Paramount Ranch Burns In Woolsey Fire

Nov 16, 2018
Originally published on November 16, 2018 11:38 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

A hidden gem on national park-managed land was destroyed this week by the devastating wildfires that swept through canyons and valleys in Southern California. NPR's Mandalit del Barco visited this locale, which has been seen on TV and in movies, especially in the old westerns.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: The fire and smoke finally cleared. And I'm standing on the charred ground overlooking what was once the Western Town at the Paramount Ranch. What's left sits in a small valley ringed by the Santa Monica Mountains. This has been a popular filming location since 1927, when Paramount Pictures purchased 2,700 acres.

MIKE MALONE: Because it was owned by Paramount, you know, major contract stars came out here - Bing Crosby, W.C. Fields, Mae West, Claudette Colbert.

DEL BARCO: Mike Malone is a retired ranger for the National Park Service, which bought some of this land in 1980. In addition to being a filming location, it's a national recreation area and open to the public.

MALONE: These films and movies, TV shows that are filmed outdoors, the landscape and the sets, they become a character in their own. Savannah grasslands, you know, the streams, the craggy mountains and all that, they could make us believe that you were in another country. And so it stood in for China for "The Adventures Of Marco Polo" in 1938. A year later, it became French Morocco as a foreign legion set for "Beau Geste."

DEL BARCO: The facades of the Western Town could be seen in the 1990s TV show "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "DR. QUINN, MEDICINE WOMAN")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) What brought you out here? How did you know where to come to help us?

JANE SEYMOUR: (As Michaela Quinn) I didn't come to help. I came to warn the Indians.

DEL BARCO: More recently, it was a setting for HBO's "Westworld."

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DEL BARCO: Today, press and officials will get the first close-up of the damage. But Mike Malone is optimistic that the ranch and the Western Town will someday have a comeback. Mandalit del Barco, NPR News, overlooking the Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills, Calif. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.