From old westerns to the Sundance Film Festival, Utah has spent 100 years in the movie business | Urban Living

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

From old westerns to the Sundance Film Festival, Utah has spent 100 years in the movie business

Urban Living

Posted By on January 17, 2024, 4:00 AM

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Uh oh, it's time for the Sundance Film Festival, the largest film festival in the U.S. with over 50,000 visitors expected this year.

I was a volunteer for several years—back when the festival was so small there really weren't any paparazzi to speak of—in charge of housing and transportation. Back then, all the housing was donated and transportation was provided via a donation by a local auto dealer. It didn't matter if you were Martin Scorsese or Lady Nobody, we threw you into the same Jeep together to schlep you to and from the airport.

The 10 days we spent together in Park City were great and oh my, the stories I could tell you about the folks I met. Nowadays I avoid the festival and the crowds of star seekers wanting selfies with the rich and famous, and I will hopefully find a parking place at Gateway—where my office is—as the Megaplex will be hosting many of the movies this year.

When did Utah get into the movie business? The very first motion picture filmed here was a western/silent film called The Deadwood Coach made in 1923 and 1924. The movie starred the famous cowboy actor Tom Mix and Tony the Wonder Horse.

According to the synopsis on IMDB, the film follows Jimmie Gordon, who is known as "The Orphan" after his parents are killed by a brutal bandit named Tex Wilson. Gordon swears vengeance and spends years hunting for Wilson and his gang, along the way meeting and falling in love with the daughter of a sheriff. On the day of Gordon's wedding, Wilson returns and interrupts the ceremony, insults Gordon, kidnaps his bride and flees on the Deadwood Coach, with the film culminating in an exciting chase.

The second film ever made in Utah was shot in Ogden and called The Covered Wagon. It starred 750 members of the Idaho Bannock Tribe and was released in 1924.

The State Capitol is hosting a exhibit on 100 years of films shot or produced in Utah. And watch for an exhibition to travel throughout Utah called the Utah Historical Film Trail, which will highlight some of the famous films made here in our state. The Covered Wagon film will be shown in O-Town this spring backed up by a Wurlitzer pipe organ, as this would have been how the film was shown/seen by fans of the new-fangled moving pictures.

About The Author

Babs De Lay

Babs De Lay

A full-time broker/owner of Urban Utah Homes and Estates, Babs De Lay serves on the Salt Lake City Historic Landmark Commission. A writer and golfer, you'll find them working as a staff guardian at the Temple at Burning Man each year.

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