A story about finding community in the West
John Ford is one of the most significant figures in American film history – he made John Wayne into a star, influenced future generations of filmmakers like Orson Welles, Steven Spielberg, and Quentin Tarantino, and he remains the most decorated director in Academy Award history.
Wagonmaster is filled with John Ford’s classic “Irish humor”, some songs from the famous Sons of Pioneers, and of course, the spectacular scenery of Moab – most of it was filmed a few miles from the Museum in an area known as Fisher Towers.
The film inspired the beloved television series Wagon Train, which also starred Ward Bond.
Although he made hundreds of movies, Wagonmaster was said to be one of John Ford’s personal favorites, one that he was most proud of. It tells the story of Mormon pioneers coming to Utah, and the characters of the American West that they meet along the way.
The first full length movie ever made in the Moab area, it prompted George White to form what would become the Moab to Monument Valley Film Commission.
Since 1949, that organization has been attracting and supporting filmmakers to the region.
George White’s wife Essie Larsen White was hired to be a stand-in for one of the female stars and the White’s dog, Lucky, even makes an appearance pulling on one of the stars’ pant legs.
Essie is seen on the right in costume near the set.
Another local, Roberta Holyoak (Knutson), also made an appearance as one of the daughters of a Mormon family in the wagon train.
Behind the scenes, local Karl Tangren was also involved, initiating his 50-year long career supporting local productions.
Spin a yarn
There were probably dozens of other locals who were also involved in the making of Wagonmaster or other films made here, and we want to hear their stories!
So if you or someone you knew was a part of a production in the Moab to Monument Valley region, please click here to tell us your story!