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Lights, Camera, Kanab: Exploring Utah’s Little Hollywood

If you have a passion for classic Western films and a curiosity about cinema history, Little Hollywood Kanab is a destination you won’t want to miss. Why do people refer to Kanab, Utah, as Little Hollywood? Which Western movies found their settings in Kanab? Is a visit to the Little Hollywood Museum in Kanab a worthwhile experience? And who were the renowned actors and directors that graced the historic Parry Lodge with their presence? Keep reading to find the answers.

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A colorful mural showing the director and cameramen shooting a western in Little Hollywood Kanab

Little Hollywood Kanab – Our Experiences

In one of our previous articles highlighting the top activities in Kanab, we touched on the city’s vibrant cinematic heritage. We want to delve deeper into this fascinating subject. Our passion for classic Westerns and Utah’s unique landscapes has drawn us to explore the settings of some of the most iconic Western films.

While Monument Valley has famously hosted Hollywood stars and directors, earning a place in cinematic history, Kanab’s equally extraordinary scenery has also significantly contributed to the film world. The city takes great pride in its role as a backdrop for many legendary movies.

Chris and I have been to Kanab more than 10 times; we love this town. Once, we stayed there for more than three weeks when we tried to win a permit to the Wave. We explored Kanab day and night, and as movie westerns fans, we also explored its filming history.

For us, Kanab is number one of the outdoor towns in southern Utah.

Why is Kanab, Utah, called Little Hollywood?

Kanab’s unique landscapes have made it a famous filming location for Hollywood productions, especially Westerns. The city’s connection to the film industry dates back to 1924. Since then, it has hosted approximately 100 films. This strong cinematic legacy has led to its nickname, “Little Hollywood.”

There are colorful rocks near Kanab, known as Paria Movie Set, where old westerns were filmed.

The History of Making Westerns in Kanab, Utah

The Birth of “Little Hollywood Kanab”

Kanab’s journey into the world of cinema began in the early 1920s. The area’s unique landscapes, with its red rock formations, desert terrains, and stunning vistas, caught the eye of filmmakers looking for authentic Western settings.

Whit Parry’s Vision

The first to see the film potential in Kanab was Whit Parry, one of the Parry brothers who founded Parry Lodge. Whit recognized that the landscapes around Kanab were perfect for Western films, capturing the essence of the frontier era.

In 1924, Whit Parry persuaded the filmmakers of “The Deadwood Coach” to shoot in Kanab. This silent film, starring Tom Mix, was the first to be filmed in the area and marked the beginning of Kanab’s cinematic history.

inside of the historic Parry Lodge in Kanab with pictures of directors and Hollywood stars on the walls

The Golden Age of Westerns

Following the success of “The Deadwood Coach,” Kanab’s reputation as a prime filming location grew. The 1930s to the 1960s marked the golden age of Westerns, and Kanab became a favored spot for many productions.

Directors like John Ford were drawn to the area’s natural beauty, and stars like John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and Frank Sinatra stayed at Parry Lodge while filming in Kanab.

Some notable Westerns filmed in Kanab include:

  • “The Lone Ranger” (1956)
  • “Pony Express” (1953)
  • “The Outlaw Josey Wales” (1976)
  • “Yellow Tomahawk” (1954)

Kanab’s Legacy

Kanab’s contribution to the Western genre extended beyond films. Popular TV shows like “Gunsmoke” and “Death Valley Days” were also filmed in the area.

The city embraced its cinematic heritage, with local businesses and attractions celebrating its connection to Hollywood. The Little Hollywood Museum and Parry Lodge continue to preserve and showcase this rich history.

scenography from old Western movies, an artificial horse, western buildings in Little Hollywood Museum in Kanab

Western Movies Filmed in Kanab and its area

Kanab’s rugged beauty and unique Western terrain have made it a favorite location for many Western films. Here’s a closer look at some of the Western movies filmed in Kanab, Utah:

