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KidChaplin

Monument Valley used too much??

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iThis is a subject that will probably ignite a debated fire, but I think it's a valid question. Did John Ford maybe overuse Monument Valley a bit too much? Four movies right off the top of my head (Stagecoach, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Fort Apache, The Searchers...yes, I know The Searchers wasnt John Ford, but it was John Wayne) had different stories, characters, plots, etc. But the same backdrop. I have always agreed it was one of the most beautiful and perfect spots for a western, but wouldnt that be like filming four different movies with say Tom Hanks or whoever and filming them all in the same city blocks and neighborhoods? And has anyone else noticed the name Quincannon was two different men in two different Ford movies?

 

Thoughts? Opinions?

 

Edited by: FillURHandUSOB on Aug 17, 2011 3:01 PM

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> yes, I know The Searchers wasnt John Ford, but it was John Wayne)

 

Fill,

 

*The Searchers* *is* a John Ford film and is one of his best. As for Monument Valley, Ford used the landscape as a backdrop in more than just those four films but overuse?

 

There are few places as stark and beautiful as Monument Valley where you get a sense of isolation, of man against the elements and his relationship with nature as well as vistas for as far as the eye can see without encroaching civilization.

 

Few filmmakers had a such a connection to a location and few used a location as creatively as Ford used the Valley, its vistas, canyons and natural landmarks as beautifully as Ford when it came to composing sequences and shots.

 

By the way, I saw your post about wanting to learn more about film making and wanted to be sure you saw this thread started by the new WebAdmin, a kind of online course on the importance of story in a film. Ford understood the necessity of a good story as is evident by all the rambling we tend to do about his westerns.

 

Here's the link to the new story/film school thread:

 

http://forums.tcm.com/thread.jspa?threadID=161267&tstart=0

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If it fit the story, why not use it? I don't think it was too much. Didn't he shoot part of "Cheyenne Autumn" there too.

 

That's like asking did Woody Allen use NY too much? (Sort of like your Hanks comment.)

 

Edited by: movieman1957 on Aug 17, 2011 4:23 PM because Lynn beat me to the correction.

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Not used too much but at times inappropriately.

 

My only observation is that occasionaly the story didn't fit the local, If you are familiar with the West and its climate and know how its landscape is used by ranchers and farmers you get a feel for the land.

 

The Searchers was supposed to begin in Texas, and the Monument Valley desert didn't look like anyplace to try and start a cattle ranch. My Darling Clementine of course in Tombstone which has its own landscape, etc., etc. Even Shane shot in the 6,000 ft. elevation Snake River Valley makes the Starrets and the homesteaders determination to farm a bit dubious.

 

There is no doubt that the use of this location imediately activates cinematic memory and provides an imediate connection to the Western Genre as a whole, other similar locations that are equaly potent are Lonepine, The Alabama Hills, and Death Valley. Old Tuscon was another.

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Went to Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills a few weeks ago. Stayed with a guy that used to run the Film museum in Lone Pine (it is still there but he isn't). They have Bogie's car there from High Sierra. He took me to all these places where films were made like Gunga Din.

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cigarjoe makes a good point about using an area as a substitute for another and it not being right for the set. In "The Searchers" it may be more a logical point more than an actual location. It is terribly sandy at the ranch.

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:) Than you, lz. I will never get tired of seeing Monument Valley, especially when it's in color. I hope to see it myself one day. It's as natural to a Western as a six-shooter.

 

I've lost track of how many times I've seen the "Western town" in Warner movies and TV shows. It doesn't look like any other and by now I can usually tell just where the scene is taking place. This does not detract from my enjoyment-or sometimes disdain-of what I'm watching. That was the one thing I regretted not seeing on the tour unless it's no longer there.

 

I'll check out the story/film school link when I have more time. I scanned it very briefly and know I'm in for a treat.

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Other side of the coin is that when you don't use at least some of the iconic locations and town sets you are loosing that visual connection to the Golden Age Mythologic Westerns, that cinematic memory that says automatically all is right with the genre. We all know that Westerns were never real to begin with sure they were based on reality but an enhanced distillation of reality bigger than life reality.

 

When modern Westerns try to go for authenticity and historic reality they overdo it and begin to come off as period costume dramas.

 

To put it more plainly Westerns got to look like Westerns, not historic reality, we don't have many of the Golden Age actors or town sets left but we do have some of the timeless locations, use them cinematically as a bridge to the past then extend the horisons with new landscapes that could become the new touchstone locations but provide that comforting visual link.

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Once you have seen Monument Valley in person you'll never get tired of seeing it in a Western. The "Mittens" being the most recognizable vista. It truly is a sight that one can never forget!

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