Empire Ranch Foundation
The Filming of Red River

During the Boice family ownership of the Empire Ranch many Western movies were filmed at the Empire Ranch and nearby areas.  One of the most iconic is Red River (1948) directed by Howard Hawks and starring John Wayne, Montgomery Clift, Joanne Dru, and Walter Brennan.  Location work began in early September and was projected to take about eight weeks.

A temporary camp with 75 semi-portable tent cabins, mess and recreational halls, and other housing and equipment was constructed in the community of Elgin, southeast of the Empire Ranch, at a cost of $150,000. [Arizona Daily Star, 9/6/1946].  About 250 actors, technicians and directorial staff were housed at the camp, and the Elgin Community Club was used by Hawks and his film editor to view the daily rushes of film.  The grouping of white structures on the left in the photo abov was the Red River temporary camp.

Filming at the Empire Ranch was scheduled for one day, though preparations undoubtedly took much longer.  Bob Boice recalled that “…they went down here in the cottonwoods and picked out a great big, … massive log, a perfect arch.  They chiseled off one side, put that “Red River” “D” brand on it, and put it up on a couple of great big posts…” [Boice Family Oral History, 1991]. 

The covered saddle rack, located on the east side of the Ranch House, is visible in scenes where Walter Brennan is loading the chuckwagon and talking with Montgomery Cliff. 

Scenes with galloping horses were shot in the corral on the eastside of the Adobe Haybarn.

The San Pedro River near Fairbank was the location for the “river crossing” scene. Five dams were constructed above the crossing point to ensure ample water in the river when several thousand head of cattle crossed. [Arizona Daily Star, 10/11/1946]. The city of Abilene, Kansas was reconstructed at Elgin and the nearby Rain Valley Ranch was the location for most of the cattle drive scenes.  Heavy summer rains caused filming delays and added two weeks to the location work.