Pioneer Town

pioneertown, California | C.1947

Photo Credit: Ellie Cassidy

Picture this: a dust-filled wind rumbles through the remote Western town. A tumbleweed quietly rolls across the road from the general store to the Pioneer….bowling alley. In a town constructed in the 20th Century to look like a town from 1887, a cowboy’s paradise was created along with the amenities to suit any movie star donning his spurs to play a camera-ready cattleman. 

In 1946, actor Dick Curtis’s dream of a “living, breathing, movie set” was officially realized in Pioneertown, California. Partnering with silver-screen icons like Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Russell Hayden, and others, the group of Hollywood Western stars built a town where popular Western movies and television shows could be filmed, along with hosting the celebrities and their families. 

From the 1940s through the late 1950s, there were over 50 films and serials filmed on this fake frontier. More than 200 productions used Pioneertown as background or for filmed environs, including Gene Autry’s Flying A Productions, which filmed in the settlement for five years. Sadly, as the golden age of American Westerns passed on, so to did Hollywood’s need for Pioneertown. Filming soon dried up like the desert lakebeds so often featured in Western classics. 

Today, Pioneertown enjoys new life as a place for wild vacations, late-night bowling, and darn fun hootenannies. The stars still pay visits to the celebrity settlement, with artists such as Robert Plant and Richard Burdon playing gigs at Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace club. While now updated to suit the needs of modern tourists, as opposed to film crews, some things remain the same—only horse and foot traffic is allowed in these parts, y’hear?

Written By: Seamus McMahon

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