Sedona, Arizona

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July 23rd 2012
Published: July 23rd 2012EDIT THIS ENTRY

Sedona ( /sɨˈdoʊnə/) is a city that straddles the county line between Coconino and Yavapai counties in the northern Verde Valley region of the U.S. state of Arizona. As of the 2010 census the population was 10,031.
Sedona's main attraction is its stunning array of red sandstone formations, the Red Rocks of Sedona. The formations appear to glow in brilliant orange and red when illuminated by the rising or setting sun. The Red Rocks form a breathtaking backdrop for everything from spiritual pursuits to the hundreds of hiking and mountain biking trails.

Sedona was named after Sedona Arabelle Miller Schnebly (1877–1950), the wife of Theodore Carlton Schnebly, the city's first postmaster, who was celebrated for her hospitality and industriousness.

Sedona played host to more than sixty Hollywood productions from the first years of movies into the 1970s. The small town, which served as a kind of microcosm of Hollywood history, sits about 120 miles north of Phoenix, nestled between thousand-foot-high walls of stone in lushly forested Oak Creek Canyon and the wide open space of the Verde Valley, and it was the diversity of this unspoiled landscape that made it such an ideal location to shoot outdoor scenes. Stretching as far back as 1923, Sedona’s signature red rocks were a fixture in major Hollywood productions—including enduring favorites such as Johnny Guitar, Angel and the Badman, Desert Fury, Blood on the Moon, and 3:10 to Yuma—but typically were identified to audiences as the terrain of Texas, California, Nevada, and even Canadian border territory. For fifty years, this picturesque desert outpost quietly played host to Hollywood legends in the making, yet the town is rarely found in standard histories of the movies.

Sedona’s Hollywood legacy offers nothing less than a timeline of history—of moviemaking in America and the popular culture of the years that shaped it. The story begins in the silent era, when Zane Grey’s The Call of the Canyon and Kit Carson, with Joseph P. Kennedy’s doomed movie superstar Fred Thomson, were filmed in the Oak Creek Canyon area just outside Sedona proper. The 1930s saw the arrival of a dozen B westerns, including four visits from silent film idol turned talkie cowboy star George O’Brien and the only Hopalong Cassidy film ever shot outside California. The decade also saw Sedona cast in her most historically significant movie role, as the promised land of milk and honey in Der Kaiser von Kalifornien, a Nazi western designed to validate Adolf Hitler’s schemes of territorial expansion to the people of Germany.

When John Ford’s production of Stagecoach pulled into town in 1938 (a Sedona connection that has eluded historians since the film was made), it set off three solid decades of A-picture activity—forty-four features through 1973, helped along by the construction of Sedona Lodge, the only permanent boarding and production facility ever built specifically for movie crews on remote location in the United States. During those years, many of Hollywood’s biggest names were photographed in front of Sedona’s signature landscape, from Errol Flynn to Gene Tierney, John Wayne to Joan Crawford, James Stewart to Lizabeth Scott, Robert Mitchum to Elvis Presley.

Sedona – which promoted itself as "Arizona's Little Hollywood" – wasn’t only a cinematic romping ground for cowboys. In the years that followed World War II, shadows darkened the scenery to add psychological complexity to a number of early film noir dramas, like Leave Her to Heaven, while at the same time a secret battle involving blacklisted Broken Arrow screenwriter Albert Maltz, a prominent member of the “Hollywood Ten," was being fought on the same dusty ground.

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