Old Tucson Studios have been at the center of location shooting in Southern Arizona for 90 years.
Four Westerns with music by Dimitri Tiomkin were filmed at Old Tucson during the 1950s. Strange Lady in Town, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Last Train from Gun Hill, and Rio Bravo all took advantage of the Western sets and surrounding locations.
To make the film, Arizona, Columbia Pictures leased some 300 acres of land from Pima County in 1939. Located just south of Tucson, the studio built elaborate sets in the desert location filled with cacti, including the iconic saguaro, at the foot of jagged picturesque mountains. The investment did not pay off at the box office and the sets languished until the Tucson Junior Chamber of Commerce picked up the ball and Hollywood returned.
A developer from Kansas City, Robert “Bob” Shelton, reinvigorated the location beginning in 1958 and opened Old Tucson Studios to the public in 1960. The Robert Shelton collection of scripts from Old Tucson Studios are held by the Margaret Herrick Library in Beverly Hills, California.
Part back lot, part museum, and part amusement park, Old Tucson draws some 400,000 visitors who can experience the Old West and recognize movie and television sets, from The High Chaparrel to The Three Amigos.
These days, “Nightfall,” the site’s annual Halloween event and ultimate Western-themed scarefest, has become one of Tucson’s premiere haunted attractions.