Did you know that some of the most classic westerns of all time have the same filming location? Since 1915, the Melody Ranch has served as an iconic movie set. And it continues to bring the Wild West to life even today. Think of any old western street in a cowboy film and, odds are, it was the Main Street at Melody Ranch.
When Melody Ranch Studio first opened in Santa Clarita Valley, California, it was the primary set for all the major western films including Wyatt Earp, Annie Oakley and Hopalong Cassidy. In 1952, the singing cowboy himself, Gene Autry, even purchased the ranch. Over the next decade, nearly all of the biggest cowboys in Hollywood were filmed on the set -- Gary Cooper, Roy Rogers, Bill Boyd and John Wayne, to name a few of the big dogs. It was also where many of the most memorable western TV shows were filmed, including Gunsmoke and The Lone Ranger. Unfortunately, in 1962, a fire in Placerita Canyon destroyed the iconic "Main Street" that brought the Old West to life on the screen.
Though he sold a portion of the ranch, he maintained several acres until 1990, when the remaining acres were purchased by the Veluzat brothers. The studio was brought back to its former glory and has been used in numerous modern-day western films and shows ever since -- HBO TV shows Deadwood and Westworld, and major films Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, Django Unchained and Magnificent Seven.
The Melody Ranch Museum opened in 2001 with one of the largest collections in the world of film memorabilia, many items from films taking place in the Old West. Gene Autry's collection includes items from The Dukes of Hazzard, M*A*S*H, Bonanza, Bronco Billy, Dirty Harry, Maverick, Indiana Jones: The Raiders of the Lost Ark, Deadwood and more.
If you've ever wanted a behind-the-scenes look at some of your favorite westerns, now is your chance. Melody Ranch is currently offering virtual tours. You can see first hand what it looks like on three of the main western sets, including Main Street and the saloon. You'll feel like you jumped right into Gunsmoke, even if the saloon won't feel complete without Miss Kitty and Marshal Matt Dillon!