"Where exactly is this?" he asked, noticing the photos Harry had propped up on the couch, and the next thing Harry Goulding knew, he was making his pitch to Mr. Ford.
Within weeks, the entire cast and crew of "Stagecoach," more than 100 people, found themselves living in a tent city outside the Gouldings' front door. Ford stayed in the Gouldings' spare room. John Wayne, the film's star, slept in a tent.
Hundreds of Navajos were recruited as extras, getting $5 a day (and $8 on horseback). The resident medicine man, who proved uncanny at forecasting the weather, was hired as the official weatherman.
Released to wide acclaim in 1939, "Stagecoach" made John Wayne and Monument Valley cinema superstars.
The movies transformed the Gouldings' homestead. More and more film companies arrived, providing more and more jobs, and more and more tourists arrived, boosting the economy while turning Goulding's into a lodge as well as a ranch and trading post.
In 1962, when Harry turned 65 and retired, he and Mike gifted their Monument Valley homestead to Knox College in Illinois (the president was a World War I buddy of Harry's) and moved to Page, Ariz., where they lived until Harry died in 1981. As for Mike, at the kind invitation of the LaFont family, who bought Goulding's from the college in 1981, she returned to Monument Valley in 1987 and lived there again until her death in 1992 — to her dying breath she lauded the magnificent land and the magnificent man she got to share it with.
Last month, I visited Goulding's. I was several months too late to see Johnny Depp or anyone involved with the filming of "The Lone Ranger."
They told me I'll have to wait to see the movie when it's released around the Fourth of July this summer, although I could watch "Stagecoach" or "She Wore A Yellow Ribbon" or any of the other John Ford movies shot in Monument Valley that play continuously in the little movie house next to the dining room.
Goulding's is where it always was, only bigger. The lodge now has 82 units, counting suites, and is in such demand in the high season (April-October) that you'd better make a reservation. "The Lone Ranger" crew made that mistake and had to commute from Kayenta and Flagstaff in Arizona.
So it's all changed since 1923, but then again it hasn't. I woke at sunrise and opened the curtains in my room and was greeted by the same stunning sandstone monuments Harry and Mike saw every morning.
Their old house and trading post, by the way, is a museum now, carefully reconstructed. Walk through it and it's like Harry and Mike never left. Out front there's a marker to them both, erected in 1992 shortly after Mike died.
The latest monument in a valley that's full of them.
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