Learn about Western Movies

 Maybe it’s the guts, the guns, and the glory or maybe it’s the wide open spaces and endless sunsets, but whatever it is, it’s 100% American. Very few movies sum up the American Spirit like Westerns.

Called the Home of the Movie Stars, the El Rancho Hotel was the base-camp for Western Movies in the 30s and 40s.  Over this period over 100 westerns were filmed around Gallup, NM with their stars staying at the El Rancho.   Guests included such stars as Ronald Reagan, Humphrey Bogart, Katherine Hepburn, Mae West, and over 150 others.

Western Movies throughout the last century helped define the American Experience by providing the backdrop for people like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood to portray struggles and dedication in order to overcome hardship and conflict. The American Film Institute says that western films are those “set in the American West that embody the spirit, the struggle and the demise of the new frontier.” This struggle is exemplified in some of the great Westerns like:

  • Billy the Kid,
  • Pursued,
  • The Sea of Grass,
  • Four Faces West,
  • Only the Valiant,
  • Ace in the Hole,
  • Escape from Fort Bravo,
  • A Distant Trumpet, and
  • The Hallelujah Trail

which were all filmed in Gallup, NM

Some common themes in movies filmed in the area include:

Man vs. Nature in Western Movies

Western Movies throughout the last century helped define the American Experience by providing the backdrop for people like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood to portray struggles and dedication in order to overcome hardship and conflict.

These hardships and conflicts often took the form of a person against the elements. In these Westerns, cowboys and people seeking riches would often be alone in the West, battling the elements. For example, a man may find himself with all of the gold he could ever want, but no water. Another may find himself battling the unforgiving soil during the Great Depression.

Ultimately, the elements would serve to highlight the suffering in human life and place that suffering within a framework where the main character, in his ultimate demise, could come to an understanding of life. 

Morality in Western Movies

Another theme that is portrayed in Western Movies is the code of the cowboy. These movies typically involve some sort of code of honor that has been broken. Rather than resolve the conflict through courts or some other government intervention, the resolution is personally sought through private justice.

Here is some more information about the Cowboy Code >>

Throughout the 40’s and 50’s, Gallup, NM, was the setting for these western films. While these films were being made, the stars often stayed at the El Rancho Hotel in Gallup, NM. The El Rancho was a hotel built specifically for the movie stars while they were on location. For those stars, the El Rancho provided the comforts of home in a lush Ranch setting.

Learn more about where the movie stars stayed

Some of the movie stars that stayed at the El Rancho include John Wayne, Katharine Hepburn, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Stewart, and Errol Flynn. Here is a complete list of the Stars that stayed at the El Rancho Hotel.

The El Rancho itself is the embodiment of the Western Ranch House that that is portrayed in Western Movies. At one point it was similar to the “Wild West”, where people experienced raucous piano playing, gambling, brawling, and drinking. Though it is more calm and law abiding today, the spirit of the place can still be felt when standing in one of the last remaining examples of the Old West.

Want to Film at the El Rancho Hotel?

There has been a resurgence of movies filmed in New Mexico over the last ten years.  As a result, many movies and television shows have chosen to film at the El Rancho Hotel.  If you are making a movie and are interested in using the El Rancho Hotel as your backdrop, please feel free to contact us so that we can assist you.