Early followers of my Australian blog may remember that my former father-in-law had a movie set in the state of Durango in central Mexico. Hollywood westerns as well as Mexican films used the set and other nearby locations.
It was not just a western street with propped up false fronts. It had regular buildings where the names of the establishments were changed according to the movie script and whether the filming was done in English or Spanish. After the cattle station in Australia was sold, we returned to Durango. We lived in the “Restaurant” on the western street. (See the sign on the left side, behind the three people – the author, author’s young son, and a movie crew member). Living in the “Restaurant” occasionally brought in curious tourists thinking they could order local delicacies!
I worked as an extra in various films, translated the English scripts into Spanish for the Spanish-speaking crews, and supervised the inventory film companies rented from my former father-in-law’s company. Back then, I was a painter in oils and I sold several paintings and drawings to set decorators and movie producers who used them to decorate bars and interiors of rooms. For a John Wayne film, his son Michael commissioned a nude for a scene over a bar. (See below)
To write this blog, I researched the old western locations in Durango to see what had happened to them. After John Wayne’s death, few films have been made there. One exception is “The Bandits” with Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek.
Though films have not been made there in countless years, the set is very much alive. The Durango State Tourism Ministry now operates the set and the Chupaderos one a mile down the road. They offer tours of the western sets with entertainment, such as Can-Can dancers and actors dressed in old-west attire that act out snippets of scenes from old westerns where John Wayne, Clark Gable, Ann-Margret, Katherine Hepburn, Anthony Quinn, and other legendary actors appeared. I wonder if my nude painting has found a home in one of the featured bars.
The house where we lived is now a bank. Good thing it wasn’t a bank during my time there – imagine bandidos shooting up the place to rob cash and gold nuggets!
SEE BELOW FOR “THEN” AND “NOW” PHOTOS OF THE WESTERN SET:
All photos are used in an editorial or educational manner.
Street shot with the author – from Kathryn Lane’s collection
Photo of nude painting – by Kathryn Lane
Street Scene “Then” – by Kathryn Lane
Street Scene “Now” – by State of Durango Tourism