Gammon's Gulch, near Benson, helps bring Old West movie production to life

NEAR BENSON, Ariz. (FOX 10) -- Besides Old Tucson, there is another famous Arizona movie set in the southern part of the Grand Canyon State.

Gammon's Gulch, located near Benson, helps some Old West productions come alive, but the two-person operation is its own love story.

Taking a step into Gammon's Gulch is, in a way, taking a step back in time. The Old West town is about as authentic as it gets.

"When you enter those gates, you step back into the past. Not even a cell phone works out here," said Joanne Gammons. She, along with her husband Jay, live at the town's hotel, and they are the only residents in town.

The passion project that is Gammon's Gulch started in the 70s.

"My husband started the town. He bought the property in 1972 with nothing here at all. It was just a bare ground," said Gammons. "He continued because of his love for the Old West and antiques. He just started building the town from scratch."

A young Jay was on set for a John Wayne film in the 50s, and the love for the Old West and Hollywood never went away.

"It's kind of magical because sometimes I think even the walls talk to us," said Gammons.

And all of the buildings would whisper about the various productions that have used Gammon's Gulch as a backdrop for movies and music videos - over 50 and counting.

"If you want authentic, this is the place," said Craig Hensley, an actor who also helps coordinate projects for Gammon's Gulch.

Hensley has starred in a couple of westerns that were filmed in the town, including Dead Men and Cowgirl Town.

"I played a one-eyed, mean, angry, gun slinging person that just pretty much shot eveyrone I met," said Hensley.

Hensley's wife, Jenna Miller, is a costume designer who is able to use the old time feel of Gammon's Gulch for inspiration.

"I think a lot of that attraction has to do with the Golden Age of Hollywood when Westerns were so popular, when they dramatized the Old West a lot. So today, I think a lot of that comes from those old Hollywood movies," said Miller.

From the church, to the hangman's post, to the saloon and the undertaker, Hensley says the town really embraces Arizona's history.

"We're getting probably 30% more inquiries this last couple of years than before, another 50% of those are actaully turning into something here," said Hensley.

The sleepy looking town turns into a bustling metropolis of sorts when production crews are in town, and that's just fine for Gammons, who's happy to say Gammon's Gulch is open for business.

"It's been interesting," said Gammons. "I says here we've lived this humble life and have these movie stars that come into our house on occasion, so it's kind of neat."

Jay has been battling some health issues, but is now recuperating. Gammon's Gulch is open to tours, and also helps with student films from the University of Arizona and Arizona State University.

Gammon's Gulch