You’ve been to Old Tucson Studios. Even if you’ve never set foot in Arizona, or even visited a Tuscon movie theater, your eyes have absorbed the authentic Old West facades and mountainous vistas of this vestige of American cinema. Pick a western, any western, and odds are it was shot there. That famous little prairie, with the little house, from Little House on the Prairie? That’s Old Tuscon, too. Built in 1939 and still in demand more than 75 years later, Old Tucson imparts a certain magic to the movies made there. And the Tucson movies shot near its saloons, railroad stations, tumbleweeds, and mighty cactus offer answers to the universe’s greatest conundrums. Here are just a few valuable life lessons from the Old Tuscon canon.
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957)
Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday get their bang-bang on with the cattle-thieving Clantons in this John Sturges classic that teaches us: crime doesn’t pay … that much. At best, you get a lame horse or a half-guzzled bottle of whiskey for your crimes.
The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972)
If you’re a hanging judge, but don’t want to be judged by your profession, make sure you look like Paul Newman. In fact, just be Paul Newman. Everybody wins when there’s a Paul Newman in the room.
Death Wish (1974)
It’s odd when this ostensibly New York story of a New York vigilante (Charles Bronson, crushing it) detours to Old Tucson for a Wild West shootout demonstration, but it doesn’t take away from the movie’s true lesson: if you wish for death on your birthday and say your wish aloud, that doesn’t stop it from coming true … and people will eventually stop buying you cakes.
The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
Clint Eastwood’s Civil War–era tale of a farmer seeking revenge on the cretins who killed his family teaches us: if you want to get bounty hunters off your back, try not introducing yourself as “The Outlaw.” Plus, if you can operate a gigantic pencil sharpener, working a Gatling gun is a breeze.
Three Amigos (1986)
This silly Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Chevy Chase comedy gets a little preachy about invisible swordsmen (don’t shoot ‘em), pinatas (avoid getting your spurs in them), and the importance of understanding prefixes (so that’s what “infamous” means).
When Val Kilmer slurs, “I’m your huckleberry” in this blockbuster update of the O.K. Corral story, he’s really saying “smoking is gross.”
Lightning Jack (1994)
The lesson: when you think about watching a movie with the guy from Crocodile Dundee and a mugging, pre-Oscar Cuba Gooding, Jr., you should just stop and call your mom instead. She misses you.