Santa Clarita Valley, The (Then and Now)
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Born in 1987 as the nations first new city with a population greater than 100,000, Santa Clarita, California, has a fascinating history that stretches back to the rugged Wild West era. Hollywood recreates this history in Santa Clarita and its surrounding valley, to the delight of movie fans worldwide.
czar” William Mulholland. Mulholland’s motives and methods proved unpopular with the people of the Owens Valley, who sabotaged the waterway on multiple occasions. To keep the water flowing without interruption, Mulholland ordered the construction of the St. Francis Dam in the valley’s San Francisquito Canyon. The dam was shoddily constructed in a geologically unstable location. It crashed down just before midnight on March 12, 1928, sending an 18-story torrent of water scouring through the canyon
location 22 years later and supplied gasoline to 69 service stations in California by 1939. The refinery was purchased by its employees in 1942 and destroyed by fire two years later. It was rebuilt, and over the following decades, it survived several accidents and a major earthquake before spiraling environmental protection costs forced its closure in 1989. For several years, California governor Henry T. Gage (1899–1903) owned four lucrative gold mines in the Acton area. One was the Red Rover
room. In attendance that day were many of Hollywood’s brightest stars, including Buster Keaton, W.C. Fields, Mack Sennett, and Saugus resident Harry Carey. In the early 1930s, set designer Ernie Hickson built an authentic Western town in Placerita Canyon. Dozens of Westerns were made here by companies like Monogram and Republic. In 1936, Hickson moved the sets two miles north, creating what is known today as the Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio. The original site, now called Golden Oak Ranch,
appeal. The site on Sierra Highway at Wallace Canyon Road looks nearly identical today. Stagecoach (1939) was the Western that made John Wayne a star. The film, which follows a group of stagecoach travelers who are pursued by hostile Indians, was shot in several locations, including Newhall’s Beale’s Cut, just south of Sierra Highway. Beale’s Cut was a popular filming location for Stagecoach’s director John Ford. Ford had employed the spot on screen a few times previously, including in 1923’s
1982, a helicopter crash on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie killed 53-year-old Hollywood veteran Vic Morrow and two child actors. The tragic incident happened at Indian Dunes Park, a 600-acre ranch that was a frequent filming site for movie and television productions. Director John Landis was later charged with three counts of manslaughter but was acquitted in May 1987. This site is near the Six Flags Magic Mountain amusement park in Valencia. The 1990 neo-noir film The Grifters was the