A western-themed movie set, Old Tucson Studios first brought Hollywood stars to Tucson in 1939. Columbia pictures used the studios as the backdrop for the movie Arizona. Columbia selected William Holden and Jean Arthur to star in that early western.
Columbia’s decision to film Arizona in Tucson, Arizona made that Arizona city the scene of a Hollywood first. While MGM studios had filmed parts of some movies along the Ballona Creek in Culver City, they had not made a whole movie outside of a studio. Arizona was the first movie for which every shot called for placement of the cameras at a spot outside of a studio.
Soon after 1939, Americans seemed more interested in war movies than westerns. Hence the making of movies in Tucson, Arizona did not take place again until the 1950s. Only then did Hollywood stars spend their nights in the City hotels. Tucson, Arizona residents could sometimes catch a glimpse of Hollywood legends such as Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas.
Later, John Wayne strode out of the Palace Saloon, a part of Old Tucson Studios in Tucson, Arizona. Wayne starred in Rio Bravo, McLintock!, El Dorado and Rio Lobo. Today one of Wayne’s old friends manages the functions and activities in Old Tucson Studios.
While Columbia Studios made John Wayne a presence in Tucson, Arizona, MGM Studios kept Wayne’s name alive in Culver City, California, the old home of those Studios. John Wayne stayed at the Culver City Hotel, lodging that is walking distance from both Culver Studios and Sony Studios. Pictures of John Wayne dot the walls of the Culver City Hotel.
Today a visitor in Culver City can not readily identify the old Ince Studios. Ironically, the owner of those studios was one of the first people to try filming a part of a western outside of a studio. Not living anywhere close to Tucson, Arizona, the man in charge of Ince Studios had to look around a small section of southern California for his “dream” location.
Eventually he did find a waterway that looked like the sort of creek that once held canoes. Ince had his cameras film cast members dressed as Native Americans, as they rode in some studio-manufactured canoes. Now in the 21st Century students in the Culver City schools sometimes gather on the same creek.
It is that creek that underscores the vast distance between Tucson, Arizona and Culver City, California. A visitor to Arizona would have trouble finding such a creek in Tucson, Arizona. A visitor to Culver City who followed the path of Ballona Creek would find that the waters of that Creek empty into a much larger body of water.
The waters of Ballona Creek flow west from Culver City. Their westward journey takes them to some southern California wetlands. Beyond those wetlands lays the vast Pacific Ocean.