by Jane St. Clair
Yes sir, Pardner, here at Old Tucson Studios you can return now to those thrilling days of yesteryear when the daring and resourceful riders of the plains
led the fight for law and order in the early West.
Back then you knew the good guys from the bad guys! Men were tall and strong and grunted in one-syllable utterances as they rode their fiery horses at the speed of light in great clouds of dust. Back then women were women in their dance hall dresses –women of the Wild West who spent all their time crying and waving good-bye to men!
Old Tucson Studios or Hollywood in the Desert played a big role in creating the Legend of the Old West. Hundreds of movies and TV shoes were made here, and stars like Val Kilmer, Steve Martin, Paul Newman, Jimmy Stewart, Kirk Douglas, Liz Taylor and of course the Duke himself (John Wayne, you pilgrim, you) acted right here where you are standing right now.
As you walk around Old Tucson, you get deja vue because you have indeed seen this landscape and these buildings all before – in productions like Tombstone, Hombre, Bonanza, Gunfight at OK Corral, and many more.
The town is not a town in that fewer than half of its 75 buildings are “practical,” meaning that they have rooms in them. Thirty-two buildings, including the Mission, are just walls — one-dimensional facades. When you see how tacky and small the town looks in real life, you really gain respect for the stars’ acting ability.
Old Tucson has a steam locomotive named “The Reno,” a stagecoach and a tiny fake river that can look miles long and fathoms deep. Amazing! Old Tucson is a party for kids who ride the carousel, stagecoach, miniature railroad, and semi-scary mine cars into a dark copper mine. They can also pan for gold and pet some jaded goats and a pony, and one done-it-all rooster.
The coolest thing about Old Tucson, though, is here you see adults getting paid to have fun all day. The coolest job on planet Earth must be that of an Old Tucson stuntman. These dudes get to shoot it out and duke it out in gun duels and fake fights that include incredible falls from tall buildings.
The only problem is the fake fights take the glory out of it.These men slug it out without any physical contact, and the guy who falls three stories lands on a mattress.
Old Tucson once had an enormous sound stage full of costumes and souvenirs, but it burned down in 1995. They still have a pretty good collection of posters and costumes, even John Wayne’s costume is here from Rio Bravo.
So cowboy up and get on down to Old Tucson.