Old Tucson is an American movie studio and theme park just west of Tucson, Arizona, next to the Tucson Mountains and close to the western part of Saguaro National Park. Built in 1939 for the movie Arizona (1940), it has been used for the filming of many movies and television westerns since then, such as Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), Rio Bravo (1959), El Dorado (1966), and Little House on the Prairie TV series of the 1970s-1980s. It was opened to the public in 1960, and historical tours are offered about the movies filmed there, along with live cast entertainment featuring stunt shows and shootouts.
Old Tucson Estimated Location: 32.217466, -111.130307
Old Tucson was originally built in 1939 by Columbia Pictures on a Pima County-owned site as a replica of 1860s’ era Tucson for the movie Arizona (1940), starring William Holden and Jean Arthur. Workers built more than 50 buildings in 40 days. Many of those structures are still standing.
In 1959, entrepreneur Robert Shelton leased the property from Pima County and began to restore the aging facility. Old Tucson re-opened in 1960, as both a film studio and a theme park. The park grew building by building with each movie filmed on its dusty streets. John Wayne starred in four movies at Old Tucson. Rio Bravo (1959) added a saloon, bank building and doctor’s office; McLintock! (1963) added the McLintock Hotel; El Dorado (1966) brought a renovation of the storefronts on Front Street; and with Rio Lobo (1970) came a cantina, a granite-lined creek, a jail and a ranch house.
On April 24, 1995, a fire destroyed much of Old Tucson Studios. Buildings, costumes and memorabilia were lost in the blaze. Among the memorabilia destroyed was the wardrobe from Little House on the Prairie. Also lost in the blaze was the only copy of a short film about the history of Old Tucson Studios. This film included rare behind the scenes footage of stars, such as William Holden, John Wayne and Angie Dickinson. The Reno, a steam locomotive from the Virginia and Truckee Railroad on static display in the park, was also badly damaged.
In 2011, Old Tucson embarked on a project to build new movie-quality sets that fill out the park, and restore the pre-fire feel of close-together buildings, providing the look and depth of a genuine old west town circa 1865-1900. “After the rebuild of Old Tucson following the 1995 fire, the town just didn’t have the same look and feel,” says Old Tucson CEO and General Manager Pete Mangelsdorf. “We started discussions with Bob Shelton several years ago to develop a plan to fill the empty space in Town Square with movie quality sets that bring the magic back.”
Below are the rest of the images from Old Tucson in Arizona.
Images property of Chromoscience.