Most movie lovers are familiar with the sight of the Tetons from the western classic Shane, best seen in a burial scene on a hill. Not to be outdone, John Wayne rode up that same hill twenty-five years before Alan Ladd, to watch over his wagon train circulated on the Antelope Flats below.
In Wyoming, the Big Trail company re-created pioneer history and actually made American history, in a small but significant way. „There was a place called Moran Camp, on Jackson Lake,“ Wayne recalled in 1978. They enlarged the place, built cabins and sets, and they ended up with an establishment that is now called Moran, Wyoming. “It’s a township. We started it. “ You’ll find the little settlement on Moran Town Road, just off U.S. Hwy 26.
The film’s “lowering of the wagons” sequence was shot near Jackson Hole. Walsh had dreamed it up – it was not in the script – when he spotted the ideal hill as he was coming out of Moran (in later years, Walsh would mistakingly give St.George as the place of this specific location, however, the Tetons appear in the background, as seen in this picture).
The exact spot can be found on the left-hand side of U.S. Hwy 26, with the Buffalo Fork River rolling below.
In the last shot of the sequence, the young star crosses the Buffalo Fork River on this very spot.
Although the exact place was not recorded, the scene in which Tyrone Power tries to ambush Wayne...
...was probably shot at Lewis Falls, at the southern entrance to Yellowstone National Park. The Big Trail company was in Jackson Hole for nearly eight weeks.
John Wayne returned to Jackson Hole in 1968 for a few scenes of Hellfighters. The scene in which Jim Hutton picks up Katherine Ross was shot on the Jackson Hole Airport, 1250 E Airport Rd.
Officially, principal photography for Hellfighters began on March 14, 1968. By mid-May, production had moved on to Casper. Residents were able to see the huge pillars of fire in the scenic bluffs west of their town.
That same strip of land as it looks today: Bessemer Bend doubled for Bolivia.
Follow Wyoming Highway 220 fifteen miles out of town to get to Bessemer Bend. The distinctive red terrain to the right was chosen to portray the oilfield where Wayne’s crew has to fend off Bolivian guerillas. More exteriors in Casper were reportedly shot on the grounds of Snodgrass Ranch.
For the sequence in which Wayne’s freight plane lands on a South American airfield, production made use of Wardwell Field, a former Casper airport that contained six miles of paved runways. Ideally suited because grass was already growing on the abandoned landing strips. Nowadays, the hangars are used for boat storage.
John Wayne first set foot into Cody, Wyoming, the town named after its founder William F. Cody, when the Big Trail Company crossed the Yellowstone Park to Jackson. In 1976, Wayne participated in the opening of the Cody Firearms Museum of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, celebrating the Bi-centennial. He was the grand marshal in the Fourth of July parade.
The museum at 720 Sheridan Ave. displays a shirt John Wayne wore, obviously from his later period, the kind he wore in Rooster Cogburn and the commerials that followed his final films.
In May 1969, the High Iron Company's 14-car Golden Spike Centennial Limited took passengers on a two week adventure from the heart of Manhattan to the rolling hills of Utah in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the driving of the Golden Spike at Promontory Summit. Wayne was one of the 175 persons. In Laramie, Wyoming, a number of Sheepeater Indians from Cody presented A Winchester Union Pacific Centennial carbine to Wayne.
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All pictures posted on this website are from the collection of the author, unless otherwise noted