cowboy culture, the original home of the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival was at the famous Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio. Melody Ranch has been home base to the lion’s share of Western productions going back to when it was called Monogram Studios in 1915. With its signature, western Main Street and film industry pedigree, the movie ranch has soared in the last few decades with current filming of major Western projects.
The HBO original series Deadwood made its home at Melody Ranch from 2004-2006. The David Milch original starred Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane and Molly Parker and lasted three seasons. Melody Ranch doubled as the namesake of the show, Deadwood, South Dakota whose famous inhabitants included Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok. The series developed a cult following and in 2018 a long-awaited Deadwood movie was shot on the same streets at Melody Ranch as the original series. Look for that to be released sometime this year!
In 2012, Melody Ranch was home to the Quentin Tarantino Western Django Unchained, which starred Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz. The movie shot heavily at Melody Ranch with extensive use of the trademark streetscape. The ranch doubled as multiple settings in the film and was nominated for best picture. Django Unchained ultimately won two Academy Awards, including best supporting actor for Christoph Waltz and Tarantino winning for best original screenplay.
Very recently, Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio was the primary location for the first two seasons of the HBO show Westworld. The sci-fi thriller used the ranch extensively for the backdrop of the old west settings. Westworld also shot quite a bit on location in Santa Clarita at different movie ranches in addition to the Paramount Movie Ranch in Agoura, which was damaged in the California wildfires.
Going back to the William S. Hart picture Tumbleweeds from 1925, Bonanza and the Adventures of Rin Tin Tin from the 1950’s and 1960’s, and through today, Santa Clarita’s rich history of Western tradition and spirit continue to thrive. For more on filming in Santa Clarita please visit www.FilmSantaClarita.com and for information on our world-famous Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival go to CowboyFestival.org.
The City of Santa Clarita’s Film Office was started in 2002 and today processes over 500 permits per year, leading to approximately 1,300 film days! Filming is a great benefit to the community, adding over $30-million of positive economic impact per year to the local economy. For a list of what has filmed in Santa Clarita, please visit www.FilmSantaClarita.com and follow the City’s film office at Instagram.com/FilmSantaClarita
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