TUCSON, Arizona (WHO-TV) — During the winter months, many Iowans head to warmer climates, with many taking flights to Phoenix. Just a couple of hours south of Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, there is Old Tucson, a place where Iowa native John Wayne left his mark with four movies shot there. People can visit there, as the set is still standing.
The Duke shot ‘Rio Bravo’ in 1959, ‘McLintock’ in 1963, ‘El Dorado’ in 1966, and ‘Rio Lobo’ in 1970.
“John Wayne would come into Rio Rico and stay with Fitzgerald family,” said Marty Freese, who is an Old Tucson movie historian. “He would fly in into Nogales and come up here. He owned two ranches here in Arizona, so he spent a lot of time in Arizona.”
Old Tucson is open as a movie set and theme park for visitors. It draws John Wayne fans and fans of 60s TV westerns, before the internet, YouTube or Netflix were ever thought of.
“We’re old west film studio and theme park that was built in 1939 by Columbia Pictures for the movie Arizona, since then we’ve had over 400 productions, TV shows commercials and films out here at Old Tucson,” said Megan Litwicki, who is the Old Tucson, marketing manager. “We do still get several productions a year out here, anything from music videos to feature films.”
Wayne is credited with putting Old Tucson on the map for Hollywood film and TV producers back in the 60s.
“He was on the board of trustees here. He had a lot of influence,” said Freese. “John Wayne was in the movie business almost 50 years and he made over 175 films and 107 more productions, so he was leading man in 142 motion pictures.”
On the tour, visitors are informed that Wayne was born in Winterset, Iowa, in 1907, as Marion Robert Morrison. Photos are used to show what happened on the exact spots where Wayne filmed the movies.
“John Wayne and Walter Brennan are going to blow up the warehouse. That’s what the scene looks like,” said Freese. “In McLintock, a 1962 film, Wayne chased Maureen O’Hara right through the doorway. They came up through the front barn door.”
Old Tucson is open daily through April of 2020, until the weather gets hot there. There is an admission charge. For information on Old Tucson, click here.
For those wanting to see more about Wayne, you can do that by driving to the John Wayne Birthplace Museum in Winterset. For information about that museum, click here.