For me, the very best movies were when John Wayne and the U.S. Calvary raced around chasing Apaches in a wondrous place. I learned was called Monument Valley. I didn’t know where this place was, or even if it was real, not a movie set, but I dreamed of going to this mystical landscape. As later movies were released, I discovered the fantasyland actually existed in living color and not just on black and white film. This was the place in the world I most wanted to see. It turns out that a great many people feel same about Monument Valley.
At the depth of the Great Depression, the Gouldings realized they and their Navajo neighbors were destined to a life of poverty unless they did something to secure their collective futures. Harry Goulding had a set of beautiful photos taken of the area and decided, like so many of his generation, to follow his dreams. He headed for Hollywood, determined to get his foot in the door of the movie business.
Finally, John Ford stormed out of his office and asked what these two characters, who were eating their sandwiches in his lobby, wanted. Harry Goulding told him he wanted to show him some photos of a location for his next movie. At that moment, John Ford found his stunning signature visual backdrop, and developed friends for life with the Gouldings and the Navajo people of Monument Valley. Three months later, production started on a film called Stagecoach, and the rest is cinematic history. It marked the beginning of a new era of American films shot on location, and brought much needed prosperity for southern San Juan County, Utah. One of the most stunning and visited sites in the valley is named John Ford Point.
The movies also brought much needed employment for a great many local Navajo people. In a succession of movies, Navajo actors appeared as Cheyennes, Comanches, Apaches, and occasionally, Navajo scouts. They also got a great deal of work building sets, hauling freight in their wagons, and assisting in feeding and caring for the large groups of Hollywood professionals, livestock, and movie stars.
Goulding’s Lodge is now an extensive hospitality site serving
the traveling public through their large motel complex, cabins, restaurant,
swimming pool, arts and crafts gallery, and museum. It is the destination of
choice for people worldwide. Last summer, when we were still getting foreign
visitors at Twin Rocks, I talked to a mature man with a decidedly Down-Under
accent. He told me he had just spent three days in Monument Valley and that it
had always been the dream of his life to visit this special place. When I asked
how long it took to come from his home in New Zealand to Monument Valley, he
told me that he had logged 27 hours on an airplane and it was worth every
I guess one of the few positive things about these last terrible months of doubt and confusion, is that it has made a lot of us resolve to stop taking things for granted. As soon as it reopens, I plan to be one of the first visitors back in Monument Valley.