Plans to revive John Wayne’s Alamo site

The former structure in Texas that was the location for the John Wayne film The Alamo is falling apart, but some are intent on rehabilitating it.
Rich Curilla locks the doors to a replica of the Alamo, built for John Wayne's 1960 movie The Alamo, near San Antonio, Texas. Eric Gay / AP Photo
Rich Curilla locks the doors to a replica of the Alamo, built for John Wayne's 1960 movie The Alamo, near San Antonio, Texas. Eric Gay / AP Photo

Most people remember the Alamo – or at least, are aware of the American landmark in San Antonio, Texas, that was the scene of a siege and attack by Mexican troops in 1836 that left all of the defenders dead.

But what about the Hollywood version? Everyone, it seems, has forgotten this little piece of film history.

Time and Mother Nature are threatening to destroy the replica 18th-century Spanish mission and Old West movie set built for John Wayne’s Oscar-nominated 1960 movie, which for decades was a huge tourist attraction in its own right and a film production site.

“It’s not just something that represents history to a movie set – it is now history for sure,” says Rich Curilla, the one-man curator and custodian of the now-closed Alamo Village.

The 400-acre plot of land was carved out of a large ranch in the late 1950s for Wayne’s directorial debut. Starring Richard Widmark as Jim Bowie and Wayne as Davy Crockett, The Alamo had an estimated US$12 million (Dh44m) budget, huge for its time. The 4-ft-thick Alamo facade, based on a 1936 map of the real Alamo, took two years to build.

In its heyday, Wayne’s Alamo hosted films starring Jimmy Stewart, Dean Martin, Raquel Welch and Willie Nelson. About 40 film and TV productions, plus hundreds of adverts, documentaries and music videos were shot at Alamo Village. Musical shows, comedy skits and staged gunfights attracted hundreds of tourists each day.

But business began to wane in the 1980s when a new motorway diverted traffic. It closed after the last remaining owner died in 2009 and the property was divided among heirs. A large crack has appeared on the front wall and a tree grows inside. Other walls and structures are failing.

“The weather and elements are taking a toll on it,” the Texas film commission director Heather Page said. “I think it would be disappointing to lose something like that.”

David Jones, a businessman, wants to revive Alamo Village as an Old West theme park. He says he’s close to raising the $8 million he believes is necessary to buy the property and repair it.

“The place really needs to be more than preserved,” he said. “It needs to be rehabilitated.”

Published: December 28, 2014 04:00 AM

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