>>>Where God put the West

Where God put the West

Utah and Arizona share Monument Valley, but the latter will always belong to John Ford, who in spite of not being the fastest draw in the West, still conquered it anyway.
ike Hollywood stars, Monument Valley really ought to have an agent. It’s an old hand at strutting its stuff in front of the camera. Back in 1939, when John Ford released “Stagecoach”, westerns were not enjoying much success. The director set out to raise the genre to the high canons of filmmaking and turned a dusty, rugged red valley floor into his own personal film set right up until 1964. He went with nine films under his belt . Today, Monument Valley is one of the most photographed places in the world.
The Three Sisters is a rock formation that looks like a nun and her two pupils. John Wayne used to joke that they made a W in his honour.

Ford got the tip-off

Harry Goulding was a trader with land in Monument Valley. Because of the disasters suffered by the Navajo as a result of the Great Depression, he travelled to Los Angeles in search of a director who would be willing to film there. He convinced John Ford and the rest is film history. Today, Goulding’s Lodge, a hotel and museum, stands as a reminder and still welcomes visitors.

“If you loved John Ford he would make that love turn against you” says Glenn Frankel, Pulitzer prizewinner and author of the book “The Searchers”, based on the film of the same name. And although Ford became part of the Hollywood cliché with Katharine Hepburn, his greatest love affair was with film itself, and especially with Monument Valley. Here he would sit in his director’s chair, with his eye patch and armed with an irritable disposition. But he had nothing to reproach his film location for; it was never the target of his anger, because for him it was “the most complete, beautiful and peaceful place on earth”. A sea of red sand dotted with isolated plateaus, promontories and sandstone monoliths standing up to 300 metres high. It’s “where God put the West”, added his pet actor John Wayne, the toughest guy in the land.
Mile 13 on US route 163 is the exact point at which Forrest Gump stopped running.

The dustiest film set

The first western filmed in Monument Valley was not by John Ford but by George B. Seitz, who directed "The Vanishing American" in 1925. Other movies shot here are "Back to the Future Part III" (1990), "Thelma and Louise" (1991) and "The Lone Ranger" (2013).

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is owned by the Navajo Nation and is the largest native American reserve in the United States. You get here by taking the iconic US 163 route, which is so long and straight that even Forrest Gump got tired of running along it. Its amazing shapes started being formed millions of years ago by the continuous erosion of water and the wind. Exploring the Far West is much more than looking out for tumbleweed, a common sight in westerns and cowboy flicks. Today, the most adventurous way of getting around is to tour the 27 kilometres of Valley Drive, a dusty dirt road, in a jeep driven by a Navajo. The Navajo make their living from tourists but they don’t want a paved road inside the park, which they fear would open it up to mass tourism.
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park covers 372 square kilometres.
Thanks to perspective, rock formations like The Mittens, Camel Butte, The Three Sisters and The Thumb became characters in their own right in Ford’s films. They bear silent witness to cavalry charges accompanied by the sound of the bugle in “Fort Apache” and “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon”.
Much better than a star on the Walk of Fame is to have a viewpoint with the best vistas over the valley named after you. John Ford’s Point is one of the busiest spots in the park. It’s a rock on the edge of a plateau that also featured on a Marlboro advert for years. On this natural tribute to the great director, nicknamed ‘Natani Nez’ (‘tall leader’) by the Navajo, you can photograph a lone horseman who turns up every day to pose, to the delight of visitors. You can also imitate John Wayne for half an hour on horseback, although nowadays you won’t be chased by Comanches. God put the West in Monument Valley, but it was Ford who took charge of spreading the good news. Music and fade to black.

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