Moviemaking History at Colorado National Monument

Moab, Utah, is the moviemaking capital of this part of the West; over the decades a number of movies have been filmed in the Moab area, including the Hollywood westerns Wagonmaster (1949) and Rio Grande (1950), which thoroughly utilized the area’s dramatic landscape. In more recent decades, Thelma and Louise (1985) and Geronimo (1993) were filmed in Moab, and The Lone Ranger has been filming there this summer.

Closer to home, at least two Hollywood motion pictures have filmed at Colorado National Monument. Some locals still remember the movie American Flyers, filmed in 1984 and starring Kevin Costner in one of his early film roles.

In 1949, Devil’s Doorway, a western directed by Anthony Mann and starring Robert Taylor, also featured scenes shot at Colorado National Monument. Taylor played an American Indian who was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism in the Civil War, but encountered bigotry upon his return home to Wyoming. Filming at Colorado National Monument took place at No Thoroughfare Canyon on the east side of the park, and lasted approximately two weeks. Devil’s Doorway, released in 1950, was an important film because it was one of the first movies to break away from the existing Hollywood stereotypes of Indians and discuss the real prejudice that existed. It received little public attention, however, because another film on the same topic, Broken Arrow, was released the same year. Devil’s Doorway is largely forgotten now, although it is shown occasionally on Turner Classic Movies.

All photographs, courtesy of the National Park Service.  Article by Denise Hight.