WESTERN FILMS IN COLUMBIA.


Filming in Columbia

From the nearly 300 films, features, and television episodes filmed in Tuolumne County most were westerns. Here are those with scenes in Columbia. They were:

THE BEST BAD MAN Director John G. Blystone created this comedy western in 1925 with Tom Mix, Buster Gardner, Cyril Chadwick, & Clara Bow. The working title while here was "Good Bad Man." There was a street scene. Would love to see that film! Heard it stunk real bad.

Mystery Still in the 1930s a scene (image courtesy of Jim Miller) was shot at the Jack Douglass Saloon, in front of J. C. Miller's (Soderer building).
But it remains a mystery as to who the characters are and the name of the western film.

HOP-ALONG CASSIDY In 1935 Director Howard Bretherton made this pilot film which became the creation of a television hero and some scenes were filmed in town. Many other follow up episodes were filmed in Tuolumne County.

WELLS FARGO In 1936 a copy of the town of Columbia was made and constructed where the Stanislaus River once flowed, for the film Directed by Frank Lloyd. Released in 1937 it was like a history lesson film telling an interesting story about the expansion of this country, the failure of the US Post Office to meet the demands for communication in the rapidly expanding country of the 1840s and of the rise of the famed courier service. Joel McCrea plays one of the early riders, who becomes a stalwart supporter and defender of the rapid expansion and in the course of his dedication and absence from home, loses his marriage, redeemed only in the last reel. It's a very interesting film, well done and well played. It received an Oscar nomination for Sound, but did not deserve it - instead it did deserve a nod in the Art Direction category, but failed to get it. Most available prints are the 97 minute edited versions - original release was 20 minutes longer. Certainly a good solid film and worthy of a look. Also in the film were: Frances Dee, Lloyd Nolan, Mary Nash, Johnny Mack Brown, and Robert Cummings.

RUSTLER'S VALLEY A Hopilong Cassidy (William Boyd) film made in 1937. With cast members that include: George 'Gabby' Hayes as Windy Halliday and Russell Hayden as Lucky Jenkins. Must find that film and see Columbia. "Often in Hoppy films, the name of the town is made known, but not in this case, & that's a shame also, because this film's set in one of the more unusual western towns, a town with a tree lined dirt main street, where there are no hitching posts, but the horses are tied to metal rings set in the trees. Question for old west historians: is this detail realistic or complete fantasy? A good film & mildly interesting, but a little slow.

WHEN THE DALTONS RODE in 1940 a scene (image courtesy of Jim Miller) was shot at the St. Charles Saloon.
Young lawyer Tod Jackson (Randolph Scott) arrives in pioneer Kansas to visit his prosperous rancher friends the Daltons, just as the latter are in danger of losing their land to a crooked development company. When Tod tries to help them, a faked murder charge turns the Daltons into outlaws, but more victims than villains in this fictionalized version. Will Tod stay loyal to his friends despite falling in love with Bob Dalton's former fiancée Julie King (Kay Francis)? Also in the cast were Brian Donlevy as Grat Dalton and Broderick Crawford as Bob Dalton.

THE LONE RANGER (1949) TV Series
some details

HIGH NOON Filmed in 1952, the town was converted and taken over by such personages of the film, who may have been here: Thomas Mitchell, Lloyd Bridges, Otto Kruger, Lon Chaney Jr., Harry Morgan, Lee Van Cleef and Sheb Wooley. Many local extras were used for the many days of filming. As well as the Railroad in Jamestown. Director Fred Zinnemann used the little white house on main Street near the Firehouse. Gary Cooper in seen with Grace Kelly in the Wilson House. Earlier Cooper walks down Main Street from the south towards the Wilson House. The Mrs.(Morgan) walks to the door (inside Wilson's House) to talk with Cooper. Then when he fails there, he walks out the gate and north (the scene toward Engine House #2). Today.) Inside the Wilson House Harry Morgan talks with the Mrs. near the staircase. Also when the outlaws arrive in town a man is scene with Papeete in front of Engine #1. State street is used in many scenes: Outlaws walking (note poor condition of buildings in 1951), Outlaws three, Grace Kelly runs to her husband, a drawing work-up of State Street for the movie and a misc. scene behind one of Columbia's Hotels. (Cooper had made many western theme films in Tuolumne County.)
For movies filmed in Sonora and area see this page for an alphabetic list.

THE CIMARRON KID (1952) Wrongly accused by crooked railroad officials of aiding a train heist by his old friends the Daltons, Bill Doolin (Audie Murphy), joins their gang and becomes an active participant in other robberies. Betrayed by a fellow gang member, Doolin becomes a fugitive in the end. Seeking refuge at the ranch of a reformed gang member, he hopes to flee with the man's daughter to South America, but he's captured in the end and led off to jail. The girl promises to wait. Haven't seen this film yet, with an eye for Columbia. Other important cast members include: James Best as Bittercreek, Leif Erickson as Marshal John Sutton, Noah Beery Jr. as Bob Dalton, Hugh O'Brian as Red Buck.

DEATH VALLEY DAYS In 1953 Stanley Andrews as "The Old Ranger" was the host that announced the story of our first Fire Pump Engine #1, "Little Papeete." This would be fun to see. Have a copy?

RAGE AT DAWN Directed by Tim Whelan in 1955 starring Randolph Scott. The opening scenes in Columbia show a man receiving a signal on top of the firehouse roof on Main Street. The Reno Brothers (two of which are Forrest Tucker and J. Carrol Naish) are coming to town (in Southern, Indiana). Next scene is the sheriff on the balcony of the "Sheriff's Office" (Wells Fargo Building) telling the town to arm themselves and be ready. He walks towards north town and we see the exact scene he would have seen walking north. The Brady Building is to the right and a (no longer there) telephone pole is center. A quick scene with a buggy shows what the Towle and Leavitt looked like in the fifties (very run down and different). The bad guys come in on a buckboard from the north end of town. The next scene of town is looking north from the corner of the D.O. Mills Building towards the east side of town past the Tibbits. Next a man is seen on the balcony of the Duchow Building and we see what the steps looked like (1954-5) as they ascended from State Street to the old press display. Men are seen on various building tops in town. You can even make out the California Bear flag above the firehouse. (Indiana?) They attempt to rob the bank (Knapp Building) and are chased away. Scenes from the northern part of town are seen later in the film looking at the Mercantile from the parking lot at the St. Charles Saloon. Even a scene inside the saloon. There is another scene using the Fallon Hotel. As always it is fun to locate the old buildings of Columbia in this B western. Other buildings and areas throughout this county and Calaveras are also used.

TEXAS LADY a 1955 film were Prudence Webb (Claudette Colbert) travels to an isolated Texas town (Columbia?) where she has inherited the local paper. She finds the place ruled over by the two men who wrested the area from the Indians twenty-five years before, and it is clear they do not welcome her free-spirited intervention. Support comes in the unexpected shape of the gambler, Chris Mooney (Barry Sullivan) she has just bested in New Orleans for her own family reasons. Another film I haven't viewed.

TALES OF WELLS FARGO Scenes filmed around the Wells Fargo Building in this TV series that was hosted by Dale Robertson from 1957 to 1962.

SOMETHING FOR A LONELY MAN Made for TV 1968 starring Dan Blocker, Susan Clark and Warren Oats. The blacksmith of a small western town finds himself an outcast. He had led the townspeople west in hopes of starting a new life, only to find the town that they founded is to be bypassed by the railroad.

LAW OF THE LAND Made for TV series made in 1976 starring Jim Davis, Don Johnson and Barbara Parkins. A frontier sheriff and his young deputies search for a serial killer who is murdering prostitutes.

LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE Three small scenes were filmed around Columbia from this series. The town was known in the series as Sleepy Eye, MN. Here are a few known titles:

Season Five, Episode 110 (January 1979) "Someone Please Love Me" was filmed at night using Washington Street, Columbia Gazette Office and panning toward the Fallon Ice Cream Parlor as Michael Landon's character "Charles Ingalls" walks to the "saloon" in the Fallon Building.

Season Six, Episode 136 (December 1979) "Sweet Sixteen" filmed a still of the Trask House on Boardway.

Season Seven, Episode 147 (August 1980) "The In-Laws" filmed looking north at the corner of State & Main Streets on the sidewalk of the Columbia House Restaurant and also inside the south end of the building where they order up meals in the "best restaurant around."

THE LAST RIDE OF THE DALTON GANG A light-hearted made for TV film in 1979 of the Dalton Gang's legendary raid on Coffeyville, Kansas (converted Columbia) and the years leading up to it as the brothers form themselves into a gang of horse thieves, train (using Jamestowns #3 engine throughout) and bank robbers (Converting the Columbia House and The Knapp Store into banks: both inside and out) with their arch enemy, Detective Will Smith (Jack Palance), constantly on their heels. Other actors gracing the gravel covered streets were: Dale Robertson as Judge Isaac Parker, Cliff Potts as Bob Dalton, Randy Quaid as Grat Dalton, Larry Wilcox as Emmet Dalton, Matt Clark as George 'Bitter Creek' Newcomb, Royal Dano as Pa Dalton, Bo Hopkins as Billy Doolin, as well as many locals for atmosphere.

SHADOW RIDERS Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen, filmed in 1982 for TV had such fellows as Tom Selleck, Sam Elliott, Ben Johnson, Harry Carey Jr. The first scene at "Renfro's Tavern" is of Matelot cabin (H&L Wright). Next a dusty crowded street scene was shot in Columbia looking south. The Columbia House is "signed" as the Bank and the Cavalier Museum is the Sheriff's Office. Most of the scenes are shot looking out the front door of the museum towards J.C. Miller's and the Douglass Saloon.
They also did a jail scene in the rear of the Wells Fargo Building at the "basement" of the old American Hotel, which makes a great jail. Ben Johnson, as their uncle Black Jack, is sawing wood where the miner's cabin is now located in the field behind the Wells Fargo Building. Later that night the brothers blow the door off the "jail" (the rock building with barred windows) and they escape on horseback up to Parrott's Ferry Road. Here's a couple of actors waiting for a scene in front of the Brainard building's façade. I'm sure even Katharine Ross was in town. The "thanks" in the film is given to Sonora(for Columbia?) and Santa Cruz, where the beach scenes were shot.

PALE RIDER Clint Eastwood Directed and starred in this movie of the gold rush era where the placer miners fight against the evil hydraulic miners. Filmed in 1985, A short scene is used when a telegraph is sent to Stockburn (John Russell) and his office is the Engine house for Papeete. (Here Clint is shooting the scene of the telegrapher coming to the door in "Yuba City's Marshall's Office") Later Clint's scene is when he goes to town and rides past the front of the Wells Fargo building and goes inside to get his guns from a safety deposit box. Great view of the back wall and interior.

PARADISE Directed by Michael Lange, this 1988 TV pilot was filmed here with Lee Horsley. The whole town became "Paradise" with scenes from the Brady Bldg. to the St. Charles, and all over Main Street. A "shooting Gallery" was constructed near the corner where the grinding stone now sits. When Lange is shooting at this gallery the Columbia House is in view. The television show became Guns of Paradise.

THE KID 1989 pilot episode for YOUNG RIDERS opens with the Kid (Ty Miller) walking into town (Columbia) in a busy street scene where he sees a horse he wants to own. He participates in a fight so that he can gain enough money to buy the horse. Scenes in and around the Johnson Livery are in the film. The fight takes place in the field directly in front of the livery and Columbia buildings are seen in the back ground.

Later he is seen riding into "another?" town (same location) from the corner of State and Main Street. (The Towell & Leavitt building and the Columbia House are in this film opener for this and the first scenes. A tree with a sign comes in view and then the kid is seen riding past the Bank (D.O. Mills) and hitching at the building between the Wells Fargo Express and walking in side. Where the scene of his induction as a Pony Express Rider was filmed. Other scenes of Columbia are in the 2 hour pilot opener.
The present Johnson's Livery building was built by the set designers.

BLOOD RED A 1989 film that deals with the history of a Sicilian family who emigrated to America (Columbia became an 1890 town) and now lives in California cultivating vine. The problems start when they have to confront themselves with a powerful landowner who comports like the local boss (Dennis Hopper). Not really a western.

SEVEN WONDERS of the INDUSTRIAL WORLD "The Line" 2003 Newspaperman scenes were filmed at a print shop (the Columbia Gazette Office) in the old west (c1867). A newspaperman is making comment on the building of the Transcontinental Railroad while a printer works in the background. BBC - "We are effectively making a drama following the main characters through their epic journey to produce one of the great industrial wonders of the world, something that would change the face of America forever."

THREE BAD MEN 2004 filming in Columbia was done in the St. Charles Saloon and in front of the D.O. Mills Bank and in the field across from the Columbia Gazette Office. A two day shoot with George Kennedy appearing in the Jamestown section. Actor Chris Gann is the lead actor and is bound for stardom. Also co-starring are Academy Award winner George Kennedy (Cool Hand Luke, The Dirty Dozen), Mike Moroff (A Man Apart, Desperado, Scarface) and Peter Brown (Charlie's Angels, Maverick). "Three Bad Men" is a traditional western, written and directed by Jeff Hathcock, following the trials and tribulations of three drifting bank robbers. (Pretty terrible film.)

THE GOLD RUSH An American Experience 2005 filming at Columbia was done in and around the buildings of the "Diggins" area. Many scenes were used to tell the story of a woman in the gold fields. Local docents and actors were used in all of the scenes. From San Francisco to the mines. Yellow Jersey Productions/PBS. Premiered November, 2006. Available as a 2 hour DVD at Columbia Booksellers & Stationers.


I would love to watch all of these films and make clips to add to my pages. If you can, send me the clip that highlights Columbia. Maybe someday I'll have them all.
To gather more details on each film, try Internet Movie Data Base Their data base shows these films for Tuolumne County: (NOTE: over 300 films were made in Tuolumne Country)

  1. Hazards of Helen, The (1914)
  2. Wells Fargo (1937)
  3. Rustler's Valley (1937)
  4. "Lone Ranger, The" (1949) TV Series
  5. Wyoming Mail (1950)
  6. Great Missouri Raid, The (1951)
  7. High Noon (1952)
  8. Cimarron Kid, The (1952)
  9. "Lassie" (1954) TV Series
    ...aka "Jeff's Collie" (1954) (USA)
    ...aka "Timmy and Lassie" (1954) (USA: syndication title)
  10. Rage at Dawn (1955)
    ...aka Seven Bad Men (1955)
  11. Texas Lady (1955)
  12. Big Country, The (1958)
  13. "Rawhide" (1959) TV Series
  14. Finian's Rainbow (1968)
  15. Love Bug, The (1968)
  16. Great Bank Robbery, The (1969)
  17. Little House on the Prairie (1974) (TV)
  18. Law of the Land (1976) (TV) 6.8/10 (51 votes)
    ...aka The Deputies (1976) (TV) (USA: alternative title)
  19. Last Ride of the Dalton Gang, The (1979) (TV)
  20. "Little House on the Prairie" (1974) TV Series ...aka "Little House: A New Beginning" (1982) (last season title)
  21. Long Riders, The (1980)
  22. Shadow Riders, The (1982) (TV)
    ...aka Louis L'Amour's The Shadow Riders (1982) (TV)
  23. Honkytonk Man (1982)
  24. "Highway to Heaven" (1984) TV Series
  25. Pale Rider (1985)
  26. Blood Red (1989)
  27. Back to the Future Part III (1990)
  28. Radio Flyer (1992)
  29. Shaughnessy (1996) (TV)
    ...aka Louis L'Amour's Shaughnessy (1996) (TV) (Australia)
  30. Great American West, The (1997)


For movies filmed in Sonora and area see this page for an alphabetic list.

Compliments of:
Columbia Booksellers & Stationers
22725 Main Street
Columbia California 95310-9401