More Western genre films have been shot in Kanab, Utah than in any other place, save for California. The scenic area has been used in over one-hundred movies since 1924’s Deadwood Coach. Director William Wellman dubbed the town “Little Hollywood” after being surprised by the community’s support for filmmaking.
Kanab, Utah was a small ranching town before earning the nickname “Little Hollywood” from director William Wellman. The area’s association with filmmaking began in 1924 when Deadwood Coach, starring Tom Mix, was filmed there. The Parry brothers then saw an opportunity for their hometown and began publicizing Kanab as an ideal setting for Western movies. They created a brochure for studios with aerial shots showing the local landscape. They also bought and renovated an old farmhouse in 1931 to provide an inn for crews and actors. At first, it was mostly independent studios who took advantage of Kanab’s natural surroundings, but major studios began filming there after Cecil B. de Mille led the way with Union Pacific in 1939.
The people of Kanab were accepting of the opportunities movie-making brought. Though the community had a Mormon background, locals opened up bars, restaurants, and other businesses to cater to their new clientele. Once, the high school even let out early when a film was in need of extras. But, the partnership between filmmakers and residents was not a one-sided interaction. Actor and singer Frank Sinatra, for example, once paid for a new swimming pool at the Parry Lodge and bought new uniforms for the high school football team. The money brought in from Hollywood also helped sustain Kanab during the Great Depression, which hit similar small, western towns especially hard.
More movies were shot in Kanab in the 1940s, as were television shows in the 1950s and 1960s. Such shows included Gunsmoke, Have Gun Will Travel, and Wagon Train. When Westerns went out of style in the 1970s, less movies were filmed in Kanab, with some exceptions, like Clint Eastwood’s The Outlaw Josey Wales. In 2001, parts of Planet of the Apes were shot in town. Later, Disney filmed scenes of John Carter (released in 2012) there.
More recently, Kanab has become a tourist destination. There is a “walk of fame” on main street with plaques dedicated to Western stars like Audie Murphy and Joel McCrea. Frontier Movie Town is made up of sets left behind from movies, such as Josey Wales, and a Kenny Loggins music video. The “Little Hollywood” Museum offers visitors a free glimpse into Kanab’s history with props and the opportunity to buy portraits of yourself in Old-West style clothes.