Not on the Top Ten list, but a movie worth noting is Ticket to Tomahawk, one of Marilyn Monroe’s earlier movies. Shot in 1950, it is one of two Westerns she appeared in (both uncredited at the time). A lot of the movie, which starred Dan Dailey, Anne Baxter, and Rory Calhoun, was filmed in Silverton and Durango. There are still a few folks around who served as extras on this and other films made there in the 1950s and ‘60s, including Across the Wide Missouri (1951), Denver and Rio Grande (1952), The Naked Spur and The Lone Hand (both 1953), Run For Cover (1955), Night Passage (1957), and True Grit (1969), which was also filmed in Ouray, San Miguel, and Montrose counties.
My late husband, James Burke, was one of those filming the filming as well as the casts and crews, along with his friend, former Silverton mayor Gerald Swanson, who had an impressive library of old movies made here. We published both mens’ books, which include some great train photos as well as memorable shots of Anne Baxter, James Cagney, Rory Calhoun, Dan Dailey, John Derek, Clark Gable, Sterling Hayden, Janet Leigh, Joel McCrea, Dorothy Malone, Virginia Mayo, Gregory Peck, Jimmy Stewart, and of course, Marilyn Monroe. Burke got some scene shots from True Grit, but none of the Duke, himself. Which was sad, since John Wayne was his favorite actor.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, was made the same year as True Grit, and yep, some of it was filmed here. Robert Redford and Paul Newman jumped into the (Animas) river at Baker’s Bridge just north of Durango. The train they robbed was—you guessed it!—our own D&SNG in a familiar spot near Silverton. They shot a couple scenes near Telluride, too. In all of their scenes, it was obvious these boys were having a great time—most of the time. Paul Newman once said that this was the most fun he’d ever had making a move. He and Robert Redford drank a lot of beer (on location) in Mexico. The film is rated #2 of Best Westerns filmed in Colorado.
Did you know there is a sort of prequel, filmed ten years later? Butch and Sundance: The Early Days. Made in and around Ouray in 1979. This low-budget film chronicles the outlaw’s lives before their escapades in the ’69 blockbuster.
You could say most of the best western movies filmed in Colorado are “oldies but goodies.” #10 The Great K&A TrainRobbery (1926, Glenwood Canyon) with silent film start Tom Mix turning to “talkies” and his Wonder Horse Tony. (Not sure if the horse talks, though.) John Wayne was an extra in this one, but uncredited, and he didn’t talk.) #9 Colorado Territory (1949, Silverton, Durango, D&RG RR), with Joel McCrea, Virginia Mayo, Dorothy Malone. #8 The Naked Spur (1953, same location; different cast), with Jimmy Stewart and Janet Leigh. #7 The Searchers (1956, Gunnison and Aspen), the first John Wayne movie on the list (and arguably his best role). The Duke made the list three times. Also in this film: Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Miles, and Natalie Wood. #6 Saddle the Wind (1958, made in Rosita) with Robert Taylor, John Cassavetes, and Julie London, who sang the lead song. #5 How the West Was Won (1962, Silverton, Durango, D&RGW RR, Ridgway, and Montrose), another John Wayne blockbuster and the the last of the deluxe, all-star-cast studio “road shows”. Wayne teamed up with Jimmy Stewart (another western regular), Gregory Peck and Debbie Reynolds.