  • The Lone Ranger” (1956)
    Director: Stuart Heisler
    Actors: Clayton Moore, Jay Silverheels
    Notes: This film utilized Kanab’s unique Western terrain and contributed to the city’s fame as “Little Hollywood.”
  • “Pony Express” (1953)
    Director: Jerry Hopper
    Actors: Charlton Heston, Rhonda Fleming
    Notes: Showcasing Kanab’s stunning vistas, this historical drama brought big Hollywood names to the area.
  • The Outlaw Josey Wales” (1976)
    Director: Clint Eastwood
    Actors: Clint Eastwood, Chief Dan George
    Notes: Filmed in and around Kanab, this film is a notable example of the city’s contribution to the Western genre.
  • Yellow Tomahawk” (1954)
    Director: Lesley Selander
    Actors: Rory Calhoun, Peggie Castle
    Notes: This Western adventure utilized the desert landscapes of Kanab to depict the frontier era.
  • “Sergeants 3” (1962)
    Director: John Sturges
    Actors: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr.
    Notes: A Rat Pack Western comedy, this film was shot in Kanab, adding to the city’s rich cinematic history.
Paria Movie Set know as Paria Townsite - colorful rock formations which were westerns scenery

TV Shows Filmed in Kanab and its area

Kanab’s landscapes have attracted not only filmmakers but also television producers. Here’s a list of some of the TV shows filmed in Kanab:

  • Gunsmoke” (1955-1975)
    Actors: James Arness, Milburn Stone
    Location: Johnson Canyon
    Notes: This Western series filmed several episodes in Kanab’s Johnson Canyon, capturing the essence of the Old West. Moreover is is one of the longest-running shows in television history, releasing 635 episodes.
  • Death Valley Days” (1952-1970)
    Host: Various, including Ronald Reagan, Stanley Andrews, Nancy Hale, Merle Haggard
    Location: Kanab
    Notes: An anthology series based on true stories of the Old West, particularly the area of Death Valley. Many episodes were filmed in and around Kanab.
  • The Lone Ranger” (1949-1957)
    Actors: Clayton Moore, Jay Silverheels
    Location: Kanab
    Notes: The TV series also utilized Kanab’s landscapes, further cementing the city’s connection to the Lone Ranger’s legacy.
  • Have Gun – Will Travel” (1957-1963)
    Actors: Richard Boone
    Location: Kanab
    Notes: This Western series filmed episodes in Kanab, capturing the city’s unique desert scenery.
  • Lassie” (1954-1974)
    Actors: Jon Provost, June Lockhart
    Location: Kanab
    Notes: Even the beloved collie Lassie found her way to Kanab for episodes of this classic family show.
Agnes Stabinska, the author, in Kanab with the sign: make more memoris at aikens lodge
history of cinematography and photography - old Hasselblad camera on display in Kanab

List of Movies Filmed in Utah

Several productions, including genres beyond Westerns, have been filmed in southern Utah and across the Arizona border. Many of these films are likely familiar, as they have become integral parts of cinematic history. If you’re considering a journey through southern Utah, particularly embarking on the Utah National Parks Road Trip, you’ll have the opportunity to explore numerous locations that served as the backdrop for some of these timeless movie classics.

  • Stagecoach” (1939)
    Director: John Ford
    Actors: John Wayne, Claire Trevor
    Location: Monument Valley
    Notes: This classic Western marked John Wayne’s breakthrough role and began John Ford’s love affair with Utah’s landscapes.
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969)
    Director: George Roy Hill
    Actors: Paul Newman, Robert Redford
    Location: Various locations in Utah, including St. George
    Notes: This iconic film showcased Utah’s diverse landscapes, from desert scenes to lush forests.
  • Planet of the Apes” (1968)
    Director: Franklin J. Schaffner
    Actors: Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall
    Location: Glen Canyon
    Notes: Utah’s otherworldly landscapes were perfect for this sci-fi classic. The scenes where the spaceship crash-lands in the lake were filmed at Alstrom Point at Lake Powell and it’s area, which is formed by a dam on the Colorado River on the Utah-Arizona border.
  • 127 Hours” (2010)
    Director: Danny Boyle
    Actors: James Franco
    Location: Moab
    Notes: Based on a true story, this film’s breathtaking visuals were captured in Utah’s slot canyon country, in Bluejohn Canyon, a remote part of Canyonlands National Park.
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989)
    Director: Steven Spielberg
    Actors: Harrison Ford, Sean Connery
    Location: Arches National Park
    Notes: Utah’s natural arches provided a stunning backdrop for this adventure film.
  • Thelma & Louise” (1991)
    Director: Ridley Scott
    Actors: Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis
    Location: Moab
    Notes: The film’s iconic ending scene was shot in Utah’s Dead Horse Point State Park.
crescent moon theater in kanab
old wooden building of red stone theatre in kanab

