Hollywood in Cedar City

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Roughly 80 years ago, cameras, lights, actors, and entire film crews left Hollywood to go to small town Cedar City, Utah.  Paramount Pictures, under the directorship of Cecil B. DeMille, chose the flat plains of Iron Springs, just west of Cedar City, to build a replica of Cheyenne, Wyoming for the up and coming western film Union Pacific. Second unit director, Arthur Rosson had surveyed three other states before deciding on southern Utah. “The great diversification of scenery within such a small area is particularly appealing to picture people,” Rosson said. “Within ten miles of Cedar City one can find perfect duplications for the plains states, desert, or any kind of mountain imaginable.” The filming crews arrived at the Parry Building on Main Street in Cedar City on October 27, 1938 for a one-month shoot. Nearly 100 Cedar City locals were signed on as extras and dozens more were hired as laborers for set construction. The ‘Indian chase sequence’ was filmed in Cedar City with hundreds of Navajo extras for authenticity sake. Union Pacific was released for public viewing April 28, 1939, just three weeks short of the 70th anniversary of the historical driving of the golden spike that is featured in the movie. It went on to be the top-grossing Western of its year, returning a good profit, and was eventually nominated for an Oscar for Best Special Effects. However, Union Pacific did not end up taking the trophy. Despite that, the ramifications of the movie for the people of Cedar City were long lasting. A Moab rancher who worked on a number of movies stated the benefits he had noticed of movie making in Utah: “They don’t take anything but pictures and don’t leave anything except money.”