Where was Dodge City filmed?
Thousand Oaks, Jamestown, Warnerville, Modesto, Calabasas, San Francisco
Ranch, Naturescapes, Studios
About Dodge City
About Dodge City
Olivia de Havilland, Errol Flynn, and Ann Sheridan shared the screen for the Michael Curtiz-directed and Hal Wallace-produced Western Dodge City. Telling a story written by Robert Buckner, the premise follows Wade Hatton (Flynn) a Texas cattle agent tasked with cleaning up Dodge City.
Jeff Surrett (Bruce Cabot) and his cronies have overrun the railroad city and plunged it into lawlessness. They call the shots around town and never get to face justice for their actions. That is until Colonel Dodge’s friend, who helped to bring the railroad to the locale, accompanies a trek of East Coast settlers to the town.
Surrett’s gang drove off every sheriff sworn to office, and at Hatton’s side is the new sheriff Dr. Irving (Henry Travers). The Dodge-bound convoy also includes Hatton’s old companions Tex (Guinn “Big Boy” Williams) and Rusty (Alan Hale) alongside hopeful settlers, Abbie Irving (Olivia de Havilland) and her brother Lee (William Lunidgan).
Upon arrival, the Dodge citizens explain to Dr. Irving and Hatton about the happenings in town. They anxiously ask for Hatton’s help in ending the scourge plaguing their city, but at first, he declines to get involved. His mind changes after Surrett’s men unintentionally kill Harry Cole (Bobs Watson) during a school outing.
Dr. Irving, who is Abbie’s uncle, takes up the sheriff’s office with Tex and Rusty as his deputies. They have a difficult time bringing law and order to Dodge City, but Hatton gets off on a good start in terms of cleaning up the town.
Joe Clemens (Frank McHugh), the town’s likable newspaperman, Abbie, and Hatton stumble on evidence that could put Surrett away for his shady dealings. Before Clemens can publish the story, Yancey (Victor Jory), one of Surrett’s men, shoots him in the back. Abbie is the only witness who can testify to Surrett’s crimes.
Dodge City Locations
Dodge City was filmed in Technicolor, a process that peaked in popularity from the early ‘30s to ‘50s. In short, a color negative loaded up in a standard camera replaced the 3-strip camera that produced black & white pictures.
While the story unfolds in Kansas, Thousand Oaks, in Ventura County, California, provided several Dodge City filming locations. The area we now know as the Wildwood Regional Park is one of the familiar sites that had cameos in the Western.
Even more befitting, the film’s premiere took place in Dodge City, Kansas. There is plenty more to unpack about the 1939 movie, and here is a recap of some of the best scenes in “Dodge City” and details about the corresponding film shoot locations.
Appearing in the Dodge City production marked the fifth out of nine film collaborations between de Havilland and Flynn. The two were romantically involved at the time, and they previously starred opposite each other in “The Adventures of Robin Hood.”
Opening scene in Dodge City
Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, 10501 Reservoir Rd, Jamestown, CA
The action-packed Western opens with Colonel Grenville M. Dodge (Henry O’Neil) getting to town aboard the first train that links Dodge City with the world. Colonel Dodge delivered a moving speech about the new beginning.
“Ladies and gentlemen, today a great chapter of history has been written. And we take justifiable pride in bringing this railroad to the terminal furthest in this country. Someday, and I believe in the near future, a great city will spring from this very spot upon which we now stand.”
Years roll by and the longhorn cattle center quickly descends into chaos, as settlers, gunmen, and thieves settle there. Jamestown, California provided the backdrop for the opening scene. To be precise, Railtown 1897 State Historic Park served as the Dodge City filming location.
History comes to life at the 1897 Park, with vintage steam trains housed on site. Visitors can sign up to enjoy a thrilling journey back in town, via The Polar Express Train Ride or Robbery on the Rails.
The Sierra Railroad's No. 18 is the locomotive seen in the opening scene. The Baldwin 2-8-0 dates back to 1906, and it subsequently found a new home as part of a collector’s trinkets.
Lee accidentally causes a stampede scene in Dodge City
Janss Conejo Ranch (now Wildwood Regional Park), 928 W Avenida De Los Arboles, Thousand Oaks, CA
Lee is as irresponsible as they come, best exemplified by the Dodge City scene where he drunkenly causes a stampede. He accidentally fired a pistol sending the cattle into a frenzy.
For some reason Rusty’s thoughts about buffalos come to mind, “lucky devils: nothing to do but eat and sleep.” However, the stampede proves that the creatures can turn deadly in the blink of an eye. In a turn of events, the sudden sweep of panic he initiates claims his life when Hatton shoots him in self-defense.
The Dodge City production team also filmed at the Janss Conejo Ranch in Thousand Oaks. Harold Janss set roots in the area when he purchased 10,000 acres of land in 1910 around what we now know as central Thousand Oaks.
The Janss brothers started selling off parcels of the land between 1951 and 1956. A western town sprung up in the Wildwood section and it served as ranch set for several productions, including “Wuthering Heights: Riders of the Whistling Pines,” and “Spartacus.” The property now comprises Wildwood Park.
Hatton smuggles Yancey out of town scene in Dodge City
Sierra Railroad, Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, 8957 CA-120, Jamestown, CA
Yancey’s actions land him behind bars, but it doesn’t prevent the townsfolk from baying for blood. It falls upon Hatton to protect him from a planned lynching, so that Yancey can live to face a fair trial for Clemens’ murder.
Hatton’s thought process is captured by the sentiments, “you know, there’s an old saying in the British Army: the law must always save its face in front of the natives.” Rusty and Hatton smuggle him out of the city in a hearse.
They end up at the train station and get him on a train bound for Wichita. It just happens that Abbie is aboard the very same train which is seconds from departing.
The Sierra Railroad in Jamestown was one of the Dodge City filming locations. It is yet another popular filming location having hosted crews working on “Gunsmoke,” “High Noon,” “Petticoat Junction,” and “Bonanza: The Return.”
The Sierra Railroad is now part of the 1987 State Historic Park which houses the Sierra No.3. Visitors can enjoy several historical-inspired hour-long rides aboard the chugging steam trains.
Surrett’s gang rescue Yancey scene in Dodge City
Fearing for her life after Clemens’ death, Hatton arranges for Abbie to leave town. Soon enough, Hatton arrives to smuggle Yancey into the same locomotive.
Surrett and his gang were lurking around waiting to sneak into the train. Their aim is to free Yancey, and once on board, a gunfight ensues. Abbie, who is witnessing the exchange, rushes to the baggage car attempting to warn Hatton about the imminent danger.
Her efforts fall flat when Surrett uses her as a shield to demand for Yancey’s release Surrett then locks Hatton, Rusty, and Abbie in the burning car. His advice to Abbie as she lamented about the heat and dust couldn’t be more befitting for the scene. “Faith now, if you didn't like sand, maybe you shouldn't have left home.”
The production team set up shop in Warnerville to film the train race scene with the stagecoach. Other productions that have filmed around the Dodge City location include “High Noon” and “48 Hrs.”
Hatton and Rusty defeat Surrett’s gang scene in Dodge City
The trio eventually manages to escape the burning baggage car. Hatton and Rusty take chase and soon catch up with Surrett’s fleeing gang. They successfully overwhelm the outlaw gang and kill Surrett.
Hatton’s acts of bravery get him the girl, and Hatton and Abbie settle into a newly civilized Dodge City. It’s something viewers truly appreciate, given that Hatton initially flirts with Ruby Gilman (Sheridan), the dance gall girl who belts out songs on the stage.
Modesto, California served as the setting for the “Chisholm Trail” scenes. The Dodge City filming location also provided backdrops for other productions like “American Crime,” “Another 48 Hrs.,” and “Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior.”
The largest city in Stanislaus County is also where award-winning filmmaker George Lucas grew up. He attended the Thomas Downey High School and later, the Modesto Junior College.
Some of the highlights around the city include the Historic Cruise Route located on 10th and 11th Street, the monthly Art Walk in downtown Modesto, and the Modesto Symphony Orchestra housed at the Gallo Center.
Hatton and Abbie finally get together scene in Dodge City
Warner Brothers Burbank Studios, 3400 Warner Blvd, Burbank, CA
Hatton and Abbie getting together is the biggest payoff for the audience. They go from Hatton’s sentiments, “you are the most stubborn little female I’ve ever met in my life entire life,” to “Can’t you understand I’m doing this because I love you?”
Soon enough, Colonel Dodge asks Hatton to help out with the process of restoring order in another Virginia railroad town. The city has descended into an even more dangerous situation, worse than how Dodge City under the clutches of Surrett’s gang.
Abbie understands what is expected of her husband, and she suggests that he joins the next wagon train to set off for their new life. Colonel Dodge tells Hatton that he surely did marry the right woman.
The Warner Brother Burbank Studios at 4,000 Warner Boulevard housed several Dodge City film sets. Other scenes were filmed at the Warner Ranch in Calabasas.
The Warner Bros. Studios have also churched out productions like “Westworld” “Friends,” and “The Mentalist.” Film enthusiast can traipse around where the magic happens by going on one of the Warner Bros. Studio Tours.
The Dodge City production team also filmed around Sacramento, San Francisco, and Calabasas. Perhaps the tidbits about the making of the Western are even more fascinating.
Flynn wasn’t too keen on taking the role due to his English accent. Born in Tasmania, he often used his English accent in films, and for the Western, they explained it by citing his international travels.
For the premiere, Warner Bros. had a 016-car train ferry 36 reporters to Dodge City. They made pit stops along the way, and in Pasadena, de Havilland disembarked the locomotive to report to the “Gone with the Wind” film set.
A Technicolor crew commissioned by Warner Bros. filmed the epic premiere, reportedly attended by 70,000 people including Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr. in attendance. The studio recycled the music played at the saloon for the 1951 Looney Tunes Daffy Duck series “Drip-Along Daffy.”
Warner Bros. also repurposed some of the footage, including the shot of Hotton pinning the sheriff’s badge, for the 1950 Western “Return to the Frontiersman.” Besides de Havilland, Guy Wilkerson, Victor Jory, Rand Brooks, and Ward Bond also appeared in “Gone with the Wind.”