Parry Lodge: A Hollywood Haven in Kanab

Parry Lodge is more than a hotel; it symbolizes Kanab’s unique place in Hollywood history. A stay at Parry Lodge is not just a night’s rest; it’s a step back in time to the golden age of Western films, where the legends of the silver screen come to life.

Known as the “Home of the Stars,” this iconic lodge has hosted a galaxy of Hollywood’s most famous faces, from John Wayne to Frank Sinatra. Here’s a closer look at this remarkable establishment and its connection to the Western movie past.

History of Parry Lodge

Founded in 1931 by the Parry brothers, Whit, Chaunce, and Gron, Parry Lodge began as a humble establishment catering to tourists visiting nearby national parks. However, its destiny changed when the brothers promoted Kanab as a filming location for Hollywood productions.

Their efforts paid off, and Kanab became a favored spot for filmmakers, especially for Westerns. Parry Lodge became the go-to accommodation for actors, directors, and film crews, earning its reputation as the “Home of the Stars.”

Parry Lodge white building - front view

A Star-Studded Guest List

The guest register of Parry Lodge reads like a who’s who of Hollywood. Legendary actors like John Wayne, Gregory Peck, Clint Eastwood, and Maureen O’Hara have stayed at the lodge while filming in Kanab. Directors like John Ford and Frank Capra also found comfort at Parry Lodge, making it a central hub for the film industry.

Hollywood Memorabilia and Artifacts

Parry Lodge is a treasure trove of Hollywood memorabilia and artifacts. The walls are adorned with signed photographs, posters, and personal notes from the stars who stayed there. Each room is named after a celebrity guest, and visitors can even stay in the same rooms where these famous individuals once slept.

The lodge’s dining room, known as “The Barn,” is filled with photographs and mementos, providing a visual journey through Kanab’s cinematic history. From candid shots of actors relaxing between takes to promotional posters of the films shot in the area, the collection is a fascinating glimpse into a bygone era of glamour and excitement.

Legacy and Continuation of Little Hollywood Kanab

Today, Parry Lodge continues to welcome guests, offering modern amenities while preserving its historic charm. The lodge’s connection to Hollywood is not just a thing of the past; it’s a legacy that continues attracting movie enthusiasts, history buffs, and travelers looking for a unique experience.

Visitors can enjoy guided tours of local filming locations, dine in “The Barn” surrounded by Hollywood history, and even participate in special events celebrating Kanab’s “Little Hollywood” heritage.

Agnes Stabinska, the author, in Parry Lodge with John Wayne poster
books about John Wayne and dvd with western classics in Parry Lodge

The Little Hollywood Museum in Kanab

The Little Hollywood Museum is a tribute to the city’s rich cinematic history. The museum is a testament to this legacy, preserving the sets, props, and memories of a bygone era of Hollywood glamour. This place has recently been listed for sale. We don’t know how his fate will turn out, so visit it as soon as you are in the area.

It’s open every day from 9 am to 5 pm. The address is 297 W. Center St., Kanab, UT 84741. Look for the rearing white horse at the West end of Center Street.

History of the Museum

The founders established The Little Hollywood Museum to celebrate and preserve Kanab’s unique connection to the film industry. Since the early 1920s, filmmakers have flocked to Kanab’s stunning landscapes, giving the city its nickname. The museum’s creation ensures that this history remains alive, offering visitors a place to step back in time and experience the magic of old Hollywood.

Moreover, the museum’s location holds historical significance, as some of the buildings are original movie sets from various productions. The museum’s team rescued these sets from decay and disrepair, lovingly restoring and displaying them for visitors to enjoy.

scenography from old Western movies, western buildings in Little Hollywood Museum in Kanab

Exhibits and Attractions

The Little Hollywood Museum offers a range of exhibits and attractions that transport visitors to the world of classic Westerns and Hollywood films:

  • Movie Sets: Visitors can explore actual movie sets from films like “The Outlaw Josey Wales.” These sets have been preserved and provide a tangible connection to Kanab’s cinematic past.
  • Photographs and Memorabilia: The museum houses an extensive collection of photographs, posters, and memorabilia from the many films and stars that graced Kanab. From John Wayne to Frank Sinatra, the museum’s walls are adorned with memories of Hollywood’s golden age.
  • Western Artifacts: Alongside movie-related exhibits, the museum also showcases classic Western artifacts, offering a glimpse into the real-life history of the American West.
  • Gift Shop: The museum’s gift shop offers unique souvenirs and keepsakes, including replicas of props, Western-themed gifts, and books about Kanab’s film history.

How much does it cost to go to the Little Hollywood Museum?

The Little Hollywood Museum is a free, nonprofit establishment allowing visitors to explore the rich history of Kanab’s film industry without any admission fee. Donations are welcome and help support the museum’s mission to preserve and celebrate Kanab’s cinematic heritage.

gigt shop in Kanab Little Hollywood Museum
scenography from old Western movies, wooden western buildings in Little Hollywood Museum in Kanab

Kanab Movie Ranch: A Cinematic Treasure

In the vicinity of Kanab, two primary filming backdrops have seen numerous set pieces erected and dismantled over the years: Angel Canyon, also recognized as Kanab Movie Ranch (situated to the north of town and now the location of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary), and Johnson Canyon, found to the northeast in the city. If you intend to visit the breathtaking Great Chamber in Cutler Point, you’ll journey through Johnson Canyon along the way.

Known for its stunning vistas and authentic Western ambiance, the ranch has been the backdrop for numerous films and television shows.

During the golden age of Westerns, the ranch became a favored spot for filmmakers, hosting productions from the 1940s through the 1970s. Its natural beauty and versatility allowed it to stand in for various locations, from frontier towns to remote desert outposts.

colorful rocks with oranges and reds in the Kanab Movie Ranch area near Paria

Notable Productions

Some of the notable films and television shows filmed at the Kanab Movie Ranch include:

  • “The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again” (1979)
  • “One Little Indian” (1973)
  • “Daniel Boone” (1964-1970, TV series)
Agnes Stabinska, the author, is sitting on the white chair on the porch of Parry Lodge in Kanab
entrance to the Parry Lodge

Paria Townsite: A Glimpse into the Old West

Located 39 miles from Kanab, Paria Townsite is a captivating destination that offers a glimpse into the Old West. The townsite has also played a role in Hollywood’s history, serving as a filming location for several Western films. There used to be the remains of a western town and a movie set, but they were destroyed in a fire. You can enjoy only captivating film scenery. For those interested in a more comprehensive exploration of this fascinating location, you can learn about the history and attractions of Paria Townsite in our in-depth guide.

colorful layers of rock formations in Paria Townsite Movie Set near Kanab

A Journey Through Little Hollywood Kanab – Conclusion

Kanab, Utah, affectionately known as “Little Hollywood,” is more than a picturesque desert town. It’s a living museum of cinematic history where the legends of the silver screen come to life amidst the stunning landscapes of the American West.

From the early days of silent films to the golden age of Westerns, Kanab has played a starring role in Hollywood’s story. Whether you’re retracing the steps of John Wayne at Parry Lodge, exploring the preserved sets at the Little Hollywood Museum, or standing in the very spots where iconic scenes were filmed, a visit to Kanab is a journey through the magic of movies.

The town’s unique connection to the film industry, its rich history, and its breathtaking natural beauty make it a must-visit destination for movie enthusiasts, history buffs, and travelers seeking a one-of-a-kind experience.

So why not pack your bags and embark on your adventure in Little Hollywood Kanab? The stage is set, the cameras are rolling, and Kanab is waiting to welcome you to a world of the Wild West.

mural in Kanab with the greatest earth on show

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