Monday, December 13, 2010

Hollywood at the U Ranch

December 13, 2010 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Movie set barn used on state lease land by film industry.
An old friend of mine wrote a book about the Superstition Wilderness Area and the many American Forestry Association trail rides he made into the area. John Dahlmann served as a representative for the American Forestry Association for more than twenty years. John had ridden horses on trail rides in many parts of the world including Alaska, Siberia, Morocco, Sinai Desert, and other interesting places. However, John's true love was the Superstition Wilderness Area and it's beauty. He rode with just about all of the outfitters from DeGraffenreid to Billy Clark Crader.

John had a special way of describing the Superstition Wilderness Area and it beauty as if it were part of his soul. He eventually moved to Apache Junction and retired in the area. John was born in 1911 and rode horses all his life. Trail riding was a way of life for John Dahlmann.

When John started riding with Billy and Rowean Crader in the late 1960's he ended up becoming friends with Ted and Marion De Grazia. Ted also enjoyed riding in the Superstition Wilderness Area. It was this common link that brought the two of them together. They eventually published a book together entitled A Tiny Bit Of God's Creation. John wrote the book and Ted furnished the artwork that included some of his Superstition Mountain sketches. Today this book is quite scarce and hard to find.

Not to long ago I was re-reading A Tiny Bit Of God's Creation and I came up on story John Dahlmann told about an old movie set near the Quarter U Ranch in Pinal Movie County near the end of the Peralta road off of U.S. Highway 60.

The movie set on state land near Quarter Circle U Ranch. In 1957 The Gunfight At The O.K. Corral starring Burt Lancaster was filmed here. Photo by Dan Hopper.
The site of this old movie set was approximately three-quarters of mile west of the Quarter Circle U Ranch.There is nothing remaining of the old movie set today. When I worked at the Quarter Circle U Ranch in the late fifties much of this old movie set was standing. The set was used for filming the 1957 movie, The Gunfight At The O.K. Corral starring Burt Lancaster and Angela Lansberry. A portion of the main street building props and buildings were still standing. Also the big old barn was standing across the street. This old movie set was a lease agreement between the State of Arizona and the movie industry. The Barkley's tried for several years to purchase the land used for the movie set and buildings.

John description of accidently walking into the movie set while they were filming is an interesting story. John tells the story something like this.

"We were going to Peralta Campground to hike up Peralta Canyon to Fremont Pass to get a good view of Weaver's Needle. It was at this point we saw something going on over near the Quarter Circle U Ranch. My curiosity dictated we should investigate.

We walked across the canyon from Peralta Trailhead due south for about a mile. It was a good thing we walked across. If we hadn't walked we would have been stopped. An Arizona Highway Patrolman was guarding the entrance to the Quarter Circle U Ranch for the film company. By walking onto the movie set dressed in our western apparel we were treated as part of the cast. We mingled on the set without being asked to leave. Burt Lancaster did not offer to shake our hand or mingle with us.

Our small group will never forget this adventure or the old movie set near the Quarter Circle U Ranch."

Over the years several movie were shot at this site, but I have not been able to find a list of those movies. Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis did a film shoot at the site for the movie Partners.

When Earle Stanley Gardner was in the area working on his book, Hunting Lost Mines By Helicopter, he used the old movie set for his headquarters. A few times we observed commercial photographs shooting material for advertisements.

Other than this the old site was not used after 1965. This old movie set eventual was torn down and hauled off because of neglect more than anything. Hopefully this old movie set will be remembered in the future and mentioned.