The ruddy mesas and dusty plains of Monument Valley are an indelible part
of the Western movie — nowhere more so than in director John Ford’s films. The location’s popularity dates back to Ford’s use of the Utah-Arizona border in 1939’s Stagecoach . “I wouldn’t make a Western on the backlot,” Ford once said. “I think you can
say that the real star of my Westerns has always been the land.” It’s no wonder then that Monument Valley appeared in the best of his films (nine in total), including
Fort Apache , She Wore a Yellow Ribbon , and of course The Searchers.
Ford’s Tombstone Western My Darling Clementine perfectly illustrates this love for the land.
A stubborn realist who claimed to have consulted the real Wyatt Earp
about the Battle at the O.K. Corral, Ford chose Monument Valley as the
setting despite the fact that it lay nearly 500 miles north of the
actual Corral. Perhaps he knew the limits of historical accuracy. More than that, he knew a star when he saw